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Editors' Introduction and Preface

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25


Volume 3

Nahum Meir Halpern

From Slavery to Freedom

published by the
Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies

Copyright Nahum Meir Halpern, 1999

Key Words

Actubinsk (Kazakhstan), Bakhchar, Bucovina, Bucharest, Canada, Chernovitz, Constanza, Dror Habonim (Labour Zionist youth movement), forced labour, gulag, Israel, Jerusalem, Kisilev, Kolima Camp, labour camp, Magadan, Montreal (Canada), Natanya, Novosibirsk, Romania, Tomsk (city in Siberia), Montreal, Portonikov (town in Siberia), Radautz, Siberia, Strojenetz, Viznitza, Zastavna (town in Bucovina), Zionism.


Narrative opens when author is nine years old. Describes family life in town of Zastavna, Bucovina, where his father is a prosperous businessman. In 1940 as a consequence of the Stalin-Hitler Pact father decides to move to Bucharest, but, frustrated by crowded highways, the family returns to town. Describes Red Army entry into town where, shortly thereafter, the Soviets confiscate his father’s enterprises. Hebrew instruction is forbidden but clandestine cheders (elementary Jewish schools) are organized. Father is arrested by authorities and imprisoned; later transported to Magadan where he slaves in a Siberian gold mine. Author is arrested by authorities – he is ten years old – and questioned on the whereabouts of his mother who had taken refuge with relatives in Chernovitz. Knowing her son was imprisoned, she returns and gives herself up. Describes being transported to the east in cattle cars, travelling for weeks. After two months by train, they reach Novosibirsk, Siberia where they are transferred to barges and travel hundreds of kilometers to the village of Portonikov where they are designated as "special resettlers" and given twenty-year sentences. Detailed description of village conditions. Mother arrested for stealing potatoes and imprisoned in another town, Bakhtar. Describes the social and economic conditions of the Siberian region. In 1944, after three years, he hears from his father. Mother is released and they settle in Tomsk. Father forwards money and they plan to meet him in Kazahkstan. Describes journey and the social conditions in Actubinsk. They travel back to Chernovitz via Moscow and Kiev. Arrive after two weeks of travel – six years from the time of their departure. Father, who lives in Bucharest, arranges to have wife and son smuggled across the Russian border to Romania. Detailed account of the smuggling operation. Joins agricultural school set up by Zionists. In 1949 receive visa for Israel. Describes misadventure when authorities prevent their exit. They return to Bucharest and go into hiding. With changed identities and false papers they get exit visas again and sail for Israel. Reports on problems of adjustment to life in free society. Returns to schooling and later enters the Israeli army, trains as a tank commander. Studies at teacher’s college. Decides to immigrate to Canada. Adjustment to Montreal, where he is employed in Jewish day Schools and at Labour Zionist Unzer Camp. Enrolls in Engineering at McGill University and spends several years until forced to withdraw due to ill health. Joined by parents in 1958, married soon after. Works as a teacher until 1972 when he resigns and becomes a businessman. Describes his business activities.

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