Soviet File on Chassidim’s Daring Escape Reveals Dramatic Chronicle

The MGB Soviet secret police file on the daring escape of Chabad chassidim from USSR in 5706 was uncovered as part of research for a new biography of Reb Mendel Futerfas.

By reporter

Hair-raising details about the daring escape of Chabad chassidim from USSR in 5706 – 1946, and the subsequent arrest of many who remained behind, are coming to light for the first time.

Approximately 1,200 Lubavitcher chassidim escaped from the Soviet Union in the months between the spring of 1946 and New Year’s 1947. Utilizing forged or doctored Polish passports and documents, the chassidim took advantage of a law that allowed for Polish citizens to return to their homeland following WWII.

The last successful crossing took place on Jan. 1, 1947 (9 Tevet, 5707). Following that crossing, the Soviets began hunting down and arresting the remaining organizers of the operation, including renowned chassidim Reb Mendel Futerfas and Reb Yonah Kahan “Poltaver.” The  MGB Soviet secret police interrogated them and handed down lengthy sentences for the “crimes”.

For the next eight decades, the files collected by the MGB sat in the Soviet, and later Russian archives. The wealth of information, which contain countless historical details on the lives and mesiras nefesh of chassidim behind the Iron Curtain, remained inaccessible.

Over the past few months, a team led by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Kratz has been doing research for the first-ever comprehensive biography of Reb Mendel Futerfas. As part of their efforts, they worked to obtain the file, which would reveal many previously unknown details of his arrest and jailing.

After intensive efforts, they managed to get a copy of the full “Lvov file”, with details about the arrest of Reb Mendel and the other chassidim, along with the details about the great escape.

The file was received today, Friday, the day before Yud Beis Tammuz, chag hageulah of the Frierdiker Rebbe.

As the team begins going through the documents and preparing them for publication, they released a select few exclusively to

The documents trace the entire episode, from the chassidim gathering in Lvov, the forging of Polish documents, the escape, and continuing on with the arrest and sentencing of the remaining chassidim.

It is but a peek into the hair-raising escapades of the chassidim as they tried to break through the Iron Curtain, and indeed their daily mesiras nefesh to stand up to a regime that was hell-bent on uprooting all that was precious and dear to them.

As we prepare to celebrate chag hageulah Yud Beis Tammuz, these documents can give us an ever greater appreciation of the fight the Frierdiker Rebbe waged against the USSR, and the miracle of his ultimate victory.

Gut yom tov!

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