The twelfth child of a poor Czech shoemaker, Antonin Kalina followed in his father’s footsteps…until he was nabbed by the Nazis and imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp. But at Buchenwald, Kalina found a higher calling.
Death Marches to Buchenwald
As World War II came to a close and the Nazis realized they would lose, the Germans hid evidence of their hideous crimes against humanity. They forced prisoners from the eastern death camps on westward death marches. More than 100,000 prisoners arrived at Buchenwald, many of them children. Hundreds of these children found a friend in Antonin Kalina.
While part of the camp’s underground resistance, Kalina had also been appointed an elder of “Block 66,” where many children were held.
Because infectious diseases like typhus had run rampant through the “blocks,” no Nazi wanted to enter. This allowed Kalina freedom to help the young people imprisoned in Block 66. He shielded the youngest from the hardest work and worst physical abuse. He provided blankets and extra food, and taught them lessons as if they were still in school.
As the Allies approached, the Nazis planned to round up all Jews in the camp. Kalina provided the Jewish children in his block false papers saying they were Gentiles, thus saving their lives.
After the war, Kalina returned home and never spoke of his experiences in Buchenwald. Many of the children he saved never spoke of their horrible memories, either. The man who saved them from the Nazis died in 1990, his story unknown. At last, thanks to the testimony of some of “Kalina’s Children,” Antonin Kalina received recognition as Righteous Among the Nations from Yad Vashem, with three of the children he had saved at the 2012 ceremony in the Holy Land. Let us never forget the lives lost during the Holocaust, or the heroes who saved many more lives.Tags: Advocates and Allies Antonin Kalina Buchenwald children History Holocaust