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The story told here by Nahum Meir Halpern throwslight on one aspect of the terrible war years: the fate of Jews who found themselves overtaken by the Soviet Union as a result of the Stalin-Hitler Pact which divided Eastern Europe between these two totalitarian powers. The account of those entrapped in the German-occupied territory is well-known. Less familiar s the history of those labeled ";class-enemies" by the Soviets, imprisoned and transported to the distant reaches of Central Asia and Siberia as slave labourers in the forests and mines. Their
ordeal is recorded in this detailed memoir which records the experiences of a young boy, separated from his parents, who learns the lessons of survival under harsh conditions and at war's end remakes his life in Israel and Canada.


He brought us out from slavery to freedom, from anguish to joy, from sorrow to festivity, from darkness to great light.

                                                                                         Passover Haggadah



These memoirs were written in longhand, in the course of several months, in the year 1994. The idea, to describe those turbulent events, so that they should not be forgotten, was already rooted in my mind at the age of fifteen, but subsequent events in the course of my life prevented me from devoting a concerted effort to accomplish such a project. In the course of my life, immediately after escaping "from slavery to freedom." I told my story on numerous occasions to anyone who showed an interest in knowing more about life in the Soviet Union under Stalin's tyranny. While in Israel, I often encountered listeners who expressed open disbelief and even outrage for "slandering the most humane society on earth." At the time, such reactions caused me a deep sense of frustration in my inability to convince my listeners of the absolute truth of my words.

Times have changed, and in the last two decades I have never faced a non-believer. I was especially gratified with the reaction of my students (at least one thousand of them in the course of my sixteen-year teaching career), who were invariably fascinated with my story. They constantly pleaded with me to write it all down in a book. Such encouragement was often expressed by my own children as well. With my grandchildren in mind I finally undertook the task. I found it very easy going. My thoughts seemed to flow effortlessly onto the paper. I did not rewrite anything, or make any substantial changes.

My dear wife, Gina, undertook the task of typing my hand-written work on the computer, as well as correcting my many spelling mistakes (Hebrew is the only language which I am able to write free of errors). Eventually she had to print the many pages several times. I would like to express my sincerest thanks to Gina for the countless hours of her labour of love.

I also want to thank my son-in-law, Simon Kahn, for faithfully instructing Gina in the art of operating the computer on many occasions. Without his effort the entire process would have come to a grinding halt.

I truly hope that the next generation will be as interested and absorbed by my tale as were my students, and that totalitarian regimes will not be tolerated by anyone on the face of the earth.

February 21, 1995

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