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on 20 January 2013
Before the war the small town of Gdow, the nearest large community to my grandfather's farm, had a sizeable number of Jews living in it. My father used to talk about them; they ran some of the shops and inns, they traded with his parents, he went to school with them (they gave him their chicken sandwiches and he gave them his pork kielbasa ones). One of these Jews, a trader called Samuel, often came round to the farm and would chat with my grandparents. He would make complimentary comments about my grandmother's Bigos, hinting at being given a bowl. She would joke with him and warn him that the Rabbi would have something to say if he knew he was eating pork... and he would joke back. When the Germans came Samuel came to see my grandfather and asked him to help him. My grandfather said, "I can hide you for three days but no longer, if the Germans find out then they'll not only kill me but my wife and children as well." Samuel replied that he would not impose himself on his good friends but would find another way of surviving.
He didn't. He and all the Jews of Gdow; shopkeepers, innkeepers, tradesmen, schoolfriends, ended up in Belzec and were turned into ashes, bones and dust.
This book is about something that is almost taken for granted throughout. It is not really about the courage it took to survive in the sewers of Lvov because survival is not about courage, more about determination to live despite all the hazards. This book is about the courage of one man, Leopold Socha. To put your life in danger for others is a brave choice, but to put the lives of those you love at risk... that takes a kind of courage few people actually exhibit - yet so many in Poland did in that nightmare time. Socha may not have started with saintly aspirations but there can be no doubt that saint he became.
I was inspired to read "In the Sewers of Lvov" after watching Agnieszka Holland's "In Darkness" (it's the original book that the film is based on - "The Girl in the Green Sweater" is a more recent 'compilation' of reminiscences written partly by the small girl who survived). It's a very easy read and gives us a reasonable picture of what life was like for the individuals who hid in the sewers as well as in the ghetto and the concentration camp, Janowska, nearby. It's not intellectually demanding since, I believe, it was written for the general audience. I was quite surprised at how much the film reflects the book yet, whilst there is little new in the book (having seen the film), I still enjoyed it and still found it fascinating.
It's surprising how little of the dirt and smell, even danger, comes across. The small group of Jews helped by Socha had obviously grown so used to the horrible circumstances in which they found themselves. It's only really towards the end, when outsiders become involved, that that one becomes aware of the dirt and smell and conditions they had to endure. Most of the story, based on the written reminiscences of the leader of the group, Ignacy Chiger, and interviews with other survivors, deals with their day-to-day survival, the relationships within the group, the arguments. Whilst there are deaths they are largely almost incidental... this story is about life... and the courage of that one special man who found safe havens and brought them food, Socha.
The moment that really stands out for me is that one when the dirty, hunched, almost blind group finally come to the surface. People stand around amazed, stunned. The little boy is frightened and wants to go back down. Socha stands there proudly. "This is my work," he says, "These are my Jews." How many of us can ever hope to have that courage and that pride?
And the final chapter, the one dealing with the aftermath is new stuff to those who have seen the film, apart, that is, from that final tragedy and those disgraceful words...
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on 24 April 2011
This is a true story of the courage of ordinary people who found themselves tested to the very limit of human endurance. It also has the thread of survival running through it.

I would recommend it to anybody interested in this dark period of modern history. It also carries a warning of what human beings can sink to.

Let us never forget the brave people who helped strangers in this time
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on 27 August 2015
I gave this edition only 4 stars because the photographs which were in the earlier edition have been omitted for copyright reasons, explained I the preface. The photographs, especially those of the people mentioned, do enhance the impact of the events of the book. I had read the book in the earlier edition, so was a bit disappointed not to see them in this copy. I am hoping to borrow a library copy so I can photocopy the photographs and keep them with the book
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on 19 April 2015
This was an excellent book that would be of interest to anyone wanting an undramatised, factual account of how a small group of Jews hid for 14 months in the sewers beneath the Polish town of Lvov to escape death when the ghetto was razed.
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on 1 March 2013
Scary TRUE story about the hell on earth for some poor Polish Jews during WW11 – so sad, at some times a bit slow – BUT the truth takes a little longer… Highly recommended – couldn’t put it down. Now have the Academy award film on DVD (also from Amazon), and eagerly looking forward to that……..
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on 5 December 2012
Well having seen the film i decided to get the book and they always say the book's much better which it was, i thoroughly enjoyed the book, just a shame the guy Socha who helped the Jewish people in the sewers never survived but his memory will live on. A great read.
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on 28 March 2014
This Biography of survival should be read by everyone this book shows how inner strength and determination to keep alive and survive living in what can only be described as the pit of Hell
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on 30 April 2015
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on 21 May 2015
This book is haunting. This book explains what it took these poor wretches to survive. That they managed "funds" to pay their caretaker....to feed them.
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on 28 July 2016
If you have read The Girl In The Green Jumper then you have already read this. It's still an interesting read from a slightly different perspective
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