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Rescue in the Polish Sewers

Leopold Socha, a Polish sewage inspector who hid Jews in the sewers during WWII (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Leopold Socha

Life: August 28, 1909 - May 12, 1946

Why you should know him: Leopold Socha was a Polish sewage inspector who used his knowledge of the sewer system to shelter and save Jews during the Holocaust.

Leopold Socha lived in a poor neighborhood in the Polish city of Lwow, where he worked for the sanitation department. When the Nazis occupied Poland, Socha was horrified at the Germans' treatment of his Jewish neighbors. One night, as the Nazis liquidated the Lwow ghetto, Socha was able to help.

As he worked in the sewers that night, Socha found a group of Jews using the tunnels to flee the Nazis. Socha stopped the group from heading in the direction of German authorities and certain death. Instead, he told the Jews to stay hidden in the sewers where they would be safe. With the help of his wife and friends, Socha provided the Jewish refugees with food, prayer books, and news from the outside world. When an infant and an elderly woman died, Socha made sure both received a proper burial.

After the Nazis' defeat and Poland's liberation, the surviving refugees celebrated at the Socha home. Ten of the 21 refugees survived the Holocaust, thanks to the humble sanitation worker.

In 1978, Leopold and his wife Magdalena were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Sadly, Leopold did not survive to accept this honor, as he was killed shortly after the war when he steered his own bicycle into the path of a Soviet truck headed toward his young daughter. But thanks to the selfless actions of Leopold Socha, many lives were saved - both his daughter's and those of Jews who would have surely been murdered by the Nazis.

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