I remember hearing a story told by R' Hershel Schachter about the Mir Yeshiva's journey to Shanghai, that took place on the train ride from Eastern Europe to Shanghai.

The gist of the story is that it's presented from the perspective of a third party onlooker. Said person recounts:

I would see these boys and they seemed to be such great friends-- hanging out and helping one another, but then all of a sudden they would take out these huge books [gemaras] and would start shouting at each other “What are you talking about! That's not what that means! How does that make sense!” and this would go on for a little until they put the books away.
Then they would laugh with one another and resume being great friends.

Not 100% sure, but I think the context of this sweet story was to highlight the unique aspect of learning Torah with a chavrusa.

Has anyone else heard this story that R' Schachter referenced and where it might be found?

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    I heard it years ago at a fabrengen. I also seem to remember it being printed in one of the more recent Jewish history books that touched on the Holocaust. Bli neder, maybe over Yom Tov I’ll dig around and see if I can find it for you. – Yaacov Deane Jun 6 '19 at 11:05
  • @YaacovDeane that would be great, thank you! – alicht Jun 6 '19 at 12:46

I read this story in an essay from R. Schechter entitled ‘Ego and Humility in Torah Study’:

During the Second World War, when the students of the Mirrer Yeshiva were traveling for a week and a half on the transcontinental railroad towards Vladivostok, there were non-Jewish passengers traveling on the same train. One of the Polish non-Jews on the train later published his memoirs and included a description of what he had observed on that trip. He recognized that these young people were Jewish students. He related that while the "big books" were open, and they were obviously "studying", they were extremely belligerent towards each other; sharp, seemingly angry, and even abusive. As soon as the "big books" were closed, they acted towards each other as the best of friends. The non-Jew did not know what to make of the scene!

The Mirrer students were following the Talmudic formula for studying Torah: while learning they "waged battle" with each other, acting towards each other like enemies. As soon as the "big books were closed" and they were done learning, they acted again towards each other with great love and respect.

EDIT: R' Schachter also recounted this story in his Chukas 5779 parsha shiur
(YUTorah audio link from 1:05:40 - 1:06:30)

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