The town square lay desolate. A small pool of blood broke the cobblestones’ dreariness to serve as the sole memorial to events that took place upon them earlier that day.
That Saturday, at five in the morning, German shouts robbed the Jews of the little sleep they were permitted. SS men with guns, whips and dogs demanded that they immediately assemble in the town square. It was the middle of the winter of 1941 and the temperature had dropped to well below zero. The Jews shivered in their rags with fear.
When the Germans came Reb Moishe had already risen from his bed, eager to catch the dawn sun and offer his first thanks to God. The rabbi and his wife lived in a small, unheated room in the heart of the Ghetto. Their comfortable prewar home, so befitting of a town rabbi and renowned scholar, had long been confiscated. Closed, and stolen too, were all the town synagogues and small Hasidic prayer-houses. Once, passers-by would grin and block their ears so as not to be deafened by the prayers that rose from these buildings. Now there was only silence.
Reb Moishe sat in a chair by his bed. His appearance like that of an Old Testament prophet. He still managed to look regal in a proud, Sabbath fox-tail hat and a black caftan that almost reached to the floor. The caftan’s silky darkness only broken by white cotton socks tucked into striped knee-breeches. If Reb Moishe could not dress like a Jew on the street he would do so at home. His delicate fingers fiddled with the black, silk sash that girded his waste. Like pillars adorning a creased, wise Jewish face, side curls flowed down behind his sunken cheeks. His reddish-brown beard was peppered with grey strands. Pale blue eyes reached into the depth of a somewhat unworldly soul.
Beside Reb Moishe lay a small book of psalms and slung over his shoulder was a prayer shawl with a dull, silvery collar. The yellowed, slightly tattered shawl had been worn by his father and his father’s father before him. All had been town rabbis.
Reb Moishe did not believe he would survive the Ghetto, nor did he care. His eldest daughter, Gutty, had escaped the town and Reb Moishe knew not if she was alive or dead. His beloved son, Chaim, who showed all signs of having inherited the rabbi’s scholarly traits was now gone forever. He had succumbed to the dreaded typhus at age twelve, shortly after the Jews were ordered into the Ghetto. Reb Moishe was no longer concerned with his existence in this world.
His wife, Blima, lay asleep as he began to mumble the Psalms by heart. Her will to live had also been sapped after the death of their son.
Once, she had been a town beauty.
Blima’s penetrating black eyes, perfectly chiseled facial features and strong jaw line had made her the envy of the other Jewish girls in town. Her black hair glistened to tempt Talmudic students scurrying past while suppressing thoughts of what her unblemished olive skin might feel like pressed against their bodies.
Blima too came from a long line of rabbis and scholars and it was expected that she would become the wife of an esteemed town rabbi.
Although she had lost much of her previous vitality, she still retained some of her youthful charm. Even as she approached her fortieth year and in spite of two years of ghetto living conditions there was still something pleasant about her sorrowful face and glistening eyes: A beauty born from suffering.
The rabbi heard the dogs bark and the loud, agitated, German demands. ‘Where is the town rabbi? Reveal yourself, or be shot in your home together with your family.’ Reb Moishe continued praying, swaying more vigorously with each German order.
The sharp clanging of breaking locks drowned out the rabbis prayers and a door was flung wide open. Two young SS men grabbed the rabbi by his beard and dragged him outside.
‘Here put this on’ they screamed as they pointed to his prayer shawl. ‘Let’s see how your God protects you now, Wonder-Rabbi’ one SS man taunted.
Blima leapt out of bed to follow her husband. At first her voice trembled as she begged the SS men to release Reb Moishe, to no avail. Soon she found herself separated from her husband and in the midst of the crowd of half-frozen Jews. A few hundred broken men and women, along with a handful of surviving children, waited in terror for their German masters to speak. Some of the crowd nervously debated with each other. Would today be the day that the town finally meets the fate rumoured to have visited other towns during this period of persecution? A persecution that seemed to dwarf anything experienced in a three thousand year history already filled to the brim with tears and blood. ’
Silence, Silence’ yelled the town’s SS Chief, Joseph Gruber, a fanatical Nazi who had already shown himself to be a heartless sadist in the three months since arriving to oversee the ghetto. It was known in the ghetto that prior to the war Gruber had been a biology teacher. It was also rumoured that he had once trained for the priesthood.
‘Jews!’ Gruber yelled. ‘Some of your Ghetto criminals have been stealing food from our supplies again. You have been warned before. We will not tolerate lawlessness and Jewish crime syndicates in this town.’ ‘As a punishment and a deterrent one of you will have to be killed.’
Many sighed in relief at this point. Much worse had been decreed before.
Then the crowd saw their dear Reb Moishe dragged to the front of the crowd, draped in his forefathers’ prayer-shawl. Relief turned to despair.
A young SS officer aimed a pistol at Reb Moishe’s temple: ‘Hear O Israel the Lord…….’
The holy words countless Jewish martyrs had uttered for millennia were now on his lips. A shot was heard and Reb Moishe fell to the floor lifeless. The Sabbath foxtail hat that had been so proudly perched upon his head rolled onto the ground while the old yellowed prayer shawl remained draped over his body. The rabbi’s pale blue eyes stared vacantly into the heavens.
People standing near the rabbi’s wife glanced towards her. She did not shriek or become hysterical. She merely stared silently down at the ground. ‘Vanish Jews or be shot yourselves- now!’
The square emptied and only the rabbi’s wife was left, but she did not go home. Rather, she marched towards the town’s SS headquarters which were unguarded at the time. On entering the headquarters she found only the young SS man, Henrik, who had shot her husband. As she stared at him intensely, she thought he must be no more than nineteen years old, half her age.
Blima studied his blonde hair, blue eyes and young, muscular body. He was handsome in a classically German way. The Nazis would have certainly regarded him as a prime example of Aryan breeding. Blima had encountered him before and knew a little about him. He seemed of average intellect. Raised on Nazi ideology and having been a member of Hitler Youth he joined the SS at first chance. Henrik was no sadist. Like so many others, he merely followed orders to carry out what he regarded as his patriotic duty.
‘It was not my idea’ Henrik blurted. The rabbi’s wife lunged towards him, risking her own life in doing so. She beat her fists against his firm chest. She felt warm, living skin beneath his uniform. Then a bizarre and most unexpected sensation overcame her. She felt lust for Henrik.
As her saintly husband lay dead on the cold stones outside, Blima desired his very murderer. Her hands were still resting on Henrik’s chest and he sensed her passion. He moved even closer to the rabbi’s wife. His own rising desire made him oblivious to both the perversity of the situation and SS rules regarding contact with Jewish women.
At that moment it occurred to Blima that according the Talmud she was no longer a married woman and no longer bound by those strictest of laws that forbade a man’s wife to engage in adultery. According to the law a woman is no longer married when three pious witnesses are willing to attest to her husband’s passing. Hundreds of Jews had watched as Reb Moishe was murdered.
As her desire welled up Blima forgot about the day’s events. Prior to the German occupation she rarely, if ever, had relations with husband and often wondered why. Her husband had been so fastidious in every matter of religious law. He insisted on continually washing his hands whenever they came into contact with anything impure, like a shoe or the ground. He steadfastly refused to eat any food outside of his own home for fear that it might not be sufficiently ritually clean. In winter he froze, refusing to wear wool for fear it may contain linen. Reb Moishe only ignored one precept: The one that required a man to give his wife pleasure in bed.
‘Was not this law as important as all the others?’ she wondered as she stood before this handsome murderer of innocent Jews. As if in a trance, she moved her hands towards Henrik’s waist.
Henrik excitedly unbuttoned his pants. The rabbi’s wife quivered. She had never seen an uncircumcised penis before. No words were exchanged. Her hands grasped at him. She had a desire to do unspeakable acts and her face drifted towards his waist. His sex now throbbed in her mouth and her breasts tingled as nervousness turned to thrill. The sensation of rushing blood swept over her body. The region between her thighs became hungry. She groped at his hardened buttocks. They felt so different to any part of her husband’s body. She quickly lifted her dress and slightly pulled down her underclothes to reveal her now greedy private parts. She motioned for him to penetrate her. He did so and started to wildly thrust himself against her. He bit her ears and she felt his moist breath on her neck. He began to sweat and Blima inhaled a musky odour she had never smelled on her husband. Soon waves of never-before-experienced pleasure filled Blima’s body. Oblivious to the horrific sufferings of the day, her pleasure turned to ecstasy. Moans became full-bodied screams. The couple rolled over and now Blima was on top, vigorously bobbing up and down. Her body was almost beetroot red and her breasts stiff. She then let out a final, drawn-out wail, loud enough to be heard outside: A wail that spoke of impossible pleasure mixed with years of hellish pain. She had experienced her very first orgasm at the hands of this young Nazi.
Henrik sweated, tensed, and groaned as months of his own pent-up frustration were released inside of Blima. Relaxed, he rested his head on the ground and momentarily closed his eyes. At that moment Blima’s arm thrust itself towards Henrik’s chest with new-found Samson-like strength. Henrik’s eyes jerked open. She had grabbed an army knife, foolishly left open on the desk, and plunged it deep into his heart. She felt his penis become more flaccid inside her.
Blood trickled down his shirt and he stared straight into her eyes. Initial shock gave way to the quiet calm of a young man who knew he was dying.
‘Forgive me, forgive me’ he whispered.
‘I cannot do that’ Blima uttered back at him ‘Never!’
Life rapidly drained from his body. Blima watched silently as Henrik departed this world. Seconds later, two other SS men stormed into the office, having heard a commotion.
‘She has killed him’ they cried. Blima was pulled off Henrik’s body. His clothes were removed in haste to attempt a failed revival. Not for one moment did the other SS officers suspect what had just transpired in the office.
Blima was immediately dragged to the village square. She did not resist. Not a word or cry passed from her lips. News spread quickly throughout the Ghetto that Blima had killed one of the persecutors. Although others would soon pay a heavy price for her act, she was immediately hailed as a hero. Soon she would be remembered as a martyr too. As she stood in the town square and waited for sure death, she did not fear anything in this world or the next. She was certain that the agonizing punishments that had befallen her on earth more than atoned for her final act of impropriety.
Her spirit would surely soon ascend to heaven to join her ancestors, her beloved son and now her pious husband. For the Rabbi too had finally atoned over his one outstanding transgression. He had given his wife in death that which he had failed to give her in life.