Bryan Mark Rigg

Jan 7, 2024

The Rabbi Saved by Hitler's Soldiers

Rebbe Joseph Isaac Schneersohn and His Astonishing Rescue

University Press of Kansas 2016

When Hitler invaded Warsaw in the fall of 1939, hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped in the besieged city. The Rebbe Joseph Schneersohn, the leader of the ultra-orthodox Lubavitcher Jews, was among them. When word of his plight went out, a group of American Jews initiated what would ultimately become one of the strangest—and most miraculous—rescues of World War II. And this is the incredible but true story that Bryan Mark Rigg tells in The Rabbi Saved by Hitler's Soldiers: Rebbe Joseph Isaac Schneersohn and His Astonishing Rescue (UP of Kansas, 2016).

Amid the chaos and hell of the emerging Holocaust, a small group of German soldiers shepherded Rebbe Schneersohn and his Hasidic followers out of Poland. In the course of the daring escape—traveling by train to Berlin, rerouted to Latvia and Sweden, and carried by ship through U-boat-infested waters to America—the Rebbe would learn a shocking truth. The leader of the rescue operation, the decorated Wehrmacht soldier Ernst Bloch, was himself half-Jewish, and a victim of the rising tide of German anti-Semitism. Perhaps even more remarkable were the central roles of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Nazi military intelligence service, and of Helmuth Wohlthat, chief administrator of Göring’s Four Year Plan. Pursuing every lead, amassing critical evidence, pulling together all the pieces of what could well be a political thriller, Rigg reconstructs the Rebbe’s improbable escape, and tells a harrowing story about identity and moral responsibility. His book is the definitive account of an extraordinary episode in the history of World War II.

Drora Arussy, EdD, MA, MJS, is the Senior Director of the ASF Institute of Jewish Experience.

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Drora Arussy

Drora Arussy, EdD, MA, MJS, is the Executive Director of Unity Through Diversity Institute. She has produced eight online courses and organized international academic conferences in NY, across Israel, Cambridge (UK),and Rabat (Morocco). Drora hosts the Reclaiming Identity podcast. She is the co-editor of the Jews and Muslims in Morocco: Their Intersecting Worlds (Lexington Press, 2021) and author of Leah Nassi of Lisbon, a historical novel (Amazon, 2022). Her passion for pride in one’s identity is at the core of her endeavors.

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