As the Lubavitch Chassidim of Russia fled from the World War II battlefront to Central Asia, the underground Tomchei Tmimim yeshiva followed them into exile. Ironically, it was during the war years that the yeshiva flourished. The Communist police were preoccupied with the war against the Nazis and did not put much effort into the internal war against those “enemies of the state” still faithful to religion. During the war years, the yeshiva flourishedThis was in stark contrast to the relentless persecution of such courageous activists in the 1930s. Chassidim took advantage of this lull and founded prayer groups, yeshivas and schools in Samarkand and Tashkent. These operations were officially secret and “underground,” but in reality operated almost overtly.

With the cessation of the war, persecution began once again: but this time it was directed solely towards Jews and Lubavitcher Chassidim. But, it was precisely during this period, of 1945-6, that most of the Lubavitcher Chassidim were able to escape the Soviet Union by assuming the false identities of displaced Polish citizens who had been granted permission to return to their homeland. The yeshiva moved with these refugees to a large DP camp in Poking, Germany and then to Brunoy, France.

The Lubavitchers who remained in the Soviet Union were unable to contend with the Soviet secret police, and there were not many children of yeshiva age remaining. The few youth who remained were older teens who were afraid to even think about learning in a yeshiva. Still, even then, there were some isolated boyswho learned on their own or in pairs, following the syllabus of Tomchei Temimim. As such, the learning of Tomchei Temimim never once completely ceased to exist in Russia.

We were one of the few Lubavitcher families to remain in Samarkand. After my older brother Berel became Bar Mitzvah, my father sent him to Tashkent where he learned together with R. Lipa Klein under the guidance of R. Zalman Buberer (Pevzner). Additional Lubavitcher children in Samarkand included Michoel Mishulovin, Mottel Goldschmidt, and several more whose names I do not recall. We learned in our chederwith R. Bentche Maroz until the age of ten.

In the beginning of the 1950s, a spurt of Antisemitism erupted and it became rampant throughout the Soviet Union. Stalin ran a propaganda campaign against the Jews in general and religious ones in particular, climaxing with the notorious Doctors’ Plot.

At this ominous time, one rumor followed the next, and we feared that Stalin was planning mass pogroms against the Jews in which hundreds of thousands of Jews would be massacred. Those who would survive the pogroms would be “rescued” by Stalin and separated from the provoked Russians by being exiled to Siberia. One can understand that under such circumstances one's head was preoccupied with only the most basic objectives: How can we escape? How can we survive? As such, almost all of the learning in homes of Lubavitcher families in Samarkand collapsed. Even then, a few families—mine included—endangeredHow can we escape? themselves by bringing a teacher to their homes to teach their children for an hour several times a week.

After the miraculous and sudden death of Stalin on Purim, 1953, the situation eased a bit, though no one dared yet to organize regular classes. Only a few yeshiva-age boyssucceeded in studying with R. Eliyahu Paritcher (Levin) in his house. They were Dovid and Eliyahu Mishulovin, followed by their younger brother Michoel, and Mottel Goldschmidt.