Thursday, June 30, 2011
Siberia, Samarkand. What's the difference anyway?
RYDK, the LS of Ger, and the current Gerrer Rebbe, Belgium, 1948. Photo
When discussing the passing of Rav Koppelman I mentioned something to the fact that I didn't think that he had spent 5 years in a Siberian Labor Camp like some of the papers had reported. So I said that his Talmdim were probably confusing Siberia with Samarkand, since to may of them it was the same thing. One reader, who says his computer blocks all comments and thus could not see what people were saying about the theory, responded via e-mail. Here is that exchange, or what he said, rather.
Nobody was in Siberia for 5 years. (at least not to my knowledge) There were various camps where Jews were sent and some were in Siberia. (I think it was called Podaibo - a gold mine was there among others.. My father a"h was sent to Krasnoyarsk from Vilna... Look at a map,it is north of Mongolia and there was a Russian anti ballistic missile site there... Also read "From Kletzk to Siberia" by Rabbi Alter Pekier, from Artscroll. The Polish Government in exile under Sikorski in 1942 or 1943 made a deal with Stalin to show they were allies after the Nazis attacked and all Polish Nationals were freed from these camps and then they migrated to warmer places like Buchara,Samarkand, Dzhamboul, Merke etc. in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan etc and tried to survive there. All the Polish Nationals were sent away because they refused to become Russian citizens. In fact,the Russians would not let wives and children of Polish nationals join their husbands to go to Siberia if they were Lithuanian which was then part of Russia. A chosheva rosh yeshiva in Brooklyn's wife and children died at the Nazis because they were Lithuanian citizens and the husband/father was Polish. The father got sent to Krasnoyarsk and survived, and they did not.There was a big Lotto during World War II going on;, which people don't realize. Upstairs was being decided who was going to live or die and the money meant nothing. My computer blocks the comments so I can only read the base story. My mother a"h got sent from Galicia to Kazan, which is on the upper Volga River, up North. As always, if you want to print any of this I am anonymous. There is no way that he got to Samarkand without being sent first to a labor camp.The details are vague but this is based upon that he was in Vilna in 1939-40.
Try to track down what happened to other talmidim of the Grodno Yeshiva in the same time frame. By the way, Rabbi Wenger zt"l from Canada's father, Rabbi Wenger zt"l was in that camp in Krasnoyarsk (From Kletzk to Siberia). Harav Aron Kotler zt"l came to his bar mitzvah in a shul on Pennsylvania Ave and Glenmore. (a housing project stands there now) Rabbi Wenger's father was niftar in the mid 1950's. I still don't think that Harav Koppelman went from Vilna to Samarkand right away. I met someone whose father A"H was in Podaibo near Irkutsk in Siberia in WW2. He was from Poland/Galicia. He said they were stuck there until 1945. This agreement with Sikorsk and Stalin which worked in Krasnoyarsk and other places somehow did not apply to that camp. So those there were not released in 1942-1943. I did not know this before.
The story of the destruction of Grodno