Noah Shneidman

Noah Shneidman

Born September 24th 1924 in Vilno, Poland (now Vilnus Lithuania).

Interviewed In: Toronto, Ontario

Medals Awarded: Order of the Patriotic War (1st and 2nd Class) and Victory over Germany In The Great Patriotic War

Front Line Infantry – Polish Partisans, Capture of Konigsberg and Berlin.

“If somebody comes and tells you that he survived because he was a hero don’t believe him because the real heroes are dead.”

Noah Shneidman joined the partisans at 15, after the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939:

“There were partisans who were like military units. There was a Jewish partisan detachment in the area where I went to the forest. I was 150 miles from my city and this detachment was attached to a big partisan brigade. And there were many Jews there. But there were also not detachments but camps, Jewish camps of people who were not partisans, but they were simply escapees, refugees. I was in the Jewish detachment for several months”

Noah was separated from his detachment after they abandoned their position while he and two others were gathering food:

“Nobody there, it’s empty, completely. We don’t know what to do. We walk around, we walk around…and then we learnt that not far from our detachment there was a special detachment. The commander came over. He looked at us. He sees 3 young guys, he’s a Russian fellow you know, well dressed, well armed. He looked, he was thinking and then he says ‘You want to go with us? If we’ll go through, you’ll go through, if we don’t go through, we’ll perish together’ We go with them”.

Noah eventually enlisted in The Red Army, where he took advantage of his ability to speak German:

“I was attached to the infantry regimental reconnaissance unit. That was a unit, which was assigned a task crossing the front line and bringing a German across the line. We were going every night we bring in the engineering reconnaissance. And they go first, they clear the passage from mines and they stay and wait by the way we pass through the passage which they cleared for us and then we go there, we try to shock a German, hit him whatever there were different ways and to drag him alive across no one’s land and bring him back to our side. But in our unit I was the smallest one. I was taken to the unit because I knew German. That was my contribution”.

Noah was evntually recommended for officer’s training, but his German language skills and partisan background raised suspicion:

“I was invited for an interview. What I learnt later that was a SMERSH officer. He interrogated me and he asked me where I was until I get to the front line. Since I was under Nazi occupation I was a potential spy or whatever. And not myself and not the other one who was also a former partisan.So in other words we weren’t of the appropriate caliber to become Soviet officers”.

Noah was eventually transferred to The Budyonny Cavalry Corps, where he participated in The Battle of Konigsberg in 1945 and was the first Soviet unit to enter German soil. While in Poland, preparing to march towards Berlin, his affinity for languages raised suspicions for a second time:

“They called me to the counterintelligence department. And I had an interview with the deputy head of the corps. “He asked me ‘how do you know some of the language, you couldn’t go to University, too young for that’. I said ‘I grew up to understand with all those languages. He made a note and I felt that for several weeks I was watched. They observed me what I’m doing. And after that he called me in his department again and he said ‘you’ll work for me’. I was riding with the head of the department and whatever they were doing. I was already with machine gun and I was like a security man but at the same time I was an interpreter because I knew German, I knew Polish and I knew Lithuanian. Mainly I was interrogating prisoners and Germans and others and Soviet war prisoners and I would read the maps because the Soviets didn’t have their own maps yet for those areas”

Noah immigrated to Canada and became of professor of Russian literature in Toronto.