Note: The excerpts from the Rebbe's diary which have been publicized run to the end of the previous chapter. From this point on, the account is taken from his talks on various occasions and is told in the third person:

The first interrogation took place on Thursday night at ten o'clock. The Rebbe was entering the third day of his hunger strike protesting the withholding of his tefillin. Sick, suffering, weary, broken from physical abuse, and even further weakened by his sustained fast, he was brought for interrogation. While this interrogation, as well as those that followed were prolonged and derailed, we present all the facts known to us to date.

There were four interrogators: two Russians and two Jews, Lulav and Nachmanson. The chief interrogator was a Russian named Dichtriov.

The Rebbe was led into the large hall. The walls were of marble imbedded with large tubes. These were the notorious walls with ears, for by means of the tubes, the conversation of interrogator and prisoner could be listened to and transcribed by the G.P.U. agents sitting in adjacent rooms.

As the Rebbe entered, he turned to the interrogators and commented:" This is the first time that I have come into a room and not a single person has arisen from his place!"

"Do you know where you are?" his interrogators asked.

"Most assuredly," he answered, "I am in a place that is not obligated to have a mezuzah. There are various such places which are not required to have one, as, for example, a stable or a bathroom."

The Rebbe began by saying that he would like to relate a story. The interrogators, their hands resting on the weapons of destruction lying on the table, stared at him with daggers in their eyes and replied, "Answer the questions posed to you, nothing else!"

The Rebbe answered calmly that he was accustomed that even mitnagdim ("opposers" to Chassidism) would listen to him tell a story...and without hesitating the Rebbe began:

The Rebbe's mother, Rebbetzin Shterna Sara Schneerson.
The Rebbe's mother, Rebbetzin Shterna Sara Schneerson.

"A maskil (proponent of the enlightenment) an apikores (an atheist), once visited my [great] grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek"

Nachmanson interrupted: "In all probability a person like myself who does not believe."

"No," answered the Rebbe, "he was a person well-versed in Jewish knowledge, and you are a simple ignoramus.... This person," continued the Rebbe, "asked the Tzemach Tzedek: 'why it is that in the Megillah, when Mordechai sent word by messenger to Esther of Haman's evil decree, the word yehudim (Jews) is spelled to include the letter yud twice; whereas in the later verse of the Megillah, describing the Jewish deliverance, And for the Jews there was light, the word yehudim is spelled with one yud?'"

The Tzemach Tzedek replied: "The two yuds correspond to the Inclinations, the Virtuous and Evil. Both the Evil and Virtuous Inclinations contain the ten qualities of the soul.

"There are two kinds of yuds: the yud of the Virtuous Inclination and the yud of the Evil Inclination. Haman's decree was not directed specifically against G‑d-fearing Jews, those of the Virtuous Inclination; he sought also to destroy those who were irreligious, who acted in accord with the Evil Inclination. They, too, were included in his edict.

"The visitor then asked: 'Why is it that in a later verse, "And the Jews in Shushan gathered," we once again find a spelling of two yuds?'"

The Tzemach Tzedek replied: "This is because the Jews in Shushan, being in the center of all the events, perceived and were profoundly influenced by both the danger and the miracle of Purim, so much so that even non-observant Jews returned to the ways of Torah and Judaism." The Tzemach Tzedek concluded: "The same is true of you; when you will suffer greatly, then you, too, will change greatly."

A New Tork Times clipping about the Rebbe.
A New Tork Times clipping about the Rebbe.

"Afterwards, the maskil was afflicted with fever which lasted three months; affected by his suffering, he repented and returned to Judaism."

The Rebbe concluded his narrative and then added, "When you will also suffer, you, too, will change."

The interrogators, and particularly Lulav, treated the Rebbe in a very coarse and derisive manner. They angrily jeered and mocked him.

"Stop your mockery," said the Rebbe, "and return my possessions to me; you have no right to accuse me."

"Silence!" Lulav cried in wrath. He stretched out his hand and said: "Do you see this arm extended before you? From the time I was fourteen years old it has been engaged in the sacred task of annihilating those, such as yourself, who oppose enlightenment. We will destroy them all. You request talit and tefillin? We will cast them into the refuse."

The Rebbe pounded on the table and cried out: "Vile creature!"

Their faces then assumed a somber demeanor and the chief interrogator started to cite various accusations, enumerating them in great detail:

"You are accused of abetting reactionary forces in the U.S.S.R.;

"You are accused of counter-revolution;

"The Jews of the U.S.S.R. perceive you as a prominent religious authority and you rule over them;

"You also exert influence upon the Soviet Jewish intelligentsia and, in addition, upon bourgeois America;

"You are the leader of those who rebel against enlightenment;

"We are well aware that you have used your influence to create a network of chadorim, yeshivot and other religious institutions throughout the U.S.S.R.;

"You have used your authority to coerce religious Jews to uphold these institutions;

A clipping fromthe Baltimore News concerning the Rebbe.
A clipping fromthe Baltimore News concerning the Rebbe.

"You have an extensive correspondence with foreign lands and receive thousands of letters from all parts of the world;

"You conduct secret communication through messengers that travel to foreign lands for the strengthening of religion in the U.S.S.R. and thus for waging conflict against the Soviet government."

As he finished, he placed a large bundle of letters upon the table and said: "This package reveals your true face. These letters are filled with strange and suspicious mystical content. What are your counter-revolutionary links with Professor Baratchenko?"

The Rebbe replied patiently: "I will not deny that Jews think of me as an authority, but I am not guilty of any crime. I do not compel or assert my authority over anyone. I have never used my authority in any way against the Soviet Union.

"The charge that I rule over Jews is wholly incorrect. Coercion and force are wholly alien to the ways of Chassidus. Leadership, from a Chassidic viewpoint, means striving to achieve moral refinement and spiritual perfection, so that others may learn to emulate and proceed in these same paths.

"This cannot be achieved by force or power - only by means of a free will. Chassidim, of their free volition, emulate their Rebbe and leader.

"It is my responsibility to concern myself with enabling anyone who so desires to remain faithful to Judaism. All this occurs by free choice and under circumstances of absolute freedom. What crime is there in this?"

During the course of his defense, the Rebbe expounded upon the nature of Chassidus; the Russian interrogators asked Lulav to explain.

The cycle of history had come full circle. One hundred and thirty years before, his ancestor Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi had been forced to clarify the concept of Chassidus for the officers of Czar Paul. Eighty-seven years before, the Tzemach Tzedek had been compelled to explain Chassidus to the minister of Czar Nicholas. And now, their descendant was under constraint to expound the tenets of Chassidus for the members of the G.P.U.

The Rebbe continued: "I have never levied taxes on anyone. I have asserted that Jews are obligated to learn Torah. And when Jews adhere to this precept, of necessity they create schools for children and yeshivot for those more mature.

"There is no prohibition in Soviet law against chadorim and yeshivot. Karlinko, the chief State Prosecutor of the Soviet Union, has explicitly declared: 'No official law has ever been promulgated in the Soviet Union against institutions of religious education.' With whom is it incumbent to comply: Karlinko or Lulav?"

"None of my efforts and public statements," continued the Rebbe, "are in defiance of Soviet law. If my words concerning the study of Torah evoke a dedicated response, and if our kinsmen in America who send money to aid their relatives add modest sums for Torah study and the educational needs of the children of their relatives, this is not a threat to the Soviet Union. The very reverse is true; in this way, foreign currency flows into the land and strengthens the economy.

"As to the correspondence mentioned, Professor Baratchenko had started a study of Jewish mysticism. He somehow was of the opinion that the Magen David (Star of David) symbol expressed profound Kabbalistic concepts and that mastery of this knowledge could be a source of great power.

"Four years ago, during Sukkot of the year 5685 (1924), he turned to me as an authority on Kabbalah, and requested that I reveal the esoteric meaning of the Magen David. I tried to convince him that he had succumbed to an illusion, for nothing is to be found in Chassidus about great powers inherent in the Magen David. Empty-handed, the professor still persisted in sending many letters with the one plea that I reveal the hidden significance of the Magen David. This is the full significance of the correspondence with Professor Baratchenko.

"Give heed to me, Lulav," the Rebbe directed in a firm voice, "you desire to accuse me with a new Beilis accusation. Remember how Czar Nicholas engaged professors and scholars in order to direct a blood libel against the Jews and was discredited? You will be frustrated in your intentions. I am very well aware of the unscrupulous methods used by you and your associates when you wish to imprison a simple Jewish teacher: the placing of contraband or illegal whiskey in his possession to enable you to imprison and exile him. Do you also intend to besmirch me with false accusations? To level the filth of falsehood against me? You will not succeed, for the accusations are totally untrue.

"My words and deeds have constantly been open and clear to all. Three years ago, in the year 1924, I wrote a letter to the Jews of America urging them to support the Jewish agricultural settlement in the Soviet Union.

"You imprison me as an enemy of Jews and the state. This is totally false. Though great differences divide us, I support those efforts that are creative, as my letter to America substantiates.

"Do not bring untrue accusations against me. I do not act covertly, but openly and before the eyes of all, and I do not act in defiance of Soviet law.

"True," commented Dichtriov, "we are very well aware of your positive attitude toward agricultural settlement as well as your letters to America, and we regard these actions with esteem."

Ignoring this exchange, Lulav continued his questioning, still in a rude and offensive manner. When the Rebbe once again asked for his tefillin, Lulav did not respond, but rather erupted with new abuse, aided by his colleagues. "Remove your talit katan immediately! Remove it, remove it! Cast aside all of your foolish observance!"

"If you compel me to remove my talit katan," replied the Rebbe, "I will refuse to answer your questions. And if you intend to achieve this by means of fists and guns, I challenge you to do so." This reply stilled any further effort in this matter.

At one point Nachmanson smiled and said: "Lulav, do you know that my parents were childless, and only after my father went to the Rebbe of Lubavitch did they give birth to a son - and that son is Nachmanson who stands before you."

The inquiry concluded late at night; at the end Lulav, who had a tendency to stammer, blurted out in anger:" B-B-B-ut in another twenty-four hours you will be shot!"