“A Lot of You Cared, Just Not Enough” by ShareGood Blogger David Weiss
This quote by Jay Asher from “Thirteen Reasons Why” always stops me dead in my tracks. Indeed, there are two possible paths to resisting oppression. Caring a lot and a lot of people caring. In reality, there needs to be an equation or combination of both. During the Holocaust, humanity fell short on both counts. That does not mean, however, that everyone fell short. You have probably heard the story of Oskar Schindler, but have you heard about Anton Sukhinski? Prepare to be inspired.
Anton Sukhinski was seen by others as a loner and an outcast. Some would describe him as a recluse. Some even reportedly described him as the village idiot. Sukhinski was never married and lived his entire life on the brink of poverty in a small house in the small rural Polish town of Zborow. But at the time of a total moral and ethical collapse going on around him, Anton Sukhinski was an upstander, not a bystander. Without any help or support from anyone he was responsible for the survival of six people.
The Zeiger family knew Suchinski from before the war but more as a casual acquaintance than a friend. There were large waves of killings in Zborov in 1941. The Jews who survived were put in a ghetto. For months, the Jews in the ghetto had to worry about random killing raids and deportation. It was at this time that Anton Sukhinski offered to shelter the family. They were initially unsure about accepting the offer, but then in June of 1943 rumors spread that soon all the remaining Jews in the area would be killed. Finally they accepted Sukhinski’s heroic offer.
The Zeiger family consisted of Itzhak (father), Sonya (mother), and their two sons, Shelley and Michael (6 and 8). The Zeiger’s brought a young girl names Eva Halperin along as well. Eva’s entire family had already been killed. By this time, Sukhinski was already hiding a 16 year old girl named Zipora Stock. Sukhinski hid them all in his cellar.
Eventually the neighbors found out about the hiding Jews and began extorting money from them. Being afraid that they would be captured, the Zeiger’s decided to flee. But the hostility they encountered from others left them no choice but to go back to Sukhinski’s home. He welcomed them warmly and hid them in the attic until Anton built another, new cellar hideout.
For nine months they remained cramped in a small dark hole with no room to move and only a small kerosene lamp to provide light. Sukhinski would bring them whatever food he could find but finding food for six people was a very hard task for a poor man in rural Poland. Sukhinski lived under the constant threat of being discovered by his neighbors and by the Germans. The local Polish militia and the Germans actually searched the premises and interrogated Sukhinski. If they would have found the Jews, it would be the end for everyone including Sukhinski.
Finally the day of liberation came, and the trapdoor opened. First the family thought that their hiding place had been discovered. Then they saw Anton and heard the good news. In June of 1944 the Soviets had liberated their section of Poland. They left the small hole for the first time in nine months. Their lack of movement and exposure to light made it hard to walk and open their eyes in the sunlight initially. After liberation the six people from the hiding place stayed together for a while; then they set out to build new lives. The Zeigers were lucky enough to make it to the USA. Eva Halperin went to Uruguay, and Zipora Stock left for Israel.
Anton Sukhinski was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1974. When asked why he saved the Jews, Anton Sukhinski replied “God told me to”.
David Weiss was born, raised and still lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Being the grandson of four Holocaust Survivors has always been an integral part of his identity and life. David earned a Bachelors of Arts in Education from Cardinal Stritch University and a Masters of Arts in Education from Viterbo University. He spent eleven years as a second and third grade teacher before starting his own promotions business. David is also an author and teaches at the college level. David and his wife are the proud parents of a six year old daughter.