Prisoners of Zion. 1952.

Yosef Halevy

Born in 1910 in Kishinev, Bessarabia, he was an active member of a Zionist organization Poalei-Zion in his home town from 1925 to 1940. In 1952 Arrested in 1952, he was accused of Zionist activity, and sentenced to 10 years in the Gulag. In 1954 he was released and continued his struggle to leave for Israel. But his dream was not fulfilled till 1977. He died in 1987.

Aharon Itsikson

Born on Sept 27th, 1909 in the Bessarabia town of Shabo, he first met with violent anti-Semitism when studying in the junior college of Yassy,Romania. This led him to Zionist movements. He entered the Zionist organization Gordonia in Kishinev and soon became one of the founders and leaders of this organization in his hometown. He made every attempt to convince Jewish youth to leave the unfriendly Galut and make Aliya to Zion – Eretz Israel. During WW2, from 1941 to 1945, he fought the Nazis, while in the Red Army, but even there he actively spread Zionist ideas among his fellow soldiers. His whole family perished in the Holocaust. He was arrested in Czechoslovakia, but managed to escape to Romania, where he started an underground organization for the illegal transportion of Romanian Jews to Eretz Israel. In 1952 in Bucharest he was accused of Zionist and anti-communist subversive activity, arrested and transferred to the USSR. His organization was crushed and almost all its members were arrested. He himself was sentenced to 25 years in the Gulag plus 5 years in exile. Most of his sentence was spent in Norilsk camp and, after being released, in 1972, he managed to get to Israel. He died in 1992.

Batia Kantargi

Was born on Dec 25th, 1923 in the “shtetle” of Makhlia, Bessarabia. At the age of 14 she joined the Zionist organization of "Gordonia", and soon became a leader of this movement until 1940, when Bessarabia was occupied by the Soviets. After this she continued her Zionist activity underground especially agitating for the right to make the Aliya to Eretz Israel. In 1945-46 she helped an emissary from Eretz Israel to organize the escape of Jews from the USSR to Romania. Arrested in 1952, she was sentenced to 3 years in prison. She spent her sentence in the Zingy-Ata camp near Tashkent and also in some other camps of the Gulag. In 1955 she was released, but not till 1973 was she able to get to Israel.

Nahum Kesselman

Born on May 11th, 1906 in Malina, Russia, he was from his youth onwards very active in He-Halutz and Poalei-Zion. In 1926 he entered the Hachshara of kibbutz Tel-Chai in Crimea to study agriculture and after the liquidation of the kibbutz he continued his Zionist activities in Moscow, where he organized a cooperative, Einhait, to help unemployed members of the former He-Halutz. Arrested in 1952 for subversive Zionist activity, he was sentenced to 25 years in the Gulag. He was first sent to a prison in Alma-Ata and then transferred to a labor camp in Uzbekistan. After the death of Stalin in 1953 he was released, and in 1971 succeeded in getting to Israel. He died in 1991.

Dr. Yosef Klimstein

Born in 1919 in Warsaw, he was active in HaShomer HaTzair during his youth prior to WW2. After the war he was a Zionist activist among the Jews of Bessarabia. In 1952, during the Doctors’ plot, he was arrested and accused of agricultural sabotage and damage to the collective farm’s live-stock .For this he was sentenced to 2 years in prison and 3 years in exile. Released in 1957, he succeeded in fulfilling his dream of emigrating to Israel in 1960.

Arieh Lerner

Born in 1918 in Zmowitze, Poland, he was active in Ha-Histradrut ha-Zionist Ehud (Zionist trade-union). From 1946 to 1952 he acted as the Israeli Ambassador in Warsaw. In 1952 was arrested for espionage in connection with the Slansky Case in Czechoslovakia and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. Released in 1955, he got back to Israel in 1960.

Hanna Puckhis

Born in 1909 to an orthodox Jewish family in Manheim, near Odessa, she secretly joined the illegal left-wing Zionist party HaShomer HaTsair at the age of 14. During WW2 she was evacuated to Central Asia, where she continued her Zionist activity and returned to Odessa after the war. In 1952 she and her husband were arrested for subversive Zionist activity and sentenced to 10 years hard labor. Released in 1954, after the death of Stalin, she still had to wait until 1973 before finally getting to Israel.

Yaacov Puckhis

Born on September 25th 1907 in Dubossary, Russia, he became a member of the underground organization Ha-Shomer HaTsair. During WW2 he was evacuated to Central Asia, where he continued his Zionist activities. In 1952 he and his wife were arrested for subversive Zionist activity and given the death penalty, which was later commuted to 25 years hard labor in a special security camps, mostly in Taishet. Released in 1953, he still had to wait till 1973 before getting permission to go to Israel. He died in 1991.

Gitis Wisemill

Born in 1930 in the town of Borisoglebsk (near Voronezh) to a Zionist family, which observed Jewish traditions, he was brought up in an atmosphere of Hassidism but was also as a follower of Vladimir Zhabotinsky’s ideas. From the very birth of the state of Israel he searched actively for the ways of getting to Israel and also spread ideas of Zionism among his friends. In 1952 he was arrested and received a 10 years sentence to the Gulag; even there he continued distributing Zionist propaganda among Jewish inmates. He spent 2.5 years in Serlag and in 1955 he was released. Despite severe prosecutions from the authorities, he continued agitating to leave for Israel. But it was not till 1973 that he finally got out of the USSR. He died in 1991.

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