I was 14 years old in 1945, when I was liberated from the Gunskirchen concentration camp in Austria, having also spent time at Auschwitz and Mauthausen. After some months I was reunited with my older brother Berel, and we both ended up at the Pocking DP Camp, where we awaited immigration to America.

At Pocking we met a very special person—Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson. She had heard that we were going to Brooklyn, and she came to see us. She was still waiting for her papers, and she didn’t know when she would be permitted to travel. She had a slow, soft way of speaking. She asked us if we would be so kind as to take a letter to her son. We asked, “Who is your son?” She said, “His name is Menachem Mendel. You’ll ask at the Chabad headquarters. They’ll point out who he is.” Of course, we agreed. We had no idea at the time who she was introducing us to, or that her son would become the next rebbe.

"We asked, 'Who is your son?' She said, 'His name is Menachem Mendel.'"

It took a while before we were permitted to board the boat for America, but we finally arrived on these golden shores. At the first opportunity, we went to the Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway with the letter from Rebbetzin Chana. There we asked to see her son, Menachem Mendel; we learned that he was the son-in-law of the Rebbe Rayatz. He was pointed out to us. I remember that he wore a double-breasted gray suit, and a gray hat with a black band. We spoke to him in Yiddish, and we gave him the letter from his mother. He opened the letter and began to read it. From what I could see, it was not a long letter, but he took a long time with it. Too long, it seemed to me. I finally said to Berel, “What is he reading so much?” I did not understand that this letter was precious to him, as he’d had no communication with his mother for many years because of the war.

Finally, when he finished, he turned to me and asked, “How does my mother look?” And I answered him, “Vee ahn alte yiddene—Like an old lady.”

He smiled and said, “Could you describe her?”

"Finally, when he finished, he turned to me and asked, 'How does my mother look?'"

Note that he did not ask Berel, who was obviously older, but me—the one with the wild look and no inkling of diplomacy. He had probably heard me mutter about the length of the time he was taking with her letter, and I think he felt that from me he would get the unvarnished truth.

As it happened, I had a photographic memory when I was young—I could see a picture in my mind and be able to give it over. So I told him what he wanted to know—that she seemed very thin and pale, that she spoke softly, that she wore a long blue dress with flowers on it and a wig, but no makeup or lipstick.

He didn’t seem to get enough of it, and he peppered me with questions about how his mother was doing for half an hour. When he had exhausted my recollection, he thanked me, and then he went to the bookshelf and took down two books—copies of Likkutei Torah—and he gave one to me and one to Berel.

As we were going out the door, he called me back and said, “When you need something, come to me.” And I did—many times. He always took care of me. He never forgot his promise.