A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

The Soviet hunt for the Jewish underground: The Crackdown


It was Abakumov who in October of 1946 first alerted Stalin to the threat posed to Communism by “Jewish bourgeois nationalism” and launched into the post-war antisemitic campaign against “Rootless Cosmopolitans,” i.e. the Jews.29 This dark period would see the liquidation of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee—the Jewish organization Stalin had established during the war to rally support to the Soviet cause and raise much-needed funds, whose members were arrested and shot after the war—and the lead up to the Doctors’ Plot, in which Jewish doctors were announced to have been part of a vast conspiracy to poison Soviet leadership, the development of which was only halted with Stalin’s sudden death in 1953.30 At this time of frenzy, it was only natural for the MGB to once again target the Lubavitcher Chassidim, a subversive group according to both Communist ideology and long-time Soviet policy.31 The case of the “Chassidim” was thus an important part of the investigation into the “Jewish bourgeois nationalists” being undertaken by the Ukrainian MGB, acting in accordance with the instructions it had received from the brigades of the MGB of the USSR in December of 1949, and order No.2 /3/1692 issued on Jan. 7, 1950, by the Second Main Directorate of the MGB of the USSR, the department charged with domestic counterespionage.

Tzipa and Chaim Zalman Kozliner. Just when Tzipa was released after having spent almost two years in the Gulag, her husband Chaim Zalman was arrested. Photo: Halperin Teshura 5768/Maaseh Avos Siman L'Bonim
Tzipa and Chaim Zalman Kozliner. Just when Tzipa was released after having spent almost two years in the Gulag, her husband Chaim Zalman was arrested. Photo: Halperin Teshura 5768/Maaseh Avos Siman L’Bonim

That this case was investigated as part of a broader attack on Jews helps explains the inclusion in the memo of Ben Zion Goldberg32 and doomed Yiddish poet Itsik Fefer,33 both of whom figure prominently in the case of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.

The MGB had initially looked the other way as Lubavitcher Chassidim poured out of the Soviet Union in 1946, but things changed quickly. For one thing, by the end of the year there were so many obviously fake Polish Jews in Lvov that the MGB could no longer ignore it. The bigger factor, of course, was Stalin’s drastic shift on the Jewish question, with the years up to Stalin’s 1953 death remembered as the blackest for Soviet Jewry. Difficult times were in store for Jews in general and Chassidim in particular.

R' Binyamin Gorodetsky (right) converses with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in the Rebbe's office.
R’ Binyamin Gorodetsky (right) converses with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in the Rebbe’s office.

The Romanian endeavor appears to have been a trap set by the Soviet secret police. At one point during his months of interrogations, Yaakov Lepkivker’s interrogator demanded he stop lying. This office, the MGB investigator shouted, was “a temple of truth—khram istiny!” Interrogations nearly always took place at night, and the norm was for a prisoner to be led from his cell to the interrogation room and see no sign of life aside from his escorts. Once, due to some misunderstanding, Lepkivker was led out of his cell and contra protocol caught sight of a few people in the hallway. They’d quickly scurried away, but not before Lepkivker recognized one of the men. There, dressed in the uniform of an MGB officer, had been one of their “Romanian” guides.

“My father went into the room and yelled at the interrogator, ‘this is a temple of truth?!’ ” recalls his son, Rabbi Boruch Lepkivker. “Your officers are provocateurs and this was all a provocation!”

The final iteration of the Romanian escape plan might have been a trap, but the deputy minister of the MGB of Ukraine was not writing updates to Viktor Abakumov to keep him abreast of a mere local police affair. Senior Soviet security officials clearly believed that the Chassidim, led by Schneerson in New York, were a dissident group. While mixing in all sorts of nonsense, be it Polish imperialism in the 1930s or American intelligence in 1950, their case ultimately rested on the decades of leadership, organizationand lobbying undertaken by the Sixth Rebbe, and his son-in-law and successor, the Rebbe, on behalf of the Jews of the USSR.

If Jews walking through fire to continue serving G‑d the way their ancestors had, through Torah study and mitzvah observance, was anti-Soviet, then Chabad-Lubavitch was indeed a threat to the regime. And in this sense, the Soviet security chiefs were absolutely right.

Moshe Greenberg in his older years helps someone don tefillin in Israel.
Moshe Greenberg in his older years helps someone don tefillin in Israel.


Note: We’ve tried to keep the translation of the MGB document as close to the original as possible. All handwritten notations in the document are rendered below in italics, with minor explanations included in brackets and larger ones in the footnotes. Biographical information for every known individual mentioned is included in the footnotes. A PDF of the original file, which comes from the Regional State Administration of the SBU, Kyiv, f.1, d.258, and has been made public by the Nadav Foundation, is appended at the bottom of this page.



June 6, 1950

N. 1487/n

To the Minister of State Security [MGB] of the USSR

Comrade Abakumov, V.S.,35

[Copy to] the Head of the 2nd Main Directorate of the MGB of the USSR, Major General Comrade Pitovranov, E.P.36

In 1949, information was received from foreign agents of the Ministry of State Security [MGB] of the Ukrainian SSR [Soviet Socialist Republic] that in the city of New York /USA/, under the cover of a school for the training of rabbis, an anti-Soviet center was created by American intelligence, which is headed by the famous Jewish tzaddik SCHNEERSON, who was expelled from the USSR in 1928.37

A European branch of this center was established in the city of Paris /France/ led by an American intelligence officer, GRIFFEL, Yakob [Yaakov], who is deputy chairman of the Zionist organization “Central Orthodox Committee.” /“KOK”/.38

According to the same information, the foreign Schneerson organization established contact with the anti-Soviet underground in the cities of Moscow and Chernovtsy and in December of 1948 organized an illegal escape from the USSR to Romania of four Chassidim /a religious sect/ Schneerson’s followers, who were detained as illegals by Romanian authorities and returned to the Soviet side.

In reviewing this data, it was established that on December 9, 1948, the Romanian authorities did in fact hand over to the 31st detachment of troops of the Transcarpathian Border District the following defectors from the USSR, who were detained in the city of Radeutsy [Romania]: DUBROWSKI, Moshe-Chaim Evseevich – born in 1881; JUNIK-MARGULIS, Meir Tulovich – born in 193039 ; LEPKIVKER, Yakov Borisovich40 – born in 1930; and GREENBERG, Moses [Moshe] Naftulovich – born in 1930.41

During the investigation, these persons hid their membership in the illegal Schneerson organization and in March 1949 they were convicted as defectors by the Military Tribunal of the troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Carpathian Military District.

In order to verify the information received from the foreign agents, the convicts – DUBROWSKI, JUNIK, LEPKIVKER and GREENBERG were brought to the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR in the city of Kiev and underwent enhanced interrogation.

In the course of additional investigation by the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR, the enemy work of the Schneerson anti-Soviet organization illegally existing on the territory of the USSR, its connection with the Schneerson center in the USA and the branch in France, was partially revealed, and newly identified members of this underground were arrested.

Arrested in the case:

VISHEDSKY, also known as VITEBSKY Moses [Moshe] Pinchasovich – born in 1912 in Vitebsk, Jew, citizen of the USSR, without [political] party, prior to his arrest resident in Chernovtsy, worked as a foreman in a knitting factory.42

KOZLINER, Chaim Zalman Boruchovich – born in 1894 in Disna /Poland/, Jew, citizen of the USSR, without [political] party, no concrete occupation, resident of Chernovtsy.43

FLOM, Chaim Yechielovich – born in 1882 in the village of Secureni, Chernovtsy region; Jew; citizen of the USSR; with medium religious education; rabbi; resident in the city of Chernovtsy.44

Additionally, in April of this year in the city of Tashkent, at the orientation of the Ministry of State Security of the Ukrainian SSR, the Ministry of State Security of the Uzbek SSR discovered a Chassid-Schneersonite who had been evading arrest in the city of Chernovtsy:

SOSSONKO, also known as BATUMSKI Asher Shmerkovich – born in 1889 in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, Jew, citizen of the USSR, without party, without concrete occupation or permanent place of residence.45

Materials regarding SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI have been sent to the Ministry of State Security of the Uzbek SSR for the purpose of his arrest and transfer to the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR – in the city of Kiev.

As established in the case, after Schneerson was expelled from the USSR, his followers, the Chassidim, continued to maintain illegal contact with him and did not cease their anti-Soviet activities.

During the period of the Great Patriotic War, the main mass of Chassidim evacuated to Central Asia, where, through Iran, they renewed their contact with SCHNEERSON in the USA.

According to SCHNEERSON’s directives, the Chassidim intensified their anti-Soviet activities and created illegal schools in the cities of Samarkand and Tashkent, in which Jewish youth who fell under their influence studied in a religious and nationalist spirit.

Those studying in the Schneersonite schools were provided with food, board and work in handicraft artels46 headed by Chassidim.

The arrested in the case, JUNIK-MARGULIS and GREENBERG, were students in these schools.

At the end of the war a directive was received from SCHNEERSON in the USA, through Chassidim associated with him – LEVITIN Samuel [Shmuel] – the son of the former rabbi of Kutaisi, who fled abroad to SCHNEERSON, and LEVITIN Samuel’s brother-in-law – BOBRUISKY, Eli [Gorodetsky, Binyamin], ordering the Chassidim of the USSR to flee abroad, for which it was recommended to utilize the Moscow-Lublin agreement on the repatriation of former Polish citizens from the USSR to Poland in force at that time.47

In the furtherance of this goal, the Chassidim – DUBROWSKI, Moshe; MOCHKIN, Leib / who has escaped over the border; FUTERFAS / arrested in 1947 by the MGB of Lvov as a defector; and others, in connection with the former chairman of the Jewish religious community [of Lvov] SEREBRYANI48 /convicted, did not testify/ organized an illegal crossing point in Lvov through which were ferried into Poland more than 100 Chassidim and Jewish nationalists,49 including those with connections to SCHNEERSON—LEVITIN, Shmuel and BOBRUISKY, Eli.

In their anti-Soviet work DUBROWSKI, MOCHKIN and FUTERFAS were connected with the Moscow-based representatives of the leadership of the Chassidic organization in Moscow- DUBIN, Mordechai; KAGAN, Yeina50 ; GURARI, Mottel; and LEVERTOV, Berel51 / who were at various times arrested and convicted by the MGB of the USSR/, [and] at whose direct instructions [Dubrowski, Mochkin and Futerfas] carried out their work.

During the period of the Great Patriotic War DUBIN, Mordechai lived in the city of Kuibyshev, [Russia], where he maintained suspected espionage connections with representatives of the Polish, English and American embassies.

As has been established, SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI and DUBROWSKI were connected with the Chassidim KANTROVICH, ZHIVOTOVSKY, SHILENSKY, MINTZ and others in the city of Lvov, as handled by the agent in the case of the “CHASSIDIM,” influencing them and slanting them towards the activation of anti-Soviet activities.

According to intelligence data, these persons organized gatherings in the apartment of SHILENSKY and other Chassidim, engaged in illegal crossings of Jews over the border, and also organized an illegal Schneerson school, the funds for which were received through the Jewish religious community.

According to the same information the Chassid – SHILENSKY, Boris Nachmanovich – born in 1896, doctor by profession, received higher education in Germany, fluent in English, French and German, lived in Moscow until the beginning of the war where he worked as a translator in the “Intourist” hotel, was acquainted with the former U.S. ambassador to the USSR HARRIMAN, with whom he allegedly met in person in the synagogue.52

SHILENSKY currently resides in the city of Vilnius, and the MGB of the Lithuanian SSR is preparing to arrest him.

In addition, the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR has intelligence information that Lvov resident MINTZ /no other information/ met with the American spy WAIFE-GOLDBERG, [Benjamin/Ben Zion], who visited Lvov in 1946 under the guise of journalism, and told MINTZ that in the USA lives the famous rabbi of LUBAVITCH/SCHNEERSON – born in the village of Lyubavichi/ who gave the orders for the relocation of Chassidim from the USSR to the other side of the border.53

According to information provided by the source “YUREVOI” and the testimony of the arrested FEFER, Isaac [Itzik], who is in the custody of the MGB of the USSR, in 1946 MINTZ, at the direction of WAIFE-GOLDBERG, traveled to the Drogobych region to search for the daughter of the former rabbi of Lvov FEINER-GUTKO, who lives in the USA, in order to transfer her abroad.

It has been established that the thirteen-year-old daughter of FEINER-GUTKO was really brought up by citizen PETRIKEVICH, Darya Nikolaevna, who lives in the Truskovets settlement, Drogobych region, and was taken from there in 1946 by an unknown foreigner.

Whether this MINTZ is the same person as the one handled by the agent in the “CHASSID” case has not yet been established. There are several individuals in Lvov with the family name MINTZ, and it is still under investigation.

Pursuant to the undercover “CHASSIDS” case of the Ukrainian MGB of the Lvov region, 12 people are currently being investigated.54

Investigative measures by our agents also established that after the arrest in 1947 in the city of Lvov of a number of participants in the illegal crossings [including] / FUTERFAS, SEREBRYANI, [and] KOZLINER / the Chassid DUBROWSKI hid in Minsk, where he tried to resume the illegal crossing of SCHNEERSON’s followers, but was allegedly unsuccessful, while SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI fled to Chernovtsi, where he established an illegal connection with Zionists living in Bucharest.

As has been established, the crossing of the state border by the convicted JUNIK, LEPKIVKER and GREENBERG in December of 1948 was organized by the French branch of the Schneersonite center through the chairman of the Bucharest Zionist organization “AGUDAT”55 – PORTUGAL, SUZI [Zusia]56 ; emissary of the Zionist center “KOK” in Paris SHUB, Zalman [Abelsky, Zalman],57 and the Chassidim SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI, FLOM and VISHEDSKY.

PORTUGAL, [Zusia] – rabbi, former deputy chairman of the Jewish religious community in Chernovtsy, from which he ran to Bucharest in 1946 where, aside from the Zionist organization “AGUDAT,” he directs Jewish childrens’ orphanages.

SHUB, Zalman, who is suspected of belonging to American intelligence, arrived in Romania illegally from France in the interests of bringing the children of the Jewish orphanages to Palestine. He hid in PORTUGAL’s apartment for two months.58

Having established contact with the Zionist underground in the USSR and in an attempt to resume their escape over the border, SHUB, Zalman and PORTUGAL [Zusia] sent two couriers to Rabbi FLOM with a letter for SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI containing SCHNEERSON’s instructions that Chassidim escape over the border, and it was proposed to use the services of the letter-couriers for this purpose. This was attempted by the Chassidim in Chernovtsy, albeit unsuccessfully.

Having received a message from members of the “AGUDAT” organization BOYMAN, Naftul, who lives in the city of Radeutsy,59 and WAGNER, Michel, who lives in Gura-Gomurului,60 regarding the detention by the Romanian police of a group of Hasidim who had fled from the USSR, SHUB, Zalman, together with the senior administrator of orphanages SALTEPER, immediately left for Radeutsy, with the intention of offering a large bribe to release the detainees, but they were too late, since the detained Chassidim had already been handed over by the Romanian police to the Soviet border guards.

Likewise preparing to cross the border was the arrested Chassid-Schneersonite KOZLINER Chaim-Zalman Borukhovich who, while living in Lvov back in 1946-47, was also associated with the Chassidim and their illegal border crossings.

His wife KOZLINER, Tzipa, was arrested in 1947 as a participant in the illegal border crossings and sentenced to 10 years in Corrective Labor Camps. In 1949, however, she was released from custody under unclear circumstances, and [after that] lived with her husband in Chernovtsy. Having learned about the arrest of DUBROWSKI, she went into an illegal hiding.61

During the investigation Rabbi FLOM, who was arrested in the case, confirmed his relationship with PORTUGAL, [Zusia], which, according to his statement, was carried out through his daughter SHLINGER, Chaya, who lived in Bucharest at 37 Poparadu Street.

FLOM likewise testified that in 1949, after the collapse of the illegal crossing of the Chassidim into Romania, PORTUGAL was arrested by Romanian organs but after two months under custody was released.

This information became known to him shortly before his arrest, allegedly from his daughter’s letters, [which is] of a specific nature.62

The case of FLOM continues to be thoroughly investigated.

Upon the transfer of SOSSONKO-BATUMSKI from the MGB of the Uzbek SSR to the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR, the latter will be taken for enhanced interrogation.

I will report on the results.

Attached are the protocols of interrogation of Junik [and] Lepkivker on 22 sheets, copies only for the 2nd Main Directorate of the Ministry of State Security of the USSR.


Major General Popereka

Below is a copy of the memo to secret police chief, Viktor Abakumov dated June 6, 1950.

A farbrengen gathering in Israel circa 1970s, years after their Soviet ordeals. L-R: Mendel Futerfas, Chaim Zalman Kozliner, Elimelech Levenhartz, Mottel Kozliner. Photo: Halperin Teshura 5768/Maaseh Avos Siman L'Bonim.
farbrengen gathering in Israel circa 1970s, years after their Soviet ordeals. L-R: Mendel Futerfas, Chaim Zalman Kozliner, Elimelech Levenhartz, Mottel Kozliner. Photo: Halperin Teshura 5768/Maaseh Avos Siman L’Bonim.


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