Knitting Friendships on the Treasure Coast, Part 2: Story of the Unsung Hero
Previously Published in the Pineapple Post
By Helena Kyle
One of the women I am knitting friendships with, of my Kane Center Knitters group, invited me to attend a documentary presented at the Kane Center last November, entitled, Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald. Her husband is featured in the film along with an unsung hero, a man I have not heard of previously, Antonin Kalina; he risked his life to protect the lives of nearly 1000 boys sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, January of 1945.
As pressure mounted against the Nazi regime and prior to liberation, Buchenwald concentration camp filled with captives from concentration camps the Nazi regime designated to destroy. Among the captives forced to walk, or herded in open cattle-cars to Buchenwald, in frigid winter temperatures, was nearly one thousand boys, from the age of 11 to 16. My knitter friend, is married to a man who was one of the boys whose life was protected by Antonin Kalina.
Do any one of us, of a younger generation, truly know what we would do if thrust into the nightmarish circumstances of WWII? Heroes throughout history remind us to be of courage, to keep our wits about us, and to take a stand for righteousness. Antonin Kalina did just that; he was an ordinary man with extraordinary courage; a true hero. He exemplified the Golden Rule through his heroic deeds in the midst of the most atrocious circumstances.
In 1939, he was taken prisoner by the Nazi regime; and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp due to his political views. He operated within the resistance throughout his interment at Buchenwald. When the boys arrived, he helped protect them by securing them in the quarantine barracks furthest away from the Nazi quarters. The Nazis avoided the quarantine barracks for fear of disease. The barracks became known as the Kinderblock, or children’s block. Antonin led others in the resistance to help secure blankets, and when possible, extra food for the boys. The boys were confined to the barracks as protection from being overworked; they did not have stamina as they were nearly starving to death. He offered encouragement and hope to the boys, in what seemed a hopeless situation.
The captives at Buchenwald were liberated by the U.S. Army on April 11, 1945. My knitter friend’s husband immigrated to the United States in 1946. He was the only survivor of his family.
Antonin Kalina was born in 1902, in Czechoslovakia, he died in 1990. Twenty years after his death, through eye-witness testimonies, and documentation, his name was added to the memorial wall, The Righteous of the Nations.
There is much more to my Kane Center knitters group than meets the eye. As stories unfold, important lessons of history, the bad and the good, come to mind. The story of Antonin Kalina, of those whose lives were protected and impacted by him, inspires me, and I hope it does you as well, to live by the Golden Rule, to do the right thing no matter the circumstances.