Social Justice Stories

building compassion, tolerance, and responsible citizenship through social justice narratives

The Secret of the Village Fool

by Rebecca Upjohn and Renné Benoit

The true story of Anton, an unlikely hero who saved a family and two orphan girls during the Holocaust

Milek and his brother, Munio, live in a sleepy village in Poland, where nothing exciting seems to happen. They do have an odd neighbor, though. Although he is a kind and gentle man, the people of the village laugh at Anton and call him the village fool because of his strange habits; he talks to animals, feeds flies, and only eats vegetables. Milek and Munio's mother is one of the few to show kindness to Anton, asking her boys to bring him soup and clothing.

When the war brings Nazi soldiers to town, life becomes dangerous for Jewish families like Milek and Munio's. The Nazis begin rounding up Jewish boys and Anton, worried about Milek and Munio's safety, comes up with a plan to hide the boys, their parents, and two orphaned Jewish girls deep inside his root cellar. As the months go by, the hideaways experience everything from lice to swollen joints to hunger in order to remain safe. Putting his life at risk without a thought, Anton shows that extraordinary courage can be found in the most gentle of people.

Based on a true story, the final pages of the book has details on what happened to Anton and the others after the war, including photos. Not so foolish after all, Anton was honored by the Polish government and by the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, where he was named one of the Righteous Among the Nations for his bravery.