Finally, Dobronitzky agreed to allow the Rebbe to leave Russia – but only on condition that his mother, his wife, his daughters and the whole family remain in Russia, together with his library and their furniture, as a surety for the Soviet Government. Though securing this permission was a major victory, the Rebbe decided not to leave without his family. So once again Mrs. Fishkova and Dr. Kohn sped into action, but this time the critical pressure on the Russians was exercised by Dubin, who threatened to withhold his influence in clinching the proposed agreement with Latvia.. See p. 241 below.

Thus forced into a corner, the Russian Foreign Ministry held a meeting on the second day of Rosh HaShanah, attended by Tchitchirin, Litvinov, Rotstein, Dobronitzky and the Russian ambassador in Latvia. (Apart from Tchitchirin they were all Jews, all of whom, except for Rotstein, were born in Poland.) Eventually they decided to grant the Rebbe an exit permit together with his family.

Now, since the Rebbe was not only a resident of Leningrad but was also officially registered as its rabbi, the formalities had to be processed there. They were handled by the head of the local Foreign Ministry office, Zalkind, a grandson of the rav of Dvinsk who was fondly known by his nickname as “the batlan.”1 Zalkind’s secretary was also a Jew, by the name of Karenkin.

Dubin set out at once from Moscow to Leningrad in order to speed the process, but when he stepped into Zalkind’s office, he was told sharply: “What exit formalities are you talking about? I’ve received no directive on that subject at all!”

One of his aides, also a Jew, joined in and angrily charged Dubin with trying to secure a document on false pretenses.

Dubin nevertheless succeeded in persuading Zalkind to call Moscow to check whether such a directive had been issued. Sure enough, it transpired that it had been given to some minor non-Jewish clerk in the Moscow office who had deposited it briefly in his drawer and had then forgotten all about it. Zalkind thereupon gave all the necessary papers for the exit of the Rebbe and his family and six other chassidim who were to accompany him, and he was also allowed to take with him his furniture, his silver vessels, and his library. However, the law required that no books could be taken out of the country until they were inspected by a representative of the National Publications Authority. A Jew called Stein was charged with the task. When he set eyes on all the priceless volumes and ancient manuscripts, he declared: “I will never allow such precious items to leave this country!”

His only response to all the supplications was to stamp out in a rage.

Dubin immediately contacted the Publications Authority. He told them how he had secured the exit permit, referred explicitly to the long-desired agreement between Russia and Latvia, and demanded that they dispatch an alternative representative to check the contents of the library. They understood the hint and promptly appointed for the task a non-Jewish Russian who had no idea of the value of the books in question. He took one look at the collection, gave his immediate consent, and went straight home.

Thus it was that at long last, on the day after Sukkos in the year 5688 (1927), the Rebbe and his retinue left Russia for Riga, Latvia. Together with his library and furniture, they occupied four railway carriages. A huge crowd gathered at the station to farewell him and he was likewise greeted warmly at every station on the way, where some eager chassidim joined the train for part of the journey.

When the Rebbe was asked on arrival how he felt at that moment, after all he had been through, he replied: “If someone were to offer me a million coins, I would not agree to buy one minute of future suffering – but if someone were to offer me a million coins in exchange for one minute of my past suffering, I would not sell it!”