Leon Leyson was one of the youngest members of Schindler's List. He brings a unique perspective to the history of the Holocaust and a powerful message of courage and humanity. Believing that no one would be interested in his story, he rarely spoke about his experiences until the film Schindler's List received worldwide attention.
A graduate of Los Angeles City College; California State University, Los Angeles; and Pepperdine University, he taught at Huntington Park High School in Huntington Park, California, for thirty-nine years. In recognition of his many accomplishments as educator and witness to the Holocaust, Mr. Leyson was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Chapman University. Mr. Leyson passed away in January 2013, leaving behind his wife, Lis; their two children; and six grandchildren. Dr. Marilyn J. Harran is the author of The Holocuast Chronicle: A History in Words and Pictures, which has sold more than 250,000 copies. She holds the Stern Chair in Holocaust Education at Chapman University, where she is also the founding director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education. Dr. Harran is a 2008 recipient of the Spirit of Anne Frank Award and a member of the board of the Association of Holocaust Organizations. She lives in Orange, California. Elizabeth B. Leyson, Leon's wife, lives in Fullerton, California.
* "Leyson, who died in January at age 83, was No. 289 on
Schindler's list and its youngest member. He was just 13 when
Leyson's father convinced Oskar Schindler to let "Little Leyson"
(as Schindler knew him) and other family members find refuge in the
Emalia factory; Leyson was so small he had to stand on a box to
work the machinery. Leyson and his coauthors give this wrenching
memoir some literary styling, but the book is at its most powerful
when Leyson relays the events in a straightforward manner, as if in
a deposition, from the shock of seeing his once-proud father shamed
by anti-Semitism to the deprivation that defined his youth.
Schindler remains a kindly but enigmatic figure in Leyson's
retelling, occasionally doting but usually distant. Leyson makes it
clear that being "Schindler Jews" offered a thread of hope, but it
never shielded them from the chaos and evil that surrounded them.
Readers will close the book feeling that they have made a genuinely
personal connection to this remarkable man."
--Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2013, *STARRED REVIEW
* "A posthumous Holocaust memoir from the youngest person on Oskar Schindler's list.
Completed before his death in January 2013, Leyson's narrative opens with glowing but not falsely idyllic childhood memories of growing up surrounded by friends and relatives in the Polish village of Narewka and then the less intimate but still, to him, marvelous city of Krak w. The Nazi occupation brought waves of persecution and forced removals to first a ghetto and then a labor camp--but since his father, a machinist, worked at the enamelware factory that Schindler opportunistically bought, 14-year-old "Leib" (who was so short he had to stand on the titular box to work), his mother and two of his four older siblings were eventually brought into the fold. Along with harrowing but not lurid accounts of extreme privation and casual brutality, the author recalls encounters with the quietly kind and heroic Schindler on the way to the war's end, years spent at a displaced-persons facility in Germany and at last emigration to the United States. Leyson tacks just a quick sketch of his adult life and career onto the end and closes by explaining how he came to break his long silence about his experiences. Family photos (and a picture of the famous list with the author's name highlighted) add further personal touches to this vivid, dramatic account. Significant historical acts and events are here put into unique perspective by a participant."--Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2013, *STARRED REVIEW