Current Issue

 Click here to subscribe.

Share

Search
BeisMoshiach.org
Web
Tags
"Misnagdim” #1000 #1001 #1002 #1003 #1004 #1005 #1006 #1007 #1008 #1009 #1010 #1011 #1012 #1013 #1014 #1015 #1016 #1017 #1018 #1019 #1020 #1021 #1022 #1023 #1024 #1025 #1026 #1027 #1028 #1029 #1030 #1031 #1032 #1033 #1034 #1035 #1036 #1037 #1038 #1039 #1040 #1041 #1042 #1043 #1044 #1045 #1046 #1047 #1048 #1049 #1050 #1051 #1052 #1053 #1054 #1055 #1056 #1057 #1058 #1059 #1060 #1061 #1062 #1063 #1064 #1065 #1066 #1067 #1068 #1069 #1070 #1071 #1072 #1073 #1074 #1075 #1076 #1077 #1078 #1079 #1080 #1081 #1082 #1083 #1084 #1085 #1086 #1088 #1089 #1090 #1091 #1092 #1093 #1094 #1095 #1096 #1097 #1098 #1099 #1100 #1101 #1102 #1103 #1104 #1106 #1107 #1108 #1109 #1110 #1111 #1112 #1113 #1114 #1115 #1116 #1117 #1118 #1119 #1120 #1121 #1122 #1123 #1124 #1125 #1126 #1127 #1128 #1129 #1130 #1131 #1132 #1133 #1134 #1135 #1136 #1137 #1138 #1139 #1140 #1141 #1142 #1143 #1144 #1145 #1146 #1147 #1148 #1149 #1150 #1151 #1152 #1153 #1154 #1155 #1156 #1157 #1158 #1159 #1160 #1161 #1162 #1163 #1164 #1165 #1166 #1167 #1168 #1169 #1170 #1171 #1172 #1173 #1174 #1175 #1176 #1177 #1178 #1179 #1180 #1181 #1182 #1183 #1184 #1185 #1186 #1187 #318 #319 #350 #383 #390 #550 #560 #594 #629 #642 #776 #777 #778 #779 #780 #781 #782 #783 #784 #785 #786 #787 #820 #823 #824 #825 #826 #827 #828 #829 #830 #831 #832 #833 #834 #835 #836 #837 #838 #839 #840 #841 #842 #843 #844 #845 #846 #847 #848 #849 #850 #851 #852 #853 #854 #855 #856 #857 #858 #859 #860 #861 #862 #863 #864 #865 #866 #867 #868 #869 #870 #871 #872 #873 #874 #875 #876 #876 #877 #878 #879 #880 #881 #882 #883 #884 #885 #886 #887 #888 #889 #890 #891 #892 #893 #894 #895 #896 #897 #898 #899 #900 #901 #902 #903 #904 #905 #906 #907 #908 #909 #910 #911 #912 #913 #914 #915 #916 #917 #918 #919 #920 #921 #922 #923 #924 #925 #926 #927 #928 #929 #930 #931 #932 #933 #934 #935 #936 #937 #938 #939 #940 #941 #942 #943 #944 #945 #946 #947 #948 #949 #950 #951 #952 #953 #954 #955 #956 #957 #958 #959 #960 #961 #962 #963 #964 #965 #966 #967 #968 #969 #970 #971 #972 #973 #974 #975 #976 #977 #978 #979 #980 #981 #982 #983 #984 #985 #986 #987 #988 #989 #990 #991 #992 #993 #994 #995 #996 #997 #998 #999 1 Kislev 10 Kislev 10 Shvat 10 Shvat 10 Teives 11 11 Nissan 112 Tammuz 12 Tammuz 13 Iyar 13 Tishrei 14 Kislev 15 Elul 15 Menachem-Av 15 Shvat 17 Tammuz 18 Elul 19 Kislev 2 Iyar 20 Av 20 Mar-Cheshvan 20 Menachem-Av 22 Shvat 24 Teives 25 Adar 27 Adar 28 Nissan 28 Teives 29 Elul 3 3 Tammuz 33 Tammuz 352 5 Teives 6 Tishrei 7 Adar 7 Mar-Cheshvan 770 864 865 881 9 Adar 9 Av 9 Kislev 903 Acharei Acharei-K'doshim Achdus Adar Ahavas Yisroel Alef-Beis All Jews Shall Rise Alter Rebbe Amalek Argentina Arizal army Artwork Aseres HaDibros Australia Avoda Zara B’Chukosai B’Shalach Baal Shem Tov baal t'shuva Baba Sali Balak BaMidbar bar mitzva Basi L'Gani B'Chukosai be Bein HaMeitzarim Beis HaMikdash Beis Nissan Berditchev Beth Rivkah B'Haalos'cha B'Har B'Har-B'Chukosai Birthday Bitachon Blindness Bo B'rachos Brazil Breslov brit milah Brussels B'Shalach Canada chai v'kayam Chanuka Chassidic Rabbis Chasuna Chayei Sara Chernobil chesed Chevron children chinuch Chitas Choshen Chukas Churban controversy convert Dan Diary of the late R’ Saadya Maatuf Dollars dreams D''varim Editorial Editor's Corner Eikev Elections Elul Emor Europe Family Purity fire France free choice Gaza Gentiles Georgia Gulf War Gush Katif Haazinu Hakhel Halvayas Hameis Hashavas Aveida HaYom Yom Hebron hiskashrus Holy Temple Honesty Honoring Parents Hospitality IDF Igrot Kodesh India Intermarriage Internet Iran Iron Curtain Israel Japan Jewish Refugee Crisis Kabbala K'doshim Kfar Chabad Ki Savo Ki Seitzei Ki Sisa KIDDUSH LEVANA Kiryat Gat Kislev kKi Sisa Kohen Gadol Korach korbanos KOS SHEL BRACHA Krias Shma K'vutza Lag B'Omer lashon ha'ra Lech Lecha letter Litvishe maamer Machatzis HaShekel mahn Mar-Cheshvan marriage Massei Matot Mattos Mattos-Massei Menachem Av Menora Merkos Shlichus Metzora Mexico Mezuzah Miami MiKeitz MIkvah Mishkan Mishpatim Mitteler Rebbe Mitzva Tank Mitzvah Tanks Mivtza Kashrus MIvtza Neshek Mivtza T’fillin Mivtza Tefilin Morocco Moshe Rabbeinu Moshiach & Geula Moshiach Seuda music Names Napoleon Naso Nazi Holocaust niggunim Nissan Nitzavim Nitzavim-VaYeilech Noach Noachide North Africa olive oil painting Parshas Parah parshas re'eh Parshas Zachor Pesach Pesach Sheini Pinchas Pirkei Avos P'kudei Poland prayer Prison prophecy Purim R’ Avrohom Schneersohn Rabbanus Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Rabbi Shlomo Galperin Rambam Ramban Rashbi Rashi Rebbe Rebbe Maharash Rebbe Rashab Rebbe Rayatz Rebbe Rayatz & Joint Rebbetzin Chana Rebbetzin Chaya Muska Rebbetzin Rivka Red Heifer Reform movement R'ei Rishon L'Tzion Rosh Chodesh Rosh HaShana Russia S’firas HaOmer Samarkand seifer Torah s'firas ha'omer Shabbos Shabbos Bereishis Shabbos Chazo Shabbos Chazon Shabbos Hagadol Shabbos Nachamu shalom bayis Shavuos Shekalim shiduchim Shlach shleimus ha'Aretz shliach shlichus Shmini Shmita Shmos Shnas Ha’Binyan Shoftim shtus Shvat simcha Simchas Torah South Africa Sukkos summer summer camp tahalucha Talmud Torah Tanya Tazria-Metzora te Tefila TEFILLAS GESHEM Tehilim Teives Terror teshuva Tetzaveh t'fillin the soul tisha b'av Tishrei Toldos Tomchei T'mimim Truma t'shuva tTruma Tzaddik Tzanz Tzav Tzedaka Tzemach Tzedek Tzfas tzimtzum Tzitzis Tzniyus Ukraine undefined Upsherinish VaEira VaEs'chanan VaYakhel VaYakhel-P’kudei VaYechi VaYeilech VaYeira VaYeishev VaYeitzei VaYigash VaYikra VaYishlach Vocational Schools Winter women Yechidus Yerushalayim Yeshiva Yisro Yom Kippur Yom Tov Zionism Zohar Zos HaBracha. B'Reishis סיביר
Visitor Feed
Thursday
Nov072019

The Daring Escape From the Berditchev Orphanage

Six young tmimim — all legally minors, are caught by the NKVD at an underground 24 Teves Farbrengen in Berditchev. They claim to be orphans, and are thus sent to a Soviet orphanage to be “reeducated” as “useful” citizens…

 – 1 –

Refael was 65 with wise dark eyes. He was of average height despite his stoop. Only his full white beard disclosed the fact that he was different than the other people of his hometown of Saratov which is on the right bank of the Volga River.

R’ Refael Bruk was a proud Jew, one who learned in Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim, who ate only of the best shechita. He was also involved in hafatza, promoting Torah study in Saratov and helping his fellow Jews do mitzvos.

How did this man end up in distant Saratov? Why did he stay in this desolate place and not join one of the Jewish communities in the outside world?

 – 2 –

He sat there, deep in thought, unsure of what to do. Opposite him sat a young bachur with a pleading-hopeful look on his face. It was clear that the young man’s request was truly heartfelt and that he sought the consent of the man he spoke to, although the latter still hesitated.

“Send your son to yeshiva, Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim, and he will learn and toil in Torah, as well as its soul and inner dimension,” said the young man, breaking the silence. “Just now, a branch of the yeshiva opened in Berditchev. He will learn there and be successful in his learning. I take responsibility for him!”

The bachur was the tamim Michoel Teitelbaum who was begging R’ Avrohom Bruk to allow his son Refael to learn in yeshiva. Upon hearing that the bachur took responsibility, the father gazed at R’ Michoel to assess whether  this young man was capable of standing by his promise.  It wasn’t necessary to spell out how dangerous it was to learn Torah when the NKVD avidly pursued every Jewish boy who did so.

“I am willing,” said the man and the next day, young Refael arrived in Berditchev where he met his new classmates and joined the underground yeshiva. However, that which the father feared soon came to pass.

***

It was the winter of 5698/1938 and nine boys learned in the underground yeshiva in Berditchev. Most of them did not come from Berditchev; they came from other towns to learn Torah there since in their hometowns they could not learn for fear of the communist persecution. It was difficult for such young boys to leave home but most of them had been raised with the knowledge that Torah-study is the most important thing.

For Chof-Dalet Teves, the yartzeit of the Alter Rebbe, it was arranged that all the students would convene for a farbrengen together with their teacher, Rabbi Moshe Robinson. The six young talmidim were: Zev Averbuch, Yechezkel Brod, Refael Bruk, Sholom Dovber Pevsner, Heschel Ceitlin and Refael Wilschansky. The three older talmidim were: Shmuel Itkin, Berel Gurevitz, and Elozor Mogilevsky.

That night, after learning, they gathered in the cellar of the shul called the Berditchever Kloiz. The place was damp and dusty. Someone entered surreptitiously and pulled from his pack some bottles of mashke. Some of the older talmidim covered the windows with crates and boards. One of the boys spread a white tablecloth on one of the tables and placed some bottles of mashke and some edibles on it. The candles were lit and they crowded around the table, head to head, shoulder to shoulder. They said l’chaim quietly and began to quietly sing Chassidic niggunei deveikus.

To be more secure, they locked the door from the outside in the hopes that if someone knocked at the door, they would be able to sneak out the back.

None of them felt the cold. They sat around the table, spoke and sang, said l’chaim and sang again.

It was one in the morning when they suddenly heard banging and orders to open the door. They knew who it was.

They worked quickly as though they had trained a long time for this moment. Everything was quickly removed from the table and within a minute, not a talmid could be seen. Each of them found a hiding place behind objects and broken furniture.

The door burst open and the angels of destruction entered, holding drawn revolvers. Nobody remained concealed for long. With flashlights, they searched every nook and cranny of the cellar and found them all. They gathered them one by one and herded them close to the door.  Those who were already discovered stood there, watching in pain how the communists roughly pulled out another one and another one.

At dawn, the boys were brought to the cellars of the NKVD where they were divided into two groups. In the first group were the six younger boys who were brought to a large room with another sixty people. The second group, with the older bachurim, were brought to a separate room.

As they were being brought to prison they all agreed not to reveal a thing, even if the interrogators threatened them with death! They were ready for that too, anything not to inform on anyone. That is how they were trained from their earliest days in the underground schools. Every morning they would review what they would say if they were caught. Now it was time to implement the commitment not to reveal anything, no matter what.

In the search conducted on their persons, the wicked ones cut their tzitzis and anything having to do with Judaism was taken away from them.

 – 3 –

In the days that followed, the boys underwent exhausting interrogations, led by the chief interrogator, a Jew by the name of Chutretsky. He tried asking the children what their names were, how old they were, who their parents were and where they lived, and how the children had gotten there.

The boys’ answers were nearly identical: I just happened to come here; I don’t learn Torah here; I don’t know any of the other boys nor the uncle (the teacher); my parents died and I am an orphan; I came to Berditchev to find work and food; I hoped I could sleep in the shul and when I heard the banging at the door I was frightened so I hid.

The boys did not break and decided to continue denying any knowledge of one another. They would not incriminate themselves or others. They would affirm that they were Jewish children but would deny any knowledge of the “uncle” who taught forbidden subjects and would insist that they did not even know one another.

At a certain point, when it was clear to the interrogators that all the children were lying, one of them took out a gun, aimed it at their faces and threatened to pull the trigger if they continued lying. “Nobody will know where your bones ended up!”

The boys did not react. There was a terrible moment of tension in the room. “The threat did not frighten us,” Heschel Ceitlin later said. “We were more concerned about our parents’ sorrow.”

For three weeks, the boys stood their ground with tremendous Jewish heroism. Throughout that time, the boys were kept in a damp cellar and they suffered hunger. They did not eat from the prison food and the only thing they could eat was a bit of dry bread. They refused to eat but the jailers said, “Eat! Eat! You will yet lack for food.” They soon began to feel starvation.

In the morning, the wardens handed out bread that was barely enough for a meal. At noon, they gave out soup. The boys did not touch the soup because it was treif and they remained hungry. “It is hard to describe intensity of the hunger that we felt there.”

And the hungry boys spent the long winter nights in the damp cellar.

 – 4 –

After a month of incarceration under very difficult conditions, they were taken to a government school for orphans on the outskirts of Berditchev. This institution was run by the NKVD who wanted to “reeducate” the children to think like them. The principal told them the rules of conduct: You may not leave this place, you must obey instructions, you must eat what we serve, you must remove your hats.

“If you behave nicely, meaning, you eat everything and take an active part in all the lessons, and you listen to the instructions of the counselors and stop your old, fanatical ways, you will earn many improvements. But if you dare to continue acting in an anti-soviet way, the administration will come down hard on you and will punish you and if necessary, will transfer you to a harsher institution.”

But these threats too, did not move the boys. Their experience from yeshiva in Berditchev taught them to operate clandestinely and quietly. They tried to follow the school’s routine without standing out and continued secretly observing Torah and mitzvos. They did not eat the cooked food by using various excuses. They would secretly put pieces of meat in their pockets and throw them out when the opportunity arose. Now and then they met in secret and discussed a possible escape.

The parents heard about their arrest and after a while they also learned where they were. Some of the parents fled their homes in fear that they would also be arrested for sending their children to learn Torah. Several months later, when they saw that nobody came, they dared to return home.

One of the school’s rules allowed children to take a walk every day outside the school’s premises, but permission was granted to only two boys at a time. The other boys had to stay behind to guarantee the return of the others.

The six boys in the group were also allowed to take a walk occasionally but care was taken that the pairs did not go all at the same time. It was only when the first pair returned that the next pair could leave.

Upon arriving at the school, the boys asked to be allowed to go to the city to retrieve the clean clothes they had there as well as other things they needed urgently. The principal allowed two boys to go and bring back the items for all. The pair took the opportunity to also bring a pair of tefillin which they hid in the snow that filled the woods that surrounded the orphanage. They were small tefillin but exceedingly fine.

The boys asked the principal for permission to go outside and ice-skate. There were many large ponds that had frozen over. Permission was granted and they took their equipment and left.

At this point, the outings were acts of mesirus nefesh. Each pair that left the school for its daily walk rushed to the woods were they put on the tefillin. It was the month of Shevat, a hard winter, and it was freezing in the forest, but they removed their coats gladly and put on tefillin and davened within the time allotted to them.

“It is impossible to describe the feelings of joy that we had during those moments. After more than a month in which we hadn’t been able to put on tefillin, putting on the tefillin was so precious and emotional. We cried and felt such yearning for the tefillin, and it was only with much difficulty that we were able to take them off so we could enable our friends to put on tefillin,” said R’ Yechezkel Brod years later.

“On that occasion, we visited the Jewish cemetery of Berditchev and spent time at the grave of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. We wrote a pidyon nefesh and cried, beseeching that the tzaddik plead for us so we could get out of the clutches of these wicked ones and reach a place of Torah.” ■

To be continued, G-d willing.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.