Roman Yagel was born on May 1, 1922 in Zhuravitsa, Poland, to an Orthodox Jewish family of thirteen children. Whereas Yagel’s grandfather was a Rabbi and his uncle a cantor, his father was a bit less religious. A butcher by trade, Yagel’s father fought in the Franco-Austrian War and was proud of the Iron Cross he had been awarded for bravery. Yagel was working in Krakow when the war broke out in 1939. He immediately made his way home to Bircza, where he was forced to labor for the Nazis. At the time of repartition, Yagel escaped to the Soviet side, and in 1940 joined the 42nd border patrol of the Red Army. During the retreat through Ukraine, he was repeatedly captured by the Germans but always managed to escape. Involved in hand-to-hand combat with the infantry in Western Ukraine, he was imprisoned, and, after escaping, was accused of espionage by his Soviet comrades. In 1943, Yagel was transferred to the Kosciuzko First Division of the Polish Army. Fighting until the end of the war, he returned home and learned of the brutal execution of his entire family. Facing increasing Anti-Semitism in the postwar period, Yagel immigrated to Israel in 1957. He joined the Israeli army, rising greatly in rank and responsibility until his retirement in 1987 with the rank of Major-General. In 1959, Yagel married Ursula and had a son, David. After retirement he served on the boards of numerous veteran associations and served as President of the Union of Disabled Fighters and Partisans of the War against Nazism. Interview recorded in Tel-Aviv, 2008.
Accused of being a spy.
Passover in Berdichev, 1944