Czech Holocaust hero Antonín Kalina remembered in home town
On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Czechs are marking the memory of Antonín Kalina, a Czechoslovak Communist who risked his own life to save at least 900, mostly Jewish children from the Holocaust. A documentary about the unsung hero of the Holocaust was premiered on Czech Television this week while his hometown of Třebíč announced plans to open a memorial hall dedicated to their famous son.
Kalina, who was born in Třebíč in 1902 was imprisoned in the camp by the Nazis in 1939 for being a member of the Communist Party and trade union agitator. He used his position in the camp’s communist resistance to become the prisoner in charge of Bloc 66, known as the children’s or Kinderblock, protecting the most vulnerable prisoners from the harsh conditions of the camp. He spared them hard work, provided them with better blankets and sometimes additional food.
“There will be panels telling the story of his life and a little exposition of shoemaking, because he came from a shoemaker’s family. We will have authentic objects belonging to his father. But the most valuable exhibits, including all the awards he received in memoriam, are currently on their way from his relative in California.”
Antonín Kalina was recognised by the Israeli award for gentiles who helped Jews escape the Holocaust as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2012. In 2014, he received the Medal of Merit in Memoriam by President Miloš Zeman. So how come that Antonín Kalina heroism went unrecognised for so many years?
The memorial hall in Třebíč dedicated to Antonín Kalina is set to open on February 17 on the occasion of what would be his 115th birthday. In the future, the town hall also plans to open an exhibition focused on lives of the children he managed to save.