By Anash.org Staff
Today is the yahrtzeit of Leibel Zisman, a”h.
He was the son of Reb Feivel Zisman of Kovno, HY”D, and one of the younger survivors of Auschwitz, arriving there at only 13 years old, in 5704/1944.
The Zismans were affluent Chassidim that lived in Kovno, Lithuania, one of the not many Chassidishe families in the heart of “Misnagdishe” Lithuania. Mrs. Zisman was from the Chassidishe Raskin family. In the winter of 5700/1940, the Frierdiker Rebbe left Warsaw and traveled to Riga, Latvia, en route to the United States. The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were still relatively safe and quiet, the war not having reached there yet like it did in Poland.
Feivel Zisman took his son Leibel and traveled to Riga to get the Frierdiker Rebbe’s brochoh in those trying times. His older brother Berel, yblcht”a, who also survived, had been blessed a few years prior and didn’t make the trip this time. There were hundreds of people outside, waiting to see the Rebbe.
At about 2 or 3 in the morning, their turn finally came. Feivel broke down and emotionally asked the Rebbe to “bentch mein yingele!” The Rebbe stared at young Leibel for what seemed an eternity to the young boy and finally did bentch him. The Frierdiker Rebbe left Riga that night.
The amount of times that Leibel was near death is almost innumerable. The fact that a child that age survived is nothing short of miraculous. First, it was the Ghetto, then the child aktzias (roundup and liquidation) and then Auschwitz and other camps. Then the death march, just as the war was ending, was what killed so many more. But Leibel survived. Most of the time, he had a siddur, tefillin, and even a Jewish calendar with him.
Leibel always wondered why the hesitation? Why did the Frierdiker Rebbe wait until he blessed him? Why did only he and Berel survive while all others perished?
He never did get the answer.
Adapted from “I believe.”