From the letter of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau to Yad Vashem, 14 July 2008
In January 1945 my brother Naftali and I arrived at Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, where we had been sent from the labour-camp at Czestochowa, Poland. Soon after our arrival I was separated from my brother, who was imprisoned in one of the "Blocks" for Jews. I, then seven and a half years old, was moved to Block No.8, not far from the camp's gate. I assumed the identity of a Polish, non-Jewish child, whose parents had been killed in the bombing of Warsaw and who, by accident, had been included in a transport of Jews ending up in Buchenwald.
In Block 8 there was also a Russian…. Everyone knew him as "Feodor". He was then aged eighteen to twenty and came from the town of Rostov in Russia. Feodor knew that I was in fact Jewish and that I had a brother in another barrack of the camp. Yet his spirit was so sympathetic to me that his behaviour towards me exceeded all reasonable expectations under the prevailing conditions. He used, for example, to steal potatoes and almost every day would secretly light a fire between stones and make me potato-soup.
He unravelled the sweater of a dead inmate and out of the flesh-coloured wool made ear-muffs. In the early morning hours the Germans subjected us to an "Appel" - a prolonged roll-call, during which we had to stand with our heads uncovered. In winter, in the region of Weimar, the temperatures fell far below zero, and we were all in imminent danger of freezing to death. Every night, before we went to sleep, Feodor looked to see whether the woollen muffs covered my ears, so that during morning roll call my ears would not freeze from the cold.
On April 11, 1945 the American Army liberated Buchenwald. They bombed us from the air and Feodor grabbed my hand and we started to run out of the gate of the camp. At the same time the Germans fired at the prisoners like mad from their watch- towers. Feodor pulled me down to the ground and lay on top of me. He exposed himself and intentionally endangered his own life to save mine, during those terrible hours.
After the Liberation, Naftali, my brother, went down with typhus. His temperature rose to over 42ºC and he lay unconscious for three days. In his book: "A Nation Strong as a Lion", he describes how he then opened his eyes and saw me standing before him, like a ghost. In one hand I was carrying a suitcase, while the other was grasping the hand of Feodor. I was telling him that I have come to say goodbye, as I wished to travel to Russia with Feodor.... My brother was forced to station guards around me, to prevent me from attempting to carry out such a plan: I was that attached to Feodor.
On May 3, 1989 I visited the Kremlin with five other rabbis with the first delegation of rabbis from Israel, Europe and the U.S.A. We were received by the Secretary-General of the Soviet Communist Party, Tengiz Mentashshvili. According to the Hebrew calendar, this was the exact date - the 28th of the month of Nissan – of the liberation of Buchenwald, 44 years previously. I told him how a Russian had risked his life to save mine - not for one day or night, but over three and a half months – a period that had seemed like an eternity.
Mantashshvili had noted on a pad: "Feodor, Rostov, Buchenwald, April 11, 1945". The next day a notice appeared in Izvestia, the official Soviet gazette, asking Feodor from Rostov to get in touch with the Kremlin through Comrade Kyril, the Soviet Assistant Foreign Minister. As far as I know, Feodor never came forward.
It seems to me that this man, who risked his life over the period of several months, without ever claiming any kind of recognition for his action, deserves to be included in the illustrious gallery of persons recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations; he is forever worthy of praise. I therefore beg you to consider and approve this request as soon as possible, as 63 years have since elapsed – this is more than enough. Feodor should serve as an educational model for the young Russians of today and his name should be praised many times over.