The Survivor

by Rafail Kosovsky (West Hollywood , CA )

Free or in captivity, I always feel that I am a Jew. I have forgotten the prayers my father taught me. I have forgotten the Hebrew alphabet and I consider myself a secular Jew, but every time I step into a synagogue, I feel a strange excitement. I feel that I am getting in touch with something holy and getting closer to some profound age-old secret.

It might be obvious for any reader of these memoirs that the dominant theme of my life story is anti-Semitism. I have given this phenomenon a great deal of thought, trying to understand why the Jews, who as a people have made such a great contribution to humanity, have so many haters. I see basic human and political components to this phenomenon. Perhaps the word “human” is more of a euphemism for what is in fact an ugly manifestation of basic zoological instincts.

For thousands of years the Jews led distinct religious and secular lives with special emphasis on education, hard work and making the best living under any circumstances. This always caused envy, resentment and anger from their neighbors. If such inherently negative feelings are not moderated by education, the cultural environment, and the political system, tragedy is almost inevitable.

I understood the political side of this issue by reading an article by Shulgin – the former Chairman of the Russian State Duma during the early 20th century. He was a vivid monarchist and anti-Semite. I stumbled on his brochure appropriately titled “Why we don’t like you.” In this small booklet he accuses the Jews of insufficient patriotism, resistance of assimilation and many other sins, and in conclusion he finds that after two thousand years of Jewish experience in economy, trade, and the sciences, the Russian Jew possesses superior qualifications and therefore the State must limit their activities in favor of Russian businessmen. This is, so to speak, the political component of anti-Semitism.

But all of this has no direct relationship to my story.

Regardless of political systems, regardless of basic human nature, in the most difficult situations, I was fortunate enough to meet good people willing to help me and save me. This is what brings happiness to me – the knowledge that the world is not without good people and that good people are in the majority.

It just seems like the good is always less noticeable than the evil.

During WWII at the age of 17, Rafail Kosofsky was captured by the Nazis. For almost four years he lived among his enemies, hiding his Jewish identity, and feared being unmasked and killed.

After the war, he spent several years recollecting his memories and published 1307 Days Under The Noose, the book from which this passage is excerpted with permission of the author.

For more information about the English edition, visit:

or write Rafail Kosofsky for more information about the Russian edition at

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Filed under American Jewry, European Jewry, Jewish identity

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