His name was Anton. He lived on the very edge of society in the town of Zborow, Poland; no friends, no family; his home a rundown shack. The townspeople called him the "village idiot”.
When the Nazis arrived, they immediately killed 1,000 Jewish men, and herded the remaining Jews into a ghetto. Amidst this chaos was the Zeiger family, just a mom and dad with two little boys, and two orphans they were attempting to save. They turned to their former neighbors for help, but could not find one willing soul. That is until they found Anton.
Although physically a very small man, he gladly dug a pit large enough to hold the family of six beneath his shack. The Zeigers would live there with only the light of a small kerosene lamp for nine months. Anton would manage to scavenge enough food to sustain them without drawing the attention of the townspeople and took care of their every need despite the constant threat of Nazi searches and harassment.
Zborow was liberated in 1944, and the Zeigers emerged into the sunlight, safe and free once again. Thirty years later, in 1974, Anton Sukhinski was recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile. He was the only resident of Zborow known to have helped the Jews.
Would I have been as brave, I wonder, as courageous as the “village idiot”?
Anton with one of the children he saved in 1974.