Photo Credit: Israel Mizrahi

A historically important letter I acquired this week, was typed and hand-signed by R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, also known as the Frierdiker Rebbe or the Rebbe Rayatz in Riga, the 19th of Tevet, 1940. When the Nazis occupied Poland, the Rayatz found himself in Warsaw. Refusing to leave his disciples behind, he remained in Warsaw during the bombardments and eventual fall of the city to Germany. He devoted every waking hour of his life during this period to assist and alleviate the suffering of his fellow Jews. Within a few months, as a result of intense lobbying in the United States, he was given safe passage to go via Berlin to Riga, Latvia and then to NYC. A Nazi officer of partial Jewish descent, Major Ernst Bloch was placed by the Nazis in command of the relocation of the Rebbe and escorted him via Berlin to Riga where he then eventually sailed to the United States, where he arrived on March 19, 1940.

His few months in Riga, from Dec 1939 to early 1940 when this letter was sent, found the Rebbe in the midst of a huge displacement of Jews and every attempt was made to ensure the escape of every person possible. This letter was written to a close friend of the Rayatz, a R. Moshe Dov Ber Rivkin, a Chabad Chassid who was at the time Rosh Yeshiva in Torah Vodaas in New York. The Rebbe urges R. Rivkin to do whatever is in his powers to gain access to the United States for students of the Tomche Temimim Yeshiva. The complexity and uncertainty of the times can be discerned from The Rayatz’s writing to R. Rivkin that he recommended the Jews of Lodz relocate to Warsaw, being that there was a lack of sustenance in Lodz and as bad as it was in Warsaw, it was worse in Lodz. Unfortunately, the majority of the students of the many different Tomche Temimim Yeshivas in Eastern Europe did not find safe passage out of Europe and were murdered in the Shoah.


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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and He can be reached at [email protected].