Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection

Yitzhak-Frantisek Levi’s Travel Diary

The travel diary inscribed by the companions of Yitzhak-Frantisek Levi who made the long trek with him to Eretz Israel in 1942-1943 as the “Teheran Children”The travel diary inscribed by the companions of Yitzhak-Frantisek Levi who made the long trek with him to Eretz Israel in 1942-1943 as the “Teheran Children”   More photos

Yitzhak-Frantisek Levi was born in 1928 in Breslau, Germany (today Wroclaw, Poland). His father Adolf died before Yitzhak’s birth, and his mother Anna Levi née Kreuberg moved with her baby son to Katowice, and from there to Oswiecim in Poland.

When the Nazis occupied Oswiecim, Anna fled eastward with her son, to the area under Soviet rule. They reached Anna’s sister in Lvov, where they stayed until they were caught without residence permits and sent to Siberia.

In Siberia Anna and Yitzhak were housed in abandoned huts in the forest outside Teshma. Anna’s sister continued to send them parcels from Lvov until the Nazis occupied the city in 1941, when all contact was lost.

Throughout Yitzhak and Anna’s flight from Oswiecim, Yitzhak noted down the names of all the places they passed through on a piece of paper. In 1942 after the Soviet Union and the Polish Government-in-Exile reached an agreement, Yitzhak and Anna, along with the other Polish refugees were free to migrate to Samarkand. There, Yitzhak parted from his mother and joined a group of orphans that were being prepared for travel to Eretz Israel. His group traveled across the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi port in Persia and from there to Teheran. After a few months they were sent to Karachi, India (today Pakistan) where the local Jewish community received them with new clothes and hats. All through his travels, Yitzhak continued to document his trek in a notebook that his fellow travelers autographed.

In Karachi the youngsters boarded a ship that took them to the Suez Canal, and from there they continued by train to Atlit in Eretz Israel.

When they arrived in Eretz Israel they were divided into groups. Yitzhak’s group was sent to Jerusalem to the Educational Farm of Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi. “Youth Aliyah” organized three days of hiking through the country that included visits to Kibbutz Deganiah Aleph, Kibbutz Deganiah Bet and Kibbutz Ginegar, and eventually Yitzhak was able to settle in Deganiah Aleph.

In 1948 Anna managed to join Yitzhak in the new State of Israel, after five years of settling for correspondence by mail. For many years Yitzhak kept his mother’s letters along with his notebooks documenting the journey of the “Teheran Children”, himself among them, until he decided to donate them toYad Vashem for safekeeping.

A dedication in Yitzhak’s notebook (translated from the Polish):

“In memory of
The ship that sailed swift and far;
The waves that rise and fall;
I don’t know if you’ll be glad to remember
The storm we experienced together
But in our hearts is the hope that this storm will pass
And we’ll meet again in joy
In Palestine
Our eagerly-awaited destination.”

To my soul-mate and friend
From your fellow orphan
Leon Szayman
“Dunera” 18th January 1943

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Yitzhak Levi, Deganiah Aleph, Israel