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Anton Sukhinski was a societal outcast and gentle soul living as the village idiot in Zborow, Poland during the Holocaust and World War II. He saved six of his Jewish neighbors when Nazi Germany occupied Ukraine by bravely hiding them in the basement of his home. Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, honored Sukhinski as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for saving the Jews.

Personal Biography

Anton Sukhinski was born in Zborow, Poland, now Zboriv, Ukraine, in 1918.[1] He remained in Zborow for the rest of his life. The townspeople believed him to be the village idiot and Sukhinski lived a quiet life as an outcast and loner. His neighbors ridiculed him for being a sweet, gentle man with an unwavering affection for all living things.

Sukhinski was very poor and lived alone in a small house in Zborow. He never married and never produced children. Sukhinski supposedly had one brother who married and lived close to Anton’s home in Zborow.[2]

Finding Sukhinski

The German Nazis arrived in Zborow, Poland, on July 4, 1941. The SS went door to door looking for Jewish citizens. When they found someone Jewish, the SS took the person and they were never heard from again. This story occurred over and over again in the small town. One of the residents, Eva Halperin, witnessed her banker father and her two brothers be taken from their home and they never returned. They came to collect her mother shortly after that and Halperin managed to escape by hiding in a woodshed.

Halperin joined five other Jewish families from the community in the Zborow Ghetto, where they suffered a severe typhoid epidemic. This killed almost 20 prisoners a day. In March 1943, the Nazi SS relocated the Jews to a labor camp. Halperin learned the Nazi officials planned to exterminate all the Jews in the camp. On June 23, 1943, Halperin escaped the death camp with another Jewish family.[3]

Holocaust Heroism

Anton Sukhinski’s reputation as an eccentric loner caused the Jewish refugees to initially deny his offer of help.

The Zeiger family escaped with Halperin. The family consisted of Itzhak Zeiger, the father, Sonya, the mother, and Shelly (age 6) and Michael (age 8), their two sons. Itzhak Zeiger spoke with Anton Sukhinski prior to their escape, when Sukhinski initially offered to help, but the family refused him at first. The Zeiger family knew Sukhinski from before the war and his reputation for being odd and eccentric. Once they learned of the Nazi officials’ plans to kill everyone in the camp, they decided to trust him and accept his assistance.

When the Zeiger family arrived with Eva Halperin and discovered a 16-year-old Jewish girl named Zipora Stock already in hiding. The Zeigers, Halperin, and Stock lived in Sukhinski’s for a short while before his neighbor’s realized he was hiding Jews. They started to harass the hidden Jews and Sukhinski himself. They blackmailed him for money for several months.

Sukhinski grew tired of being blackmailed. When the neighbors arrived to ask for money again, he grabbed his pistol and refused to pay one cent more. A shoot-out ensued and one of the women hiding with Sukhinski was killed. The remaining Jews, the Zeigers, Halperin, and Stock, fled the house in fear of Germans hearing the gunshots and coming to investigate. They attempted to find shelter from the brutal cold and snow, but failed. After facing much discrimination and hostility, the Jews returned to Sukhinski’s home.

Nowhere Else to Go

Anton Sukhinski first sheltered them in his attic when they returned. Eventually, he and Itzhad Zeiger managed to dig another underground hideout. [4] It stood about 2.5m x 1.2m x 0.80m.[5] The Zeiger family, Eva Halperin, and Zipora Stock remained in that small, dark hideaway with minimal space and only a tiny, kerosene lamp for nine more months. They stayed down there without leaving hardly at all since they feared drawing attention to their location and being discovered again.

Anton Sukhinski bravely saved six of his Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust despite being extremely poor and the great risk associated with hiding Jews from the Nazis.

Sukhinski brought them food and water when he could find it, despite being very impoverish.[6] His brother and his brother’s wife lived nearby and they helped provide food for the hidden Jews. His brother’s wife cooked and brought the food to Anton at night.[7] He checked on them daily to ensure their safety and remove the chamber pot filled every day. Sukhinski did this all despite the great fear of being caught by his neighbors again or by the Nazi SS.

The German Nazis arrived at his home on several occasions to search for hidden Jews. The first time, they scoured the whole property and firmly interrogated Sukhinski. The second time, the Nazis made it all the way into the basement, where the hidden Jews once resided. The new hiding place had been built adjacent to the basement. The Zeiger family, Halperin, and Stock stuffed rags into their mouths while the Nazis checked the basement to keep from making any noise. They knew if they were discovered not only would they be killed, but so would Sukhinski. [8]

On July 24, 1944, the Soviet Union succeeded in their attack against the Nazi’s in Zborow.[9] The hidden Jews at first were fearful when the trapdoor to their bunker opened. They thought they had been discovered, but they saw the same face that had been their savior over the last nine months. Sukhinski simply stated, "Come out. You have been saved. The Russians are here,” and they were free.

The six Jews saved by Anton Sukhinski remained together for the first few weeks after being liberated. They then chose to relocate to separate places around the world. The Zeiger family immigrated to the United States. Eva Halperin moved to Uruguay and Zipora Stock relocated to Israel.

In 1974, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, Yad Vashem recognized Anton Sukhinski as Righteous Among the Nations for his heroism in saving the Zeiger family, Eva Halperin, and Zipora Stock.[10] Sukhinksi died in 2006.[11]

References

Bibliography

Adler, E., & Yad Vashem. (2017). The Testimony of Eva Adler. Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs“ and Heroes” Remembrance Authority.[1]

Deaton, L., & Ratliff, L. (2015, April 22). Copy of Holocaust Heroes: Anton Sukhinski. Prezi.[2]


Yad Vashem. (2017). Anton Sukhinski. Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs“ and Heroes” Remembrance Authority.[3]

Footnotes

  1. Deaton & Ratliff, 2015
  2. Yad Vashem, 2017
  3. Adler & Yad Vashem, 2017
  4. Yad Vashem, 2017
  5. Adler & Yad Vashem, 2017
  6. Yad Vashem, 2017
  7. Adler & Yad Vashem, 2017
  8. Yad Vashem, 2017
  9. Adler & Yad Vashem, 2017
  10. Yad Vashem, 2017
  11. Deaton & Ratliff, 2015

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