The holocaust was like a giant boulder hurled into the pool of Jewish history, the greatest disaster occuring at the point of impact where six million innocent Jews perished under the Nazis. But the secondary ripples spread in ever-widening circles, bringing dispersion and despair to untold numbers of Jews. Many thousands fled eastward, seeking a precarious refuge in the gaping maw of Stalin's Russia; if least they were jumping into the frying pan, at least they were escaping the fire. In Russia, particularly on the desolate Siberian steppes, these refugees joined many Polish Jews who had been deported to Siberia in 1939 when the Russians had occupied eastern Poland. Behind the Ice Curtain relates the saga of these exiles. Adrift in an inhospitable land, battling hunger and cold, conscripted into forced labor, constantly in terror of the K.G.B., these people suffered the dual trauma of their own struggle for survival and the anxiety over the fate of their loved ones who had fallen into the grasp of the Germans. But in the end, they were the fortunate ones who, for the most part, survived to participate in the rejuvenation of the Jewish people. On a more personal level, Behind the Ice Curtain is the story of an aristocratic young woman who is deported to Siberia together with her mother following the arrest of her beloved father by the Russians. The book begins with a poignant description of her home and family prior to the war, including many warm and vivid vignettes of the Chafetz Chaim, Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Reb Elchanan Wasserman and many other rabbanim and roshe yeshivah with whom her father maintained a close personal relationship. But as the war begins we are presented with vivid images of a different sort, of unwelcome strangers in a harsh land, of chilling encounters with the dreaded K.G.B., of ten thousand women conscripted to build a railroad across the vast, frozen steppes, of the numbing isolation from the rest of the world, like islands in an endless ocean of snow and of a gallant young woman, steadfast in her devotion to Torah and mitzvos, who would not allow her spirit to be crushed. Behind the Ice Curtain, the fourth volume in The Holocaust Diaries collection, takes its place beside the distinguished volumes that preceded it, Late Shadows by Moshe Holczler, They Called Me Frau Anna by Chana Marcus Banet and Dare to Survive by Chaim Shlomo Friedman. Three more are in preparation.
by Dina Gabel