On June 14, 1940, the armies of Nazi Germany conquered
Paris. A French General offered the Rebbe a residence in the countryside; but
the Rebbe, comprehending the true significance of the Nazi occupation, declined
the offer and fled Paris on one of the last trains to leave the city. After a
perilous passage over the front lines of the occupation, the Rebbe and his wife
arrived in Vichy, France.
They remained in Vichy for a few months, then relocated to Nice in Southern France where they stayed until their final escape from Europe. Throughout this time, the Rebbe’s father-in-law -- who had survived the bombing and occupation of Warsaw and had arrived in New York in March of 1940 -- conducted a vigorous campaign to rescue them and bring them to the haven of America.
The Rebbetzin would later recount that throughout their flight from the advancing Germans, the Rebbe retained his characteristic devotion to helping others, and to the observance of even the most minute details of Jewish law and custom. Also characteristically, the Rebbe found a way to focus on the positive aspect of every experience -- even that of a refugee, uprooted from his home and fleeing for his life (see letter excerpted at right).
On June 12, 1941, the Rebbe and Rebbetzin boarded the Serpa Pinto in Lisbon, Portugal, the ship that would take them to the United States. On Monday, June 23 (28 Sivan on the Hebrew calendar), 10:30 A.M., the Rebbe and Rebbetzin arrived in New York.