Veteran Stories:
Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg

Army

  • Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg, 1943.

    Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg
  • Official Soviet government document attesting to Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg's participation in the battle of Stalingrad and awarding him the Defence of Stalingrad Medal, December 22, 1942.

    Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg
  • Official Soviet government document attesting that Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg was installing copper signal cable between Kiev and Odessa, February 28, 1945. The document includes the insignia of the No. 530 Detached Signal Battalion.

    Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg
  • Members of Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg's unit, No. 530 Detached Signal Battalion ("Stalingrad"), Rostov, USSR, 1943.

    Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg
  • Mikhail Mateevich Kinzbourg, Rostov, USSR, 1943.

    Mikhail Matveevich Kinzbourg
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"Later we found out that it was due to the encirclement, the ring of the Stalingrad front: they were cut off from their supplies and left without ammunition, food, without anything."

Transcript

Audio recording in Russian

I am Kinzbourg, Mikhail Matveevich, born in 1922, a war veteran, participated in the battles of the South, the 4th Ukrainian and Stalingrad Fronts; took part in the liberation of Crimea, specifically of the city of Sevastopol.

It was a line battalion, and all the young people were chosen for signal service in the units of the 62nd Army in Stalingrad, on Chertova Balka [“Hell Hollow”] road to Stalingrad.

The Germans were chasing us and we were fleeing like cowards. There are a lot of those who dispute [Soviet Premier Josef] Stalin’s order to form the blocking detachments: should we retreat without permission, these units would shoot us down with their machine-guns.

I first confronted it in Stalingrad. Maybe they existed before, I am not sure. And behind our backs, some 200 - 250 meters from the Volga [River] there was an old building, a heavy-wall mill, so we got there and behind us there was a blocking detachment. So should we retreat without orders...

Of course we knew that all those who were retreating were shot, with no given command.

Death was here, and death was there.

We had a company of about 100 people, and only 36 came back safe and alive.

There were 25-26 people in my platoon. What kind of a commander could I be? I was just a boy myself.

The Germans were stationed 75-100 meters in front of us.

Then the battalion commander came, looked at me, I was junior lieutenant then and had “bricks” on my uniform [badges of rank]. He asked who was operating the machine gun. I said that I had no idea how to do it and had never tried it. He briefed me on it for no longer than 15 minutes. He showed me how to take the disc off, how to adjust it to the gun and to start shooting. He instructed me not to let the Germans come closer, otherwise they would get into the “dead zone” where our bullets couldn’t reach them. He warned me not to show myself, ordered me to keep lying, so the sniper couldn’t trace me. The soldiers made a straw dummy, a scarecrow, and the moment they lifted it, it was hit by a bullet, this sniper was shooting really accurately.

First they were attacking but we saw that the Germans became silent, no more attacks, no shooting, it became very quiet. Didn’t shoot, nothing. Later we found out that it was due to the encirclement, the ring of the Stalingrad Front: they were cut off from their supplies and left without ammunition, food, without anything.

It was cold, the Volga started freezing, than it became even colder and the Volga had ice floes on it.

We didn’t know anything about the Germans. Our daily ration consisted of two biscuits and canned pork - to spread on the biscuits - one can for every three soldiers. The soldiers had to take turns to bring water from the river - for machine guns and for drinking. We wore thin forage-caps, so we pulled the flaps over our ears, and wrapped ourselves up in our overcoats and anything to get warm. We burned anything we could find in the buildings to keep ourselves warm.

We were sent to Leninsk, and got to Vladimirovka, close to Astrakhan, where the troops were being formed. And we met the older officers, our seniors there, the ones from our signal battalion that had been left there, they were still lodged there. We contacted our battalion commander in Charabali, a district centre half-way between Stalingrad and Astrakhan, I don’t remember how many kilometers [away]. The battalion commander inquired how many of us remained, I said that only 36. He ordered us to return, so we went back to Astrakhan. All those from Stalingrad were re-grouped in Astrakhan.

Then we moved on the offensive through the Salskie Steppes and our attack brought us to Rostov.

There was some destruction but not massive of course. I remember Yerevan, an Armenian suburb of Rostov. There was a hospital there, and we used to visit that hospital. Rostov was an ordinary town, nothing special. To the south of it there was a northern settlement called Sulpan, we were stationed there.

They were major battles... Then I and a friend of mine from the South Front were sent to Moscow to a month-long course. We studied to operate HF- have you heard of them? High frequency apparatus, which Stalin and the High Command were using instead of the regular telephones.

It was a sad city. There were blimps, security patrol airships floating over the city, a lot of military patrol in the streets. My friend and I were busy at the course, but we asked our major’s permission to visit the Red Square. It was sad, lots of military patrols checking documents at every corner.

On Victory Day I was in the government game-preservation Zavidovo, ever heard of it? I worked there from December 1944 until June 1945 restoring and servicing the telephone and the electricity lines. I celebrated Victory Day in Zavidovo, in the government game-preservation where they hunt, I have a document certifying that I worked there.

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