During the first years of World War II, Rabbeinu wandered
from town to town, finally reaching Pressburg where he
sought a place to hide out.
Many Jews there were living under false identity in those
days, or hiding in cramped bunkers to escape deportation.
On the outskirts of the town, in the yard of a house hidden
from the wayside by trees, one such bunker had been dug
under the small house used as a washroom.
Somehow, the Stropkover Rov found his way there and
requested to be allowed to join the Yidden already there.
The bunker's occupants were hesitant. What would happen if
they were forced to flee? How would the elderly Rebbe keep
up with them? Yet leaving him there in danger would also be
unthinkable. To take him in would be liable to place them in
a life-threatening quandary.
Seeing their reluctance, Rabbeinu gave them his written
promise that if they would permit him to take refuge with
them, all the bunker's inhabitants would survive the war.
With such a promise the door was immediately open to the
Rebbe. And, as the tzaddik had promised, they all
lived to see the war's end.
It is interesting to note that when the war was over, one of
those saved asked Rabbeinu how he could be so sure and even
promise the others that they would survive. Rabbeinu
"As a child, I grew up on the knees of my grandfather, the
Divrei Yechezkel of Shinova zt"l. When I was six years
old my Zeide had to travel out of town in a horse-drawn
carriage. I very much wanted to join him, but was refused
permission to go along. I made numerous attempts to persuade
the Zeide to take me, crying and pleading, until the
Shinover said, `You still have time to travel until you're
The Stropkover smiled as he concluded, "I knew then that I
would live at least to seventy. When I entered the bunker I
still had a few years to go. Thus my guarantee that I would
survive the war."
There in the bunker, as my uncle HaRav Sholom Ber Stern
sheyichye testifies, the Stropkover Rov would rise
daily long before dawn. At three in the morning his day
began with Tehillim and limud Torah. He was then
osek beTorah and tefilloh throughout the day.
With them too, was the famed Reb Michoel Ber Weissmandel
zt"l, and together they would assess the situation and
work out what could be done to help save Europe's Jews.
Before Pesach they persuaded the owner of the house, whose
political views were against the regime, to obtain wheat for
them. This they ground with a small hand grinder, and then
baked their matzo shemurah in a tiny oven that they
One day the Stropkover Rov turned to a certain Mr. Funk, a
Yid who was living disguised as a gentile, with false
documents. He requested that he leave the bunker and go
outside to find his granddaughter Sheindele.
Mr. Funk doubted the possibility of finding Sheindele on the
streets just like that, but agreed to try, out of respect
for the Rebbe. Miraculously, he returned to the hideout with
Sheindele in tow.
Out of all Rabbeinu's family she was the sole survivor. His
Rebbetzin, their son HaGaon Reb Chaim, and all his young
family went up in flames on the mizbeiach of Auschwitz
Eventually it became too dangerous to remain in the bunker
and they arranged to flee by traveling in a German army
The Allied armies were drawing closer and they were bombing
German army targets from the air. The convoy was forced to
stop on the roadside for awhile. Suddenly, Rabbeinu turned
to my grandfather R' Shloime Stern z"l telling him to
instruct their driver to move on with utmost urgency. My
grandfather bribed the driver to break away and with a roar
their truck sped off. Only moments later a giant explosion
was heard behind them. The Allies had bombed the rest of the
convoy, leaving only a pile of rubble and twisted metal.
Bechasdei Hashem Rabbeinu had saved them all.
Subsequently they reached the safety of Switzerland where
they settled temporarily.
Rabbeinu's name spread as a po'el yeshuos, and many
were helped through his brochos.
Often he would demand large sums of money from those
requesting his blessing. Once, the refugees who were with
him asked for a yeshua on behalf of one of their
fellow survivors. As was his way , Rabbeinu demanded a large
sum of money which was duly raised. Then one of them dared
to ask, "Is that how it goes Rebbe? Without money it's
impossible to give the yeshua?"
In his typical humility, Rabbeinu explained. "When I come up
to the Olom Ho'emmes they will charge me accusingly,
`How could you dare be so bold as to accept kvittlech
and pidyonos and dispense brochos. Are you
worthy of all that?'
"So how will I answer? What will I say? The only way I can
justify myself before the Heavenly court is to say that I
had to provide a livelihood for my family; that this is my
parnossoh. But without money, I really have no right
to give brochos."
(Of course Rabbeinu's "family" extended to include all
those he helped by distributing all the pidyonos to
My uncle R' Sholom Ber Stern relates that HaRav Yitzchok
Binyomin Mendelowitz, rov of Lodan, once travelled to Los
Angeles to collect money for tzedokoh.
One wealthy individual promised a generous donation on
condition that the Rebbe would bless him with children. Rav
Mendelowitz blessed the man, and upon his return to New
York, he went to the Stropkover Rov asking him to reinforce
the brochoh so that indeed the man would have a child.
The Rebbe responded that if the man would keep Shabbos, then
the blessing will be fulfilled. Rav Mendelowitz relayed the
message to Los Angeles and the man promised to keep Shabbos.
A while passed and Reb Mendelowitz was informed of the
joyful news that his brochoh had helped and a child
was on the way. Before his next trip to Los Angeles,
Rabbeinu told Rav Mendelowitz to enquire whether the man's
shop was not open on Shabbos. The Rav checked the matter out
and discovered to his dismay that it was open. Several days
later the woman miscarried R"l.
On one occasion when my grandfather R' Shloime Stern z"l
begged him to bring a yeshua concerning a difficult
case, the Rebbe answered, "When the shoemaker is not at home
and without his tools he cannot work. I too cannot work
while I am not in my own place."
When people would exclaim in wonder at his greatness and
ability to work miracles, he would humbly tell of the day he
came to visit in a certain town.
Upon his arrival, among the crowds of people he heard one
young boy say to his friend excitedly, "That's the Rebbe.
Ober nisht der Rebbe vos lernt," meaning, "Not the
melamed who teaches in cheider."
With a humble laugh the Rebbe would finish, "Oy is der
yingel gevein a meivin." ("Oi, was that boy perceptive."
The remarks can also be interpreted to mean, "Not the Rebbe
who learns Torah.")
While still in Switzerland, a bochur who suffered
epileptic fits came to Rabbeinu asking for a brochoh
that he be healed. Rabbeinu blessed him and indeed the
fits stopped. Years later the man suffered another attack.
He called to Rabbeinu's house in New York, and discovered
that on that very day Rabbeinu had passed on to the next