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The Heroic Struggle

The Rebbe’s Prison Diary

A personal account of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn's arrest and imprisonment, and subsequent liberation from Soviet prisons in 1927.

... My imprisonment in 5687 [1927] was my seventh -- I was imprisoned five times in the days of the old [Czarist] regime and twice in the days of the new [Communist] regime.
Chapter I: The Arrest
I answered calmly and clearly: "I do not know which Schneersohn you seek. If you enter into someone's home, surely you know in advance who dwells there, and this drama is pointless"
I did not respond but gazed at him intently, and I perceived that this had a far more piercing effect than any words.
I resolved to be strong and not yield to fear, to speak clearly and in no way to be affected by the intrigue in which they sought to enmesh me.
It appeared that they were unaccustomed to hear someone speak with such self-assertion.
I began, not merely to ask but to entreat, in the profoundest sense of the word, my guard to permit me to put on my tefillin.
The officials were prohibited from chatting with the prisoners; all the cells were to be under double lock; the prisoners were required to go to sleep and awaken at the scheduled time; it was forbidden to sleep during the day...
I felt a flow of blood caused by the blow from the guard's ruthless push. I removed my garment, took wet handkerchiefs, and placed them upon my wound.
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!
The Rebbe returned from the questioning racked by agonizing pain. For three full days no food or water had passed the Rebbe's lips.
On the afternoon of Sunday, the third of Tammuz, (July 3), after nineteen days of imprisonment in Spalerno, the Rebbe was called to the prison office and informed that permission had been granted him to return home...
The Leningrad group dedicated to the goal of rescuing the Rebbe decided to further its efforts to secure his full release.
Appendix: Moscow, 1927
After concluding the search of my pockets, he turned to Bashkov saying: "And now, Comrade, stand and we will also search you. Perhaps--or certainly--you are an emissary of Citizen Schneersohn to build mikva’ot or to organize children’s Torah classes to support the counter-revolutionaries, the Rabbis, teachers, and their colleagues from the Black Hundreds..."