The following transcripts must represent but a small fraction of Reb Berel Levertov’s long interrogation sessions. Such sessions would normally last four to five hours, and sometimes all night. The NKVD files record only the few paragraphs they consider relevant.

One of the main interrogators was Captain Dmitriev, a rogue who beat the prisoners constantly in an attempt to extract full confessions and to get others incriminated. Reb Berel Levertov was one of at least five Chassidim to feel the wrath of this vicious anti-Semite. Another Chassid, Reb Mottel Gurarya, appealed his sentence, submitting a letter in which he told how Dmitriev always employed brute force until prisoners buckled to his demands. Once, writes Gurarya, Dmitriev pushed a prisoner so hard against a door, that it splintered and broke, falling off its hinges!

Prisoners were routinely kept awake for many nights before an interrogation, so that it would be hard to think clearly, They would arrive for questioning hardly able to keep their eyes open, making it easy to be ensnared by the tedious questioning. Thus, although Father answered evasively during earlier interrogations, eventually he “confessed” in later sessions.

At the end of each session, the prisoner was forced to sign that everything had been transcribed truthfully and to his satisfaction. But that was an outright lie — the prisoner was not even allowed to read his file.

Nkvd Documents
Transcribed During The Interrogation


Levertov, Berko Sheilovich


Q.  State your occupation before the revolution.

A.  I learned as a child in Cheder and later in Yeshiva. When I turned twenty-two, I began working as a salesman for someone by the name of Belostonsky. This arrangement lasted ten years. In 1916 I was drafted into the army, and I served until the Czar was overthrown.

Q.  State your occupation under the Soviet government.

A.  I came to Krementchug in 1917 and I was self-employed until 1922. Then I moved to Moscow, bought a knitting machine, and did light work at home for a local factory.

Q.  What are your political views?

A.  I am a religious person, observing all the religious laws. I have little interest in politics.

Q.  To which religious sect do you belong?

A.  There are no sects among religious Jews. All observe the laws according to our tradition.

Q. There is a sect among religious Jews called “Chassids.” Why are you hiding this?

A.  This sect does not exist now. The leader, Rabbi Schneersohn, lives in America. A leader for Chassidim does not exist here in the Soviet Union. Regardless, religious Jews still observe the ideals of Chassidus.

I hereby sign and confirm that my words were faithfully transcribed.

Signed ......


8/15/47, 20:00 hrs.

Q.  Who is Schneersohn?

A.  Schneersohn, Yosef Yitzchok, lived in the Soviet Union and taught the ideas of Chassidus to religious Jews. He enjoyed wide popularity. In 1927, Schneersohn left for Latvia, traveling on to Poland and to America.

Q.  Name your acquaintances.

A.  They are....1 I don’t recall any others. They all visit the Marina Roshtcha synagogue and I meet them there.

Q.  What other synagogues do you attend?

A.  Sometimes I also visit the Choral (Archipova) synagogue located on Spasoglenichesky Pereulok.

Q.  You meet any Chassids there?

A.  Sometimes I spoke to Mordechai Dubin. I don’t know anyone else.

Q.  What’s your connection to Dubin? How often did you meet?

A.  Dubin became acquainted with the Tzaddik Schneersohn when the latter was in Latvia. I only discussed religious issues with Dubin. Mutual convictions brought us together and we discussed religious matters two or three times a month.

Q.  Where did you meet?

A.  Only in the Choral synagogue, nowhere else.

I hereby sign that the above has been transcribed according to my words.



9/3/47 10:00hrs.

Q.  What are your political views?

A.  I was born and raised in a family where my father was a teacher. Father belonged to the Chassid sect and properly fulfilled all the directives of their leaders. I was raised in the spirit of his religious beliefs. In my youth, I studied in the so-called religious school, the Cheder, and from 15-20 I learned in the Yeshiva of Krementchug and Korsun. In Yeshiva, I studied the Talmud with its commentaries.

            I moved in 1905 to the town of Lubavitch. I was accepted into their Yeshiva of Chasids, where I learned for a year. The leader was Schneersohn, Sholom Ber, father of Schneersohn, Yosef Yitzchak, who lives now in America.

            Schneersohn Yosef Yitzchak represented the ideas of Lubavitch Chassids in the Soviet Union. He was a great leader and we followed his ways.

            On the basis of religious conviction, I oversaw the teaching of Lubavitcher Chassids, even under the rule of the Soviet government.

Q.  In other words, you belonged to religious sect of Chassids.

A.  Yes, I belonged to sect of Chassids. I tried to fulfill all religious customs and teachings of Chassids.

Q.  Tell us about Lubavitch Chassids.

A.  About 200 years ago, in the town of Mezeritch, the local Rabbi, Rabbi Berel, established a special school for religious Jews. After his demise, his followers dispersed in many different localities. One of his famous followers, Rabbi Zalman Boruchovitch, moved to Liozna. His son, also named Berel, lived in Lubavitch. He attracted many followers with his brilliant knowledge of the Talmud and its commentaries.

            In 1900, the father of Schneersohn, Yosef Yitzchak, opened a religious school for adult Chassids, a so-called Yeshiva. Emphasis was placed on the teachings of Lubavitch, which strengthen the Jewish religion. They have negative feelings about efforts to assimilate Jews into other cultures and consider themselves nationalists who live with an “old outlook,” even in present times.

            Leadership of Lubavitch is an inheritance. The current leader is Rabbi Schneersohn living in America.

Q.  It seems you were also a follower of Schneersohn.

A.  In respect to my association with the Lubavitch sect, yes2. I do not deny the teachings or instructions of Tzaddik Schneersohn.

I hereby sign that the above has been transcribed according to my words.



9/16/47 19:00 hrs.

Q.  When your sons came to Lvov, did they write to you?

A.  Yes, I received one letter from them and my daughter.

Q.  During the interrogation on the 15th, you concealed the fact that your sons traveled from Central Asia to Lvov. What purpose did this serve?

A.  I misunderstood the question. I thought I was being asked where my sons went to live temporarily, information I really don’t know.

Q.  You understood the question very well, but you gave an evasive answer. You said they left Samarkand for an unknown destination. Give truthful reasons why you concealed information from us!

A.  I answered what I did because I misunderstood the question.

Q.  If so, explain why you are stubbornly concealing your own trip to Lvov.

A.  I’m hiding it because many religious Jews left from Lvov to go abroad.

Q.  How do you know this?

A.  I heard from friends — I don’t recall their names — that religious Jews left from Lvov. It was said that Braverman and Saadia left abroad.

Q.  How long do you know Braverman for?

A.  Mostly from after the evacuation of Moscow, that would be 1945-6.

Q.  What was your relationship with him?

A.  Braverman supervised teaching of Chassidus and religious customs. He often visited the synagogue and we became acquainted there. As a result, we had discussions on religion. Braverman respected me as an older Chassid, even inviting me to his wedding, which was performed in strict accordance to tradition.

Q.  So, Braverman told you of his plans to exit the Soviet Union abroad?

A.  Braverman did not tell me of any plans to leave the Soviet Union. I know he had lived in Tashkent during the war, after which many Jewish residents of Tashkent and Samarkand moved to Lvov. Once there, they traveled abroad illegally.

Q.  How did these people get fictitious documents to leave the USSR for abroad?

A.  When I was among the religious Jews of Lvov I heard them saying that two Polish Jews, Misha and Grisha, were providing fictitious documents for those who wanted to leave. They got paid for this.

Q.  Who told you that fictitious documents were available?

A.  Now I remember, Gruzman told me.

Q.  It looks like you also intended to leave the USSR! Otherwise, why should you be interested in obtaining fictitious documents?

A.  I personally had no intention of leaving the USSR. I can’t recall right now how information about fictitious documents came into my conversation with Gruzman.

Q.  Who is Gruzman?

A.  Mottel Gruzman, according to his religious convictions, belongs to the sect of Chasids, more specifically to Ukrainian Chassids. We became acquainted in 1930, when Mottel began attending the Marina Roshtcha. He lived in Moscow. He was in Samarkand during the war and moved later to Lvov. I think he left for abroad, but I can’t tell you for sure.

I have read all the above several times and I affirm that everything has been recorded truthfully.



10/2/47 10:20 a.m.

Q.  You admitted in previous interrogations that you are affiliated with the Lubavitchers. Name active people in this group.

A.  Active people in Lubavitch sect are the following...3

Q.  All these people are your acquaintances?

A.  Yes, I met them often to discuss religious matters and the common religious outlook we shared.

Q.  Where did this gathering of Chassidim take place?

A.  At the synagogue or at a private home.

Q.  Describe such a meeting.

A.  In November 1945, we met together in the synagogue to commemorate the release of the Tzaddik Schneersohn’s grandfather from prison. I don’t remember everyone there, but some were...4 I spoke, telling the people to honor the Tzaddik’s ways. I said, “May the merit of this great man be a light in our lives.” Afterwards, we drank some vodka and dispersed.

            In December 1946, the members of Lubavitch held a gathering in the apartment of Shteingart, another member. This gathering was in honor of the Tzaddik Schneersohn’s pardon from jail. I can’t remember all those who came, aside from...5

            Some meetings were held in Tarasovka, in the house of the Chassid, Rabbi Levin. In April, 1947, we had a meeting there as well. It was in honor of the circumcision of Levin’s grandson. I attended with Botvinikov, Dubraskin, Shteingart and others. I circumcised the child, we all drank vodka, and then we left.

Q.  Is it not probable to say that, at some time during these meetings, the possibility of leaving the USSR illegally was mentioned? Tell us about it.

A.  I cannot recall precisely now. Let’s assume they did mention this during their gatherings.

I hereby affirm that I read the above statement and that it has been transcribed according to my testimony.


The hearing recessed at 16:10, resumed after 21:00, finished at 23:50.


10/2/47 14:00 hr

Q.  When did your sons, daughter and son-in-law, exchange their motherland by illegally traveling abroad?

A.  I met my sons, Sholom and Moshe, in Lvov during September, 1946. We talked a little about leaving the Soviet Union illegally but there was no concrete decision. They left the Soviet Union with my daughter and her husband after I left Lvov.

Q.  What reason did your children have to illegally exchange their motherland for some other country?

A.  On the basis of religious conviction, I raised my children in the religious path. While in Samarkand, Sholom and Moshe learned in the Yeshiva school run by the Chasids, and they were cut off from the influence of Soviet society. This brought them even closer to their religious outlook, and it was for this reason that they changed their motherland by leaving the Soviet Union illegally for abroad.

Q.  When did your children part from you?

A.  In the beginning of 1940, my oldest son, Sholom, suffered from a lung ailment and I sent him to stay with relatives in Odessa6. He was evacuated to Samarkand during the war and, in 1943, my second son went there as well.

Q.  List your acquaintances in Samarkand.

A.  ...7

Q. You had written contact with the people you just mentioned?

A.  No. I met them later in Moscow.

Q.  Didn’t your sons meet Shmuel Botvinikov in Samarkand? What influence did he have?

A.  My sons met him sometimes. He had no influence over them.

Q.  So who got them into Yeshiva?

A.  Many religious Jews lived in Samarkand and some of them ran the Yeshiva. My sons were Chassids and, as I understand, that’s how they settled in to learn.

I have read the above transcript of my words.



Signed: Dmitriev


8/24/47 12:20 p.m.

Q.  Describe life with the organization of religious Chasids in Moscow. What were their aims?

A.  Many members of Lubavitch lived in Moscow and belonged to the synagogue. Every so often, we held gatherings in private apartments to mark a religious holiday.

            These people strictly observed their religious customs, but were not involved in organizing religious activities for others.

Q.  Lies! This hearing has information that members of Lubavitch were very active in anti-Soviet activities. Why are you concealing it?

A.  I don’t know anything about it.

Q.  How were the Chassidim of Moscow able to raise children and educate adults according to their religion?

A.  The religious Jews teach their children separately. G. was invited to a few houses to teach children in the religious spirit, but there was no Cheder in Moscow.

Q.  What was your role in educating the young religious children of Moscow?

A.  I had no part in it.

I have read the above statement and it has been transcribed according to my testimony.


The hearing recessed at 16:20, continued at 20:20, finished at 24:20.


11/18/47 10:40hr

Q.  What do you find yourself guilty of?

A.  I find myself guilty of planning to exchange motherland Russia by traveling abroad illegally. To accomplish this, I traveled with my wife, Entariva Moiseeuna, to Lvov, in order to acquire false documents with which to cross the border between the Soviet Union and Poland.

            I also knew of the treasonous plans of my sons, Sholom and Moshe. They accomplished their mission and crossed the border.

Q.  You only admit guilt to this?

A.  I also admit my guilt of being a member of the Lubavitch group, surrounded by people who shared identical thoughts. I heard the practical resolutions and actions of the members of this illegal organization of Chassids to send religious Jews abroad.

Q.  To what country did these members of the illegal organization travel?

A.  To countries that operate according to capitalistic ideas. Religious Jews feel that such countries are more acceptable for religious Jews than the present Soviet Union.

The above statement was transcribed according to my testimony.



Signed by Dmitriev and Major ..., Deputy Army Prosecutor

Ended: 12:40

NOTES: The following notes are added by Rabbi Berel Levertov’s son, Rabbi Moshe, and are not part of the NKVD files.