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"I did not live my life in the shadow of the Holocaust. I did not give my children a legacy of fear. I gave them a legacy of freedom." Leon Leyson, 1929-2013
Leon Leyson, who at 10 years old was the youngest person of 1,100 to be sheltered from the Nazis by German businessman Oskar Schindler during World War II, passed away over the weekend from lymphoma. He was 83.
Leyson was the youngest of five children, born in 1929. He grew up in Krakow, Poland and was ten years old when the Nazi Occupation forces began to systematically herd Polish Jews into a fence-enclosed ghetto in the middle of the city. For hundreds of thousands of the country's Jewish population and for millions of Jews across Europe, this was the beginning of the end-- Hitler's so-called 'Final Solution' had gotten underway.
Incredibly good fortune shined on Leon and some members of his family (two of his four siblings were killed by the Germans) when Schindler added them to his now-famous 'List' of factory employees as a means of sheltering them from Nazi deportation. At the time Leon was too small to reach the machinery in the factory and needed to stand on a box to get his work done, leading Schindler to refer to him as "Little Leyson."
In 1949, Leyson emigrated to Los Angeles, where his factory work served him well in his studies of industrial design at both LA City College, Cal State Fullerton, and finally Pepperdine, where he earned a Masters in Education in 1970.
Leyson went to work at Huntington Park High School as both a shop teacher and counselor, retiring in 1997.
It wasn't until the release of the epic Steven Spielberg film in 1993--and Leyson's profound response to it--that he began to speak publicly about his experiences during the war years, about his status as the youngest person on 'Schindler's List', and of his deeply held admiration for Oskar Schindler.
Remarkably, Leyson is survived not only by his wife, his son, his daughter and six grandchildren, but he is also survived by his two remaining siblings.
Source: Los Angeles Times