The Mystery of Rabbi Moishe

For my grandfather, who will forever remain in Auschwitz

The Mystery Of Rabbi Moishe by Laszlo Malota borito

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Black plumes of sooty smoke no longer rise from the long and twisted chimneys of the Auschwitz crematoriums. Weeds and grass grow among the barracks, standing cells, guard towers, and gas chambers. The executions, gassings, liquidations and separations have all come to an end. No more new transports arrive. The SS guard room and camp manager’s office stand empty. No one puts the prisoners’ personal effects in the storehouse anymore. The heavy silence of death has taken over the home of merciless terror, suffering, and murder. Few of those who survived the hell of this now silent place, remain alive. The dead can never escape, but remain as fallen ash. Until the end of time, they will never leave. Teofil Dabrowsky had been a prisoner assigned to supervise the forced labor, an oberkapo. He remembered most of the survivors, as well as those who would forever remain in Auschwitz because of him.

Now, twenty years later, he was finally returning to his childhood home. He didn’t feel an ounce of guilt when he surveyed the small, decrepit square; and straightening himself out, he used the rearview mirror of the car to pat his hair down. His mouth twisted into a holier-than-thou grin.

“Who in their right mind would show their ratty face to you? They’re nothing compared to you, Teo. You honor them by showing up here. They’d all have been lying flat on the ground before you, oberkapo Dabrowsky, bowing before you, begging and humiliated. You, who all those rotten Jews feared. Like Obojski. Wait a moment…isn’t that him over there? Do my eyes decieve me? Is it the great and plotting Obojski? The model prisoner? The perfect specimen? The nobody.” He laughed as he thought about it. But then he spotted two people at the entrance of the synagogue, and he began to choke up.

“I have to go over there. They are my parents, after all,” he muttered, but he immediately changed his decision. Disgust and shame had proved more powerful than his sudden sensitivity.

“What’s gotten into me? Isn’t it their fault for raising me to be a Jew? They’re suffering for a reason. How low have I sunk, damn it?

He turned his eyes away from his parents and looked at the other people standing in the square. He recognized a few more faces in the crowd, and he suddenly felt an overwhelming jolt of shock, as his stomach began to churn. He was shaking.

“They hate me for sure.” The thought surprised him. Enmity would be a completely logical response, since a lot of Jews were sent to internment camps from this city. Only a few returned, and they knew how inhumanely Dabrowsky had treated the prisoners under his supervision.

They would have heard many tales from Obojski, who spent quite some time in the barracks. He told stories of how Dabrowsky loved to beat the prisoners, people of his own faith, and how he enjoyed watching them grow weak; how he proudly watched the corpse carriers toss the bodies onto stretchers.

Dabrowsky showed mercy to no one. Generally, he went for those who had money or assets. He humiliated and beat his childhood friends, too. Dabrowsky had a close connection to the special unit of prisoners assigned to collect belongings at the crematorium, so he could get his hands on the highly guarded valuables of the victims for cheap. If he wanted gold teeth, he would use pliers that he personally requisitioned, specifically for this reason. This way he could have access prior to the dentist working at the camp mortuary. Now, after twenty years, self-satisfied and unchanged, he came back, expecting absolution.

A man standing in the square noticed the unexpected visitor. He nodded in the direction of the car and said something to his friends, who all turned to look back. Dabrowsky watched them nervously and decided to move out of the way. He came to a screeching halt behind the synagogue, where Moishe Kras appeared out of nowhere. Teofil popped out of the car smiling, and greeted him joyfully.


Moishe turned to him, startled. He inspected the stranger head to toe.

“Do I know you?”

“Well…” Teofil said, feeling conflicted. He cursed his own hesitance. “Well…will you let me in?” he asked quickly with a sense of slight irritation. The rabbi regarded his would-be guest calmly, and quietly said, “Come back another time.”

“What do you mean? I’ve come from far away, and…and…I don’t have much time…” The rabbi raised his eyebrows. “From far away?”

Teofil felt queazy, and started breathing heavily.

“But…it seems like you belong here,” said the rabbi, breaking the silence.

“If you knew why I came … If you knew what I’ve been through, what I’ve struggled with, then …”


“Then you would beg to listen to what I have to say!” Dabrowsky shouted, regaining his confidence.

“Come back tomorrow,” said Moishe, considering the situation.

“That’s impossible,” snapped Dabrowsky, and then, feigning dismay, he said, “Please, dear rabbi, listen to me. Have pity on me.”

Moishe rubbed his chin and thought about it. He eyed the intruder for a long time. Teofil Dabrowsky couldn’t bear being scrutinized. He looked around, seemingly unconcerned, as if he was just surveying the area, or as if he had seen something.

The old rabbi had a reputation as an excellent judge of character. He opened the door to the synagogue, and beckoned his uninvited guest to enter. Teofil Dabrowsky stepped in with an air of pride, and a self-congratulatory smile on his face. Then a cold wave crashed down on his rigid and evil soul…memories of his carefree and happy childhood.

“It’s just like in the old days,” he said, not realizing that he was speaking out loud.

“What did you say?” asked the rabbi without turning around.

Teofil relaxed.

“Nothing. Nothing,” he said.

Moishe turned around all of a sudden. He shot Teofil a stern and questioning look, and quietly, as if only to himself, he said, “You have been here before, if I’m not mistaken.”

“You’re not making any sense,” said the former kapo, but he felt the expression on his face betray him, so he continued in a different tone. “Dear rabbi, that’s not why I came here — that is to say, came back here. I had to come back here. Please, listen to me. I’d like it if you would know everything. Everything. And then … and then …”

“What’s eating you?” said Moishe confused by the trembling man, whose lips were twitching. He looked delirious. “Maybe I can help.”

“Please,” said Teofil, feeling like his old self again.

“I don’t understand you. Not a moment ago …”

“Oh, please, would you be so kind…that’s what I wanted to say…but you interrupted me.”

“See here, I’m not that interested. To be more precise, I have no time for you, so if you want to waste my time …”

But the rabbi couldn’t finish what he was saying, because his guest had walked away. He had left without saying a word, as if he were escaping from something. Moishe followed the bewildering man through the gloom of the synagogue and found him at the Torah ark. It took Teofil a few minutes to realize he wasn’t alone, and when he spotted his unwelcoming host right next to him, he froze up. In a split second the gloom turned into a blinding light. The pulpit hadn’t changed at all, and it was now becoming a powerful memory. The joys of the past that he had begun to remember, were turning into torturous, depressing memories, which were now crushing his heart.

The synagogue assistant had frightened him before his bar mitzvah ceremony, and he had wet himself. Then, during the coming of age ritual, he had kicked one of the ten men around him. Rabbi Kras noticed this, and when he had seen the boy teasing the old assistant, he had wanted to slap the mocking child, but he ended up hitting the nervous assistant instead, by mistake. The boy, of course, had kept on laughing.

“But…you weren’t angry! You were only…just…teasing…” stammered Teofil and began to sob.

“You’re very weak,” said Moishe, stepping next to him and trying to lift the broken man who had dropped to the ground.

“Don’t touch me!” yelled Teofil, standing up. “You have no right to do this.”

“It’s difficult for you,” said Moishe quietly.

“This whole thing is a lie,” he said, looking around the synagogue. He thought of the dead. He thought of Auschwitz. He could clearly recall one incident. It wasn’t long before then that Himmler had visited the camp. The roll call hadn’t finished yet, when a fellow prisoner who was the camp leader shouted across the hall from the infirmary, ”Let’s go! I need you!” The two corpse carriers, Obojski and another prisoner, quickly wolfed down their bread rations. Dabrowsky knew that if they were summoned during the roll call, someone was going be executed. Since a few more bearers than usual accompanied the camp leader, Dabrowsky figured there was something important going on. He stood up and followed them. They hurried over to the execution site, which was a gravel pit that lay right outside of the barbed wire fence, in front of the guard house.

The execution lasted a long time. The bodies were piled up on the stretchers. It was the first time Dabrowsky had seen such a great mound of corpses. Their faces were contorted in mortal terror and panic.

“Jesus didn’t die,” he said in a sharp and determined voice.

“What?” asked the rabbi, confused.

“Jesus Christ didn’t really die.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t? Of course, you don’t understand. Look, I’ll explain it,” he said condescendingly. “If you look at Jesus’s face, what do you see? You see a calm, well-balanced, nice face which shows no sign of the indescribably excruciating pain caused by the nails driven through his flesh. There is no sign of the suffering and helpless struggle for life. Do you understand now?”


“You religious leaders bow down before him. You look up at his statue in pity, devotion, and hysteria. It must’ve been a crazy bastard who made the crucified Messiah look like that.”

“What you’re saying is complete nonsense. In case you haven’t realized, Jewish people don’t bow down before statues of Christ.”

“What? I’m talking nonsense? You’ve never even seen a real corpse.”

“What makes you think that? If you must know, I’ve …”

“I don’t want to know. Why does it even matter?”

“Well, then …”

“Wait. Look, I’m talking about the corpses one sees in the mortuary of an internment camp.”

“What about them? I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. Neither this, nor your line of thought.”

“What do you know? Hell, you’ve never been there. You didn’t see the executions at the gravel pit. You’ve never been in the mortuary. You don’t know the dread and disease that filled our every day. You didn’t live in our barrack, where someone died every day. You weren’t in Auschwitz!” Then he added with pointless enthusiasm, “As opposed to me.”

“I wouldn’t be so proud of that.”

“I’m not proud, just …”

“It’s dark. I’ll turn on the lights,” said the rabbi, trying to change the subject. He was about to go outside, but after two steps Teofil reached out and pulled him back.

“Please, don’t. Please.”

“I think you should leave now.”

“Leave? But I’m just getting started.”

“What? What are you starting?” asked Moishe with a mix of fear and intrigue.

“Don’t be afraid. It’s not that. You’re a good man. I know it,” said Teofil, doing his best to be kind.

“Don’t be so quick to judge. We’ve only known each other for a few minutes.”

“A few minutes!” said Dabrowsky, laughing.

“I don’t understand. What’s funny about this?”

“Do you know how long I’ve known you? I can’t say exactly. But I do remember one thing. You were a young rabbi back then. You wanted to slap me, but the assistant … nevermind.”

“Why shouldn’t I mind? That means we know each other. Hold on a second. So that’s why you came.”

“No. Not at all. Or perhaps, if you want, for that reason exactly.”

“Tell me, were you that boy?”

“Yes. That was me,” said Dabrowsky brashly.

“You were that naughty, insolent little kid? The one who should’ve gotten the slap? Judging by your current demeanor, you must be.”

Dabrowsky turned bright red. He pretended to feel shameful when he said, “Forgive me, dear Rabbi if I offended you. I really didn’t mean to, and …”

“Oh, forget it.”


“Stop lying, Teofil Dabrowsky.”

“Excuse me?” His cover blown, he turned pale.

“Teofil Dabrowsky!” yelled the rabbi, and his voice rang through the vast, empty space.

“I’m lost. I’ve been lost for a long time now. But I am just feeling it truly.”

“Yes, you are lost. For how long have you been lost?”

“We have to talk. Now I … I’m going to start telling you a tale. It’s for you alone. Understand?”

“No, I don’t. And don’t shout. Please.”

“Please, you must understand. You have to know about this.”

“Me? Why me?”

“Because you’re the only one who I can tell. I have to tell you something…something that’s difficult to talk about. Very difficult. But I have to. Just understand … understand that my conscience is killing me.”

“Your conscience?” asked Moishe, astonished at his own harsh tone.

Dabrowsky, not paying any heed to what Moishe said, continued talking. His speech was confused and disoriented, but the more he got into it, the more self-confident he became. He became so enthusiastic that the rabbi asked him to get to the point.

“This is all important. How dare you stop me! I …”

“You were the dreaded kapo of the camp?” asked Moishe in a similar tone, but this time he didn’t feel any remorse for the harshness of his words. His brother had been killed by a similar maniac.

“Once I tell you, you’ll see how interested you’ll be in my story!” yelled Dabrowsky angrily.

Rabbi Moishe Kras began to reach a conclusion, but he quickly disregarded it because what he was thinking seemed nearly impossible.

“I promise to listen to you. But hurry up.”

“Will you absolve me? Promise me that you’ll absolve me!”

“Possibly. I can’t know yet.”

“You have to promise me, or else I won’t tell you.”


“The kapos did a lot of evil things in the camps. They were the lords of life and death. They had no restraint, and they didn’t need to have any. This strengthened their position; so they bludgeoned and beat their own friends. But by then they weren’t friends anymore. They were just … it doesn’t matter. The point is they were a vile bunch. They robbed, tortured, and occasionally murdered without mercy.”

“Why are you saying these things? Everyone knows this. Did you …”

“You’re goddamn right. I did!” Dabrowsky shouted without a morsel of regret.

Moishe regarded the man with a sense of dread. Dabrowsky grabbed at the chance to take the upper hand. “You’re not scared are you? Well, are you?”

“Please, continue,” stammered Moishe Kras nervously.

“When they dragged me away to the camp, I was considered a good person, and I truly loved my fellow man. But the power, which has affected so many people throughout history, corrupted me and enthralled me. You can’t deny it.”

“I’m not denying it.”

“The daze of power eradicated everything that was good in me. My conscience started fading and eventually disappeared. My feelings went away, and I lost my faith,” he said without thinking, but he realized what he said, and added, “Of course, only for a short while. Actually, I didn’t really lose it, only …”

“Only what?”

“All I could think of was how to survive that putrid hell that was all around me. I thought about eating just enough, so I didn’t starve to death. Food was hard to come by. And most of the time you had to steal it. And I tried to get it from the Germans. You can imagine how impossible that was. I couldn’t even get a crumb. So …”

“Would you please get to the point?” urged the frustrated rabbi.

Dabrowsky realized that his fingers were twitching. He rallied the courage to continue talking about why he came.

“One day I was reassigned to a penal work division. They called it Strafkompanie. And … and … and your brother was there, as I’m sure you know.”

“My brother?” said Moishe, feeling a chill run down his spine.

“You were informed of it, weren’t you?” inquired Dabrowsky.

“My brother …”

“He was skin and bone. He was very frail. I felt sorry for him. He was such a good man, just like you. Maybe that’s why I wanted to help him.”

Moishe Kras stared at him in disbelief. His face was stern and contemplative.

“He couldn’t work. He could barely walk. An SS soldier in our division had been wanting to go home for a long time, and your brother was his ticket out of there. He grabbed him, and sent him for water. If I hadn’t intervened, he would’ve gotten three days’ leave for killing your brother. You can imagine what a large responsibility I took on behalf of your brother. But I liked him. So I did what I had to do.”

“I don’t understand,” said Moishe very quietly.

“If I had let your brother go to the well, the SS would have shot him the moment he stepped over the boundary line. Your brother would have been accused of attempting to escape. If a soldier shot an escaping prisoner, he got a few days off as a reward.”

“And you saved him?” asked the rabbi. Dabrowsky was sure he saw a glimmer of gratitude in the rabbi`s eyes.

“Yes, I did. When your brother unwittingly started off toward the well, I shouted at him to stop. The German soldier stared at me in disbelief. I explained to him that the prisoner was still able to work. I even put the fear of God into him,” said Dabrowsky, lying about the last part. I called your brother back over and started to lightly beat him.”

“Beat him?”

“That’s the only way I could get him to work. Don’t worry. I was looking out for him. I had learned how to do it. The Germans saw me beat the living daylights out of him, but I barely even touched him.

“My brother died, nonetheless. I heard he passed away in the camp hospital. Is this true?”

“Who told you that?” said Dabrowsky in a fit of pique.

“Obojski said he died of a heart attack in the camp hospital.”

“Like hell! What does Obojski know? Your brother wasn’t even near the camp hospital when he died. And it wasn’t a heart attack. I’m telling you. What an idiot that Obojski is!” he shouted in a haughty, condescending voice. “Of course, that’s what’s written in the book of the dead. I wrote the death notice myself,” he lied.

“And what did you write?” asked Moishe, getting infuriated by Dabrowsky’s impudence.

“Why, heart attack, of course.”

“ Then what did he really die of?”

Dabrowsky became quiet and stared at the ground. He occasionally glanced up at the rabbi. When their eyes finally met, Dabrowsky felt fear and anger grip him. Moishe became more and more irritated and tense. Both of them waited for the other to speak first. The silence of the moment weighed heavily on them. The ancient, cold walls of crumbling plaster in the synagogue only served to increase the tension. Teofil Dabrowsky looked around, hoping to see someone, but there wasn’t a single soul in the entire synagogue except them.

“I have to leave,” he whispered faintly.

“Won’t you answer me? Why did you come in the first place?”

“It’s a sad thing. You can’t even comprehend…”

“Leave me be, sir kapo.”

“I can’t let that happen. I didn’t come this far so you wouldn’t listen to my whole story. I mean really. You must hear me out.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand you, but maybe I don’t want to.”

“Aren’t you interested in your brother’s fate?”

“You know nothing about it. I’m guessing you want money.”

“How could you suggest such a thing? Money? I’ve got enough of that.”

“Of course, I forgot. You were a kapo.”

“That was uncalled for!”

“Let’s leave it here. Please go. Go back home. It’s for the best.”

“You know what? I’ll tell you on my way out. Your brother didn’t come back to the camp with us.”

“What do you mean?”

“He wasn’t alive,” whimpered Dabrowsky.

The rabbi felt confused all of a sudden. He looked at him, not wanting to believe what he had heard. A look of searing hate furrowed his brow. Dabrowsky noticed this change in him, and he knew that the end was near.

“Teofil! You’re not saying that … that …” asked Moishe in a guarded voice.

“Yes, I am,” he snapped. His voice was unusual. He stomped his legs together as he had done so often at the Auschwitz concentration camp when talking to stinking Jews. He pulled out a gold cigarette case, took out a single cigarette, put it in his mouth, and only became conscious of what he was doing when he followed Moishe`s gaze, which was fixed on the cigarette case . It was too late by then.

“I’m sorry,” he stammered while firmly holding onto the case in his hand. In that moment, Moishe Kras recognized the cigarette case, and everything became clear.

“Rabbi, What’s wrong? Hey, Rabbi Moishe, what’s up with you?”

Moishe Kras silently and calmly regarded his enemy. Hellfire was blazing in his eyes, but he didn’t lose his cool. He tightly grasped a candlestick, which he had pulled closer a few seconds before. He looked up at his potential victim for a moment, who stood there like a stone, unable to even think of fleeing. Maybe he didn’t want to flee. The thought of murder ran through Rabbi Moishe’s mind. And in that cruel moment of bloodthirst, his conditioning came crashing down on him, and he placed the candlestick back, as if he had never even picked it up. Dabrowsky was frothing at the mouth, sweat covered his body, and his contorted face was covered in tears.

“I demand satisfaction. Absolve me!” he said hysterically.

Moishe Kras studied the depraved man in front of him. They stood in silence for quiet a while.

“I forgive you.”

“Why?” shouted the despondent man.

“Because you’re still a human being.”

What happened after that? We’ll never know. Rabbi Moishe Kras hasn’t been heard from since. Teofil Dabrowsky, the oberkapo of Auschwitz, has been dead for twenty years.


My dear reader, I hope you liked my short story. Thank you for reading it. I think you would like my novel, Sanctuary of the Guilty, which is why I would like to recommend it to you. Of course you can read it free. The events of the book take place in a Catholic seminary where I had to live as a priest student. In a secret and close world where very shocking things happen… about which some people would like to remain silent. I wrote about these with a little apprehension but I think that the truth must always come to light…

Thank you very much for your interest. Laszlo Malota

Sanctuary of the Guilty - Michele

The Sanctuary of the Guilty topped the Best Seller’s list in Europe. This book overtook Bridget Jones’s Diary by H. Fielding, The Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien and Imre Kertesz’s novel Fatelessness  which won a Nobel Prize. The Sanctuary of the Guilty was so successful that pirated versions of the book were circulated widely in Hungary.

It received the following review from Miklos Jancso (awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for his work on Red Psalm):

“Laszlo Malota you honoured me with a copy of your novel. I read this novel three times. I like it. I like it because of its irony. I like the author’s courage, his incredible bravery. Are you aware of the importance of it? Do you know that you have stirred up a hornest’s nest? It involves persecution, anger. Perhaps involving stakes or not. Or maybe, all things considered, there could also be an auto-da-fe. A truly great film could be made from it. That would cause a huge scandal. It would be an incredible world scandal.”

It received the following review from David Paul Kirkpatrick (Former President of the Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Motion Picture Group):

„Laszlo Malota has written a breathtaking book, Sanctuary of the Guilty that everyone should read for such a book will change perspectives. I hope that one day, we will not only read it but see it as a movie. In the right hands, I am sure the movie would be fantastic.”


Few samples from the Sanctuary of the Guilty:

“All the nuns, each of them holding a candle, started pacing around the crucifix. By the mystical, quivering light of the candles, I finally caught a glimpse of my nun’s face, who so eagerly wanted to break the sixth commandment through our fall into sin. Her face was pleasant and childlike. The faster and deeper we immersed ourselves in each other, the more her face bloomed. As she plunged ever more ferociously beneath the waves of lust rising out of her uncontrollable passion, her face transformed and became more and more like a fairy’s bedecked with rose petals and dewdrops. By the time she finished and fell on top of me, barely conscious, holding her blazing face against mine, the nuns had already stopped their aimless meandering outside. The way they repeatedly passed by us during their procession made it seem as if they were trying to lavish offerings upon Jesus, maybe to bring salvation to sinful souls. Perhaps they inadvertently helped to bring about our salvation as well.”

“I lay shivering on the floor, curled up in a ball. The feeling of helplessness was unbearable. I didn’t understand what was happening to me or why. My head was swimming, rendering me incapable of clear thought, so I couldn’t come up with a solution to this horrible predicament. I wanted to think about Esther in these trying hours, but I couldn’t even do that. I lay dejected in one of the seminary’s hidden cellars, lonely and isolated from the rest of the world. For the very first time in my life, I thought of death as a possible way out.”

“The old woman led us to a poorly furnished vestibule with worn plaster walls. The sound of a terrifying death rattle came from the adjacent room. I was so shaken by fear that I could feel my legs turn to jelly, and I was unable to move. A funny smell wafted through the air, and I knew right away that it was the smell of death.”

“I almost stumbled as I stepped into the dark and fetid room. The shutters had been pulled down. I couldn’t bring myself to even think about it, but against my own will, I turned to where the old man lay dying. A towel had been placed under his head–a white towel with roses on it.”

“As I looked at the descending casket that contained the earthly remains of my former fellow seminarian and prisoner, I remembered Erasmus with pity. Despite being a dedicated student, he became the victim of his bitter love affair.”

“I stood up and left so that the old nun could spend her last few lifeless hours in peace before she is finally put to her eternal rest underground. A bell struck midnight somewhere in the distance. I mingled with the praying crowd, and in my mirth I decided to lie myself down among them. Although the stone was cold, I didn’t get up for a while. Someone nearby started sobbing loudly, so I bent over and kissed her face. My reward was a single teardrop, which trickled playfully down my neck. The air was filled with reverence. I soon fell asleep for a short while. Incense descended upon me like a thick fog.”



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