A man can live an entire lifetime without ever suffering a thousandth part of what the Rebbe underwent during his first night in the hands of Cheka,1 the GPU, beginning with the few hours he endured in the offices of Spalerka and continuing until he was assigned his prison cell.

The two Jewish Chekists, Nachmanson and Lulav, handed the Rebbe over to one of the prison guards, who led him along the entire length of a dark corridor, whose few light bulbs faded in the thick gloom. Next to each of the numerous locked doors on either side stood a guard, holding a revolver in his right hand, a sword in his left hand, and a bayonet suspended from his shoulder – a terrifying sight in the darkness.

At the end of the corridor the guard pointed to an open door, ordered the Rebbe to go inside, and went his way.

Noticing that near this open door there was another corridor, the Rebbe walked along it, weighted by heavy thoughts. There were no guards there, just doors on either side, with long benches along the walls. As he took a seat he felt a certain relief, being now alone and not surrounded by those malevolent armed guards. He realized that he had erred, because he was meant to enter the open door that he had been shown. Nevertheless he had no desire to return there: this was probably G‑d’s will.

Suddenly a young gentile stepped out of one of the doors and asked the Rebbe, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m waiting for my tallis and tefillin,” the Rebbe answered.

“Where are you from?” asked the gentile.

“From a little town called Lubavitch,” said the Rebbe.

“Ah, Lubavitch!” said the young man. “It’s not so little. I was there as a child. There was a saddik living there and he had a house and a courtyard. I’m from a nearby town called Gossin, and when I used to go along with my father to the weekly fairs in Lubavitch, we used to bring our horses to drink from the spring in the saddik’s courtyard.”

(By the way, there is an interesting side to that detail. A special gate was provided for the horses of the local peasants so that when they were brought into the Rebbe Rashab’s courtyard, they would not damage the unpaved main road. The local priest (lehavdil) also had a spring in his courtyard, but he never allowed his people to use it.)

The Rebbe then said, “I must go to the office.”

“I’ll take you there,” the young man volunteered. “Tell me, how did you come here?”

The Rebbe pointed to the first corridor.

To his surprise, the young gentile trembled with sudden anger: “You came along that corridor?! Who are you? How long have you been living in Leningrad?”

“I’m Rabbi Schneersohn from Lubavitch, and I came to Leningrad three years ago.”

“But how did you come to that corridor? Are you a counter-revolutionary? Where did they arrest you? Did they find something in your possession?”

“I was arrested in my home, at the supper table, and they found nothing at all suspicious.”

“But that corridor is used only for the toughest criminals – counter-revolutionaries! You’re not telling the truth! You were probably involved in the real stuff: they wouldn’t have brought you along that corridor for nothing! Tell the truth, Citizen, or else it’ll be even worse for you! We’ve got plenty of counter-revolutionary prisoners here!”

The Rebbe tried again to assure the young man that he was telling the truth, and the young man insisted that that was impossible.

“You’re a liar,” he said, “and for lying they’ll stick you in a cell in solitary confinement. If they brought you through that corridor, you must be a real heavy criminal!”

The Rebbe realized exactly where the Chekists had led him, and as soon as the young gentile went off to a room to which he had been summoned, the Rebbe made his way to the office.