In 1943, Leopold Socha was a sanitation worker in Lvov, Poland, when he made a shocking discovery: a small group of Jews hiding in the city sewer system.
Though he could have faced severe punishment for helping them, Leopold decided not to reveal their location to the authorities. Instead, he risked his life by suggesting hiding places and bringing them food and news from the outside world.
Stories like Leopold's will be featured throughout the 2012 Days of Remembrance, beginning this Sunday, April 15. The theme, Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue, honors people who chose action over indifference, saving countless lives.
You can participate in next week's activities in several ways:
Attend an observance ceremony in a community near you. View our interactive map of locations nationwide.
Watch the live webcast of the National Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance ceremony in the US Capitol on Thursday, April 19. We'll send you a link that morning.
Explore more stories of rescue and share your thoughts about Holocaust remembrance.
Among the 10 people who Leopold helped save is Krystyna Chiger (now Kristine Keren), who was a young girl in 1943.
Krystyna was wearing her favorite green sweater when her family descended into the sewers, and she wore it throughout her 14 months in hiding. She recently donated it to the Museum, and you can learn about our efforts to preserve it by watching this video
Thank you for joining us in honoring and remembering the victims of the Holocaust.
Kristine A. Donly
Director of National Planning
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
THIS IS A REPRINT OF ORIGINAL COLUMN FROM APRIL 2009. Yom Hashoah 2012 will be commemorated on April 18
This week has been designated as Days of Remembrance to surround Yom Hashoah. For those not familiar with this Jewish holiday, it is the day set aside every year to remember those who were lost in the Holocaust.
“As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes…for the wind passeth over it and it is gone.”The voices of the survivors and liberators will one day be silent, but their souls will be heard forever. Some of those liberators have never been honored as they deserve and for Kathleen Cowley it is a mission to bring a special honor to her father, Edward Cowley, and the other men of the U.S. Army 94th Infantry. The 94th liberated an area that held prisoners but was not designated after the war as one of "official" camps nor were they designated "liberators". There is no argument about this part of the story. Unfortunately, the designation for the 94th got caught up in Army and political rules and the designation fell through the cracks of officialdom until time ran out. You can read the story at the above link and in the letters below.
It will now take an Act of Congress to get these men named as "liberators" with a permanent place of honor in the National Holocaust Museum. Just the other day, Kathleen received a hopeful contact from the office of Senator Kennedy and this is her report on progress:
REQUEST FOR RECOGNITION OF THE 94TH INFANTRY DIVISION AS LIBERATORS.
I was finally able to get a hold of the military liaison I've been working with at Sen. Kennedy's office yesterday. She told me that the Congressional Research Center was not helpful and that they had hit a wall, as it is unchartered territory for them and not sure how best to proceed from here. So one of the aides in the office is to make this his sole priority for the next few days. Although as a matter of procedure they do not send people to the media, she told me that if CBS Sunday Morning News (she did seem to think this is their sort of story) were to contact them they would be very happy to speak with them. She feels this is an important "feel good" story that should be told and national interest would of course help this all along. It had previously been gently requested to wait and see what Sen. Kennedy could do so that he would be the one to present the case of the 94th before Congress. Yesterday she pointed out that Sen. Kennedy's time to put forth legislation is limited now but that this is very important, and if it comes to it in the near future, it might require an Act of Congress which they are willing to do but will be more helpful in that instance to contact other politicians willing to expend the time necessary. What I got from all this was to please pursue the media now and then we'll see where that takes it.So...... Her next step is to pound on the doors of the media and other political offices to get them to tell a feel good story about her father and the other men of the 94th somewhere in the middle of all the latest doom and gloom. As she says, "If it weren't for the brave soldiers of the 94th ( who helped save the world) and my dear Da that I adore and whose time in this realm is so precious, I wouldn't be comfortable to ask, but there is so little time for their stories to be heard." So the pounding continues until someone important wakes up and tells the tale and Congress gives these men the place of honor they deserve.
If you have any contacts out there in the great world of media or politics, a little assist in the pounding on doors would be deeply appreciated before the winds of time carry these men away from the chance of earthly honors. What you do matters. The letters to Senator Kennedy's office that started this campaign will be in the next post.
For those who would like to know more about Yom Hashoah, you can visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. This year Holocaust Remembrance Day is Tuesday, April 21. You can read the full observance with video and the Presidential address. Take the time to read some of the stories collected at the National Holocaust Museum website. They include those of the families who lost members, those who were saved, and the memories of the men who liberated the camps.
Edward Cowley, Jr.