When the Nazis occupied Riga he escaped into Russia, soon joined the Soviet army, and was severely wounded. His family in Riga were murdered. He spent the rest of the war in Kazakhstan where he slowly regained sight and movement.
After the war he studied English and Western literature at
Moscow State University, graduated from aspirantura (Russian for graduate school), and taught English and German at the Maurice Thorez Linguistics Institute (which later became the Moscow State Linguistics University, or MGLU). He co-edited a Russian-Latvian Dictionary (State Publisher of Foreign and National Dictionaries, Moscow, 1951) Русско-латышский словарь (Государственное издательство иностранных и нациoнальных словарей, Москва, 1951). In 1952 he married Maya Shternberg, a botanist.
During this period his two textbooks for Russians learning German were published. (The first one had been his PhD thesis.) They became classic textbooks for generations of university students learning German in all parts of the Soviet Union.
With his wife and two children he emigrated to the US via Israel in 1972, and worked as a college languages teacher and as a writer for the German-American Daily Staatszeitung and for the German-Jewish American weekly, Aufbau. Newspaper articles by Leonid Kossman
In the late 1970s he started writing books to help other Russians in learning English.
In authorized--and pirated--editions these books have circulated very widely, and have even been adopted by American university Russian courses.
Most recently he wrote short stories, and published a historical novel, Above Water in 2003.
He was a brave and ethical man: he lived in the time and place where to be ethical required unusual courage.
He is greatly missed by those who knew and loved him.