Leib Lejzon was one of
the Schindler Jews of Schindlers List. One column of numbers and names, No.
69128, Eisendrehergeh., it says in German next to his name.
Leib Lejzon - today Leon Leyson - was 13
years old when his father brought him into Oskar Schindler’s enamelware
factory DEF. He was the youngest survivor of Schindler's List.
After World War 2, Leon Leyson spent three years in a displaced persons
camp near Frankfurt Am Main in Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1949 and
served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Afterward, he attended Los
Angeles City College and Los Angeles State College and became a teacher.
He taught industrial arts at Huntington Park High School for 39 years and
is now retired.
Leon Leyson is a member of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education
Advisory Board at Chapman University and he has told his story to school
groups, universities and community organizations hundreds of times across
California and the nation - drawing record crowds and rave reviews. He is
married to Liz, and has two children, Stacy and Daniel Tsalig. And three
He was born on September 15, 1929, in Narewka, a peaceful town 150 miles
northeast of Warsaw. Here Moshe and Chana Lejzon led a happy life,
highlighted by the births of their five children, Hershel, Tsalig, Pesza,
David and Lejb. The Lejzon family's feelings of security collapsed,
however, when in 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and the brutality of the
Nazis accelerated with murder, violence and terror - the family was herded
into Kracow's Jewish Ghetto.
In 1941 Hershel, the oldest, fled Kracow but was killed by the Nazis in a
massacre in Narewka. By then, Moshe and David were working for Oskar
Schindler at his enameled-goods factory Emalia, Deutsch Emailwaren
Fabrik, close to the Jewish ghetto.
Schindler decided to risk everything in desperate attempts to
protect his Jews from certain death in the death camps. Thanks to massive
bribery and his connections, he got away with increasing his Jewish
workforce - and the Lejzon family were reunited at the Schindler factory.
Leon Leyson was just a skinny kid when he was chosen to work for Oskar
Schindler, though he was so little that he couldn't reach the handles on
the machine. He used to stand on an upside-down box. Schindler developed a
fondness for him, nicknaming him little Leyson and showing
him many kindnesses.
Leyson later recalled: "Occasionally, when he was by himself, he
would come and talk to me. He ordered that I get extra rations of food
.." David M. Crowe tells in his great book Oskar Schindler how
Schindler on one occasion gave little Leyson "a hunk of bread",
which Leyson later described as "the most exciting thing" he had
been given in a long time. The boy hid the bread and later shared it with
his father and brother.
When Leyson's vision began to blur from the factory work, he was excused
from the night shift. Schindler's most important act was putting little
Leyson on the final list. His two eldest brothers did not survive the war,
but he, his parents and brother and sister were saved by Schindler.
Little Leyson's mother and sister were among the 300 Schindler-women, who
were routed on a train to Auschwitz by a mistake. Certain death awaited.
When they were being herded off toward the showers they did not know
whether this was going to be water or gas. Suddenly they heard a voice:
'What are you doing with these people ? These are my people.' Schindler!
He had come to rescue them, bribing the Nazis to retrieve the women on his
list and bring them back.
The women were released from Auschwitz - the only shipment out of the
death camp during World War 2.
For almost five decades, Leon Leyson never said much about the horrors of
Holocaust or the salvation of becoming one of Schindler's Jews.
But the film Schindler's List changed everything. Overnight
everyone was interested in the subject - people were eager to hear from
someone who had actually been there with Oskar Schindler. Leon Leyson
found himself talking about and sharing a part of his life that was locked
inside him for so long.
Many students have heard Leon Leyson tell the story of his
sixteen-year-old brother, Tsalig, who refused Schindler's railway station
offer of safety and chose instead to accompany his girlfriend to a death
camp because he did not want her to be alone.
In Elinor J. Brecher's great book Schindler's Legacy Leyson tells
how the Nazis took Tsalig and sent him with a transport to the death camp
Belzec, though he might have been saved: "It seems that Oskar
Schindler was at the station, looking to pull someone off the train. He
had seen Tsalig at Emalia with Moshe - he had the memory of an elephant
- and offered to take him off. But Tsalig didn't want to leave his
They were both murdered by the Nazis.
More than 60 years later , Leyson still cannot tell his brother's story
without tears in his eyes.
Leon Leyson met Oskar Schindler once after the war, in 1972, when a group
of survivors invited Schindler to Los Angeles. Leon was among those who
welcomed him at the airport. He wasn't sure Schindler would recognize him,
but no reminder proved necessary.
"I know who you are," said Oskar Schindler. "You are little