Interview conducted in 2003 by Roman Lenhovskiy
Wartime experiences prevail in Mr. Kotliar’s fascinating life story. Mobilized in July 1941, he was captured by the Germans in September of the same year and thus began his life as a prisoner-of-war. In haunting episodes, he described how fellow soldiers were giving away Jews, and how he worked as forced laborer in various places – from washing car wheels in a German military air force unit to being a night watchman in the bee garden of an old man and doing field work for almost a year. In October 1942, he was sent to Germany, where he became a so-called “OST-Arbeiter” (designation for slave workers gathered from Eastern Europe to do forced labor in Germany during World War II). Liberated near Stuttgart in April 1945, he worked at a Soviet car repair plant after the Victory, then served in the Soviet army in Germany. In the interim, his brother Roman fought in the 146th rifle battalion, was wounded in January 1945 and died on the way to hospital. Mr. Kotliar returned to the Soviet Union after he was demobilized in late 1946 and became a teacher of Russian language and literature. 17 photos accompany his story.
Learn more about Leonid Kotliar here on the Centropa website.