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Appendix I: The NKVD Files

Appendix I: The NKVD Files

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Excerpts translated from recently released NKVD files about DovBer Levertov

TOP SECRET

AGENCY INFORMATION

Facts provided by the informer of the “Marina Roshtcha” Synagogue

Name of officer: Fuchs
Date: 4/9/45

Our known informer..., from Samarkand, arrived a week ago with pertinent information. All Schneersohnists are mobilizing to leave Samarkand immediately. Nissan Nemanow has already left to Poland, taking with him his family and Berel Kabilaker’s two sons1. D. reports that the Chassid David Braverman and his father-in-law, Yaakov Yosef Raskin, left from Bikovo2, Moscow, with their families.

Name of officer: Umansky
Date: 11/13/45

Schneersohnists Raskin and David Braverman have departed from Moscow, though they have spread rumors that they are traveling to Leningrad. According to Steingart3, Braverman lives with Konsun4 in Ismailova5.

Name of officer: Fuchs
Date: 4/9/45

Saadya6 told the informer that he wishes to stop his present role of teaching religious subjects to youth. Saadya begged his bosses, Levertov and Braverman, to relieve him on the pretext that he devotes too much time traveling from Vishivekov to Kzoskove to teach, instead of actually teaching. Levertov mentioned that he is searching for a replacement and has already approached the informer’s brother, who just returned from Siberia7. The brother refused, however, and Levertov is now conducting talks with another Schneersohnist8, Chaim Leizer, a Chassid who arrived from Tashkent. He lives on Kirova Street in Moscow.

Name of officer: Fuchs
Date: 11/30/45

A week before the Chassidic holiday in Kislev9, Levertov was already preparing great festivities, collecting money for vodka and food. He even approached Mr. Kushin, the Shul’s administrator10, and our informer, asking them to contribute their share. Levertov organized the entire event. He led a ritual meal after the prayers for close to two hours with many Chassidim in attendance, including Rabbi Olevsky. The informer and his brother also attended.

No formal speeches were allowed, but Levertov said: “We must protect the holy soul of the Tzaddik.” When someone suggested that Rabbi Olevsky say a few words, Levertov categorically forbade it. “Today is a Chassidic celebration,” he objected, “our holiday. It is hardly the place for non-Chassidim to discuss their matters.”

According to Dubruskin, the Chassidim prearranged not to convene all in one specific place. Ostensibly, they fear attacks by bandits. They planned to celebrate separately. Yet, on the night of the holiday, the Chassidim gathered in the home of Gildenblatt. Levertov was there with many others. The informer could not attend due to a doctor’s appointment.

Levertov attends the Great Synagogue almost daily. At the Marina Roshtcha, he is close to Botvinikov11, who has just returned from Samarkand and is assuming a larger and more important role in their activities.

Name of officer: Arnumarsky
Date: 12/17/45

The informer spoke to Goldasky on the 5th of the month. This was in the Maladovka synagogue12. Goldasky had been present when the Schneersohnists gathered to celebrate Braverman’s wedding in his apartment, and acted as the attendant. Kabilaker and Israel Nevler13 dominated the event. Not only are they members of Chabad, they are considered “Shpitz Chabad,” leaders and powerful personalities. In fact, Braverman does nothing without first consulting Levertov, the real leader.

Name of officer: Fuchs
Date: 11/4/46

Dubraskin told our informer that Avrohom Shmuel Lebenhartz arrived recently from Lvov. He is negotiating to sell his home; he wants to return to Lvov with his family.

Levertov is back to his old ways. He attends synagogue, performs circumcisions, and continues serving as a ritual slaughterer14.

Name of officer: Fuchs
Date: 11/13/46

There is talk of upcoming elections for the chairman of the Choral Synagogue. Various candidates were discussed, and various opinions presented. Rabbi Olevsky remarked, “Perhaps Rabbi Dubin15 should be chairman of the community.”

Levertov responded: “No! I know for a fact that Dubin will never be chairman. He is waiting for my answer tonight, because he knows that I will be present at this meeting.”

Name of officer: Fuchs
Date: 11/27/46

A young Jewish man came to the Marina Roshtcha today. His name is Meir, another Schneersohnist. He is about thirty years old, an arrival from Samarkand, and is the nephew of Raskin who escaped to Poland this past September. He found lodging with Shmuel Botvinikov, apparently because they met together in the synagogue.

Another Schneersohnist has also been making regular visits to the Marina Roshtcha. He came last fall from Samarkand, traveling through Moscow to Lvov. He asked around for Levertov’s address and then went to his home. It seems he came directly from the train station, because the informer noticed he was still carrying his luggage.

Levertov later said he must travel to Kazan16, where many people need him to perform circumcisions. V. also approached the informer with the information that Levertov had taken money for a Molei17 from Zusman, and was using it to fund Yeshiva students18.

Name of officer: Lisa
Date: 2/27/47

Levertov said the following about himself:

“My daughter Basya, together with her husband Nochum Zalmen Gurevitch and their children, left a long time ago to Lvov, from where they will try to travel abroad19. My sons were learning in the yeshiva of Samarkand but now they, too, are accompanying my daughter.”

A few days after Levertov departed for Kazan20, a young man appeared in the Marina Roshtcha during the evening prayers. He looked very distraught and asked for Levertov. On hearing that Levertov went to Kazan for ten days, the young man became greatly distressed. “Where? Kazan?” he said bitterly, burying his face in his hands.

“How will I proceed now?”

He then asked for Levertov’s address, and the informer gave him its approximate location. The informer also asked him from where he came. “From Samarkand...,” he stammered nervously, “from Tashkent...”

Arrest Warrant

I sanction the arrest.

Military Prosecutor, district of Moscow

Major-General of Justice Volkov

12th of August, 1947

21:20 hr.

I second it.

Approved by General Kraiunov

Head of Management of MGB, Moscow Region21

12th August, 1947

Order Of Arrest

City of Moscow, 12th August 1947

I, the senior operational representative of the Managing Division of MGB of Moscow Region, Lieutenant Shesarev, have finished reviewing material about the criminal activities of Levertov Berel (Berko) Sheilovich. Born in 1885 in Krementchug, a Jew, citizen of the USSR, non-partisan, watchman in a furniture factory. Lives at address: Novoslobodskaya Uliza, house #52.

Our findings:

Levertov B. Sh. is the head of the illegal anti-Soviet organization of Chassidim, leader of whom is the Tzaddik Schneersohn, who lives abroad.

Levertov B. Sh., a confidant of Schneersohn, together with Nemanow Nissan, Draizin Abraham, Futerfas Mendel and other appointees of the Tzaddik, heads the Chassidic underground and, after the war, headed the Chassidic organization of Moscow.

The aim of the anti-Soviet organization of Chassidim, according to directives received from Schneersohn, is to facilitate the massive exodus of Chassidim abroad. Practical means exist to transport illegal immigrants over the border. This enabled many families to leave, mainly to Poland.

Levertov B. Sh. gave instructions to immigrants, accepted money and financed transits from other regions of the Soviet Union. Levertov kept in constant contact with the underground committee in Lvov. His son-in-law, Gurevich Sh., is a member of that group; his apartment serves as their headquarters.

In 1946, Levertov sent his older sons, daughter and son-in-law illegally to Poland, via the underground committee in Lvov. He is kept abreast of the latest developments through contacts arriving periodically from Lvov. He was thus informed of the smuggling of Chassidim over the border.

Levertov initiated illegal meetings for this organization in private apartments across Moscow and its suburbs (Tarasovka, Bikovo, Malachovka, etc.). These meetings promote religious, anti-Soviet customs and keep members abreast of latest developments in the activities of the underground committee.

In 1945-6, Chassidim established an underground yeshiva (seminary to teach young adults) in Tashkent. Levertov sent his sons there. Aided by Braverman D. Ch., his sons later collected non-official monetary donations from clerics (rabbis, slaughterers). The total sum was sent to Central Asia to support the yeshiva.

Levertov presently engages in the illegal collection of money, under the pretext of “helping the poor.” Levertov and Braverman use this money for hiring illegal spiritual teachers to teach minors in Moscow and the region.

In 1946, Levertov traveled to Central Asia to establish contact with other Chassidim. He traveled to Kazan in 1947 for similar purposes.

Levertov is exposed as leader of the illegal anti-Soviet organization of Chassidim through testimony given by..., a participant of this organization currently under arrest.

Levertov’s constant contact with the committee in Lvov has been exposed by the testimony of..., a member of this committee arrested in Lvov.

Based on the above-mentioned information:

It is decided:

Levertov, Berko Sheilovich, who resides on Novoslobodskaya #52 (dormitory of furniture factory), will be arrested and searched.

Signed ......

 

 

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY
SOVIET UNION
DIVISION OF M.G.B.22, MOSCOW

ORDER #340

8/13/47

To the Management Division of M.G.B., Moscow Region:

Comrade Kaunikov is to arrest and search Levertov, Berko Sheilovich.

Signed ......

Sentence

I, Detective Captain Dmitriev, have studied carefully all the material in case #359.

Considering that Levertov Berka Sheilovich has been exposed as an enemy of the Soviet government; a member of an illegal Jewish national organization of Chassidim, working under the direction of leader Schneersohn from America; a participant in illegal smuggling of Chassidim from the Soviet Union to Poland and Palestine; actively involved in anti-Soviet gatherings during which anti-Soviet propaganda material was disseminated to crush the Soviet spirit; tried to cross the border into Poland.

It is thus decreed:

Based on codes 128 & 129 of UPK of RSFSR, Levertov Berka Sheilovich is accused of criminal code 17-58-1a & 58-111 and is sentenced to ten years in exile. The accused will be notified of the current decision.

NOTES: The following notes are added by Rabbi Berel Levertov’s son, Rabbi Moshe, and are not part of the NKVD files.

Footnotes
1.
This was fictitious information; Reb Nissan had not left the USSR yet, neither had he taken my brother or I out of Samarkand.
2.
A suburb of Moscow.
3.
Apparently, this chassid turned informer on his fellow Chassidim. Father trusted him and mentions his name during his interrogation.
4.
This chassid left the USSR in the late 1960’s. The reader will note that this contradicts previous testimony to the effect that “Braverman...left Moscow with his family.”
5.
Suburb of Moscow.
6.
Reb Saadya Liberow, a Chabad Chassid of strong convictions.
7.
Many families were evacuated to Siberia during the war.
8.
Chassidim associated with the Lubavitcher Rebbe [RaYYATz].
9.
Yud Tes (19) Kislev.
10.
Another informer.
11.
Reb Shmuel Botvinikov was the oldest son-in-law of the famous Chassid, Reb Meir Simcha Chein of Nevel.
12.
Miraculously, this synagogue remained untouched throughout the years. It is a Lubavitcher synagogue situated in a suburb of Moscow.
13.
Reb Yisroel Konsin was called “Neveler,” referring to his hometown Nevel.
14.
Father did not slaughter animals on an official basis, except for our family and select Chassidim.
15.
Rabbi Mordechai Dubin, a member of the Latvian Parliament, helped facilitate the Rebbe Rayatz’s release from Russia. He was exiled to Siberia when Russia occupied Latvia in 1939, and released during World War Two. The Nazis murdered his family, yet Rabbi Dubin continued his work and helped hundreds of Jews. He was exiled again and died in Tula in the 1940’s. His remains were later brought for reburial in the Maladovka cemetery.
16.
A city several hundred kilometers from Moscow; the NKVD suspected this to be a ruse to cover other activities, but I knew that Father had indeed traveled to Kazan.
17.
The prayer customarily recited on a Yahrzeit.
18.
A Yeshiva.
19.
They had left the USSR; Father was obviously unaware of their whereabouts.
20.
Reb Yitzchok “Kazaner” lived in Kazan at that time. He was not a Chabad Chassid, but was very religious and served later as unofficial Rabbi for the Chassidim of Tashkent. After he left the USSR in 1970, he told me how he met Father on his visit to Kazan. When he mentioned he had noticed agents following Father and monitoring his activities, Father responded: “I’m no longer afraid of them, my sons have already escaped.” Soon after, Father was arrested.
21.
Territorial administrative district.
22.
Local office of the NKVD.
By Rabbi Moishe Levertov. Edited and adapted by Rabbi Daniel Goldberg. To purchase this book click here.
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Anna Fomin Kiev, Ukraine November 26, 2006

What a fascinating book! Thank you for posting this on your web site. Courage, determination and strength over adversity! Reply