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Tributes are paid to teacher saved by Oskar Schindler

Tributes are paid to teacher saved by Oskar Schindler

TRIBUTES have been paid to Leon Leyson who was the youngest person to be saved from the Nazis by the industrialist Oskar Schindler.

Mr. Leyson, who had become a teacher after the War, has passed away in Los Angeles aged 83.

As a 13-year-old boy, Mr. Leyson worked in the Krakow factory run by Schindler and where he was to eventually save 1,100 Jews by convincing the Nazis that they were needed to carry out essential work.

Mr. Leyson’s parents and two of his siblings were also saved by Schindler. His father was the first of the family to work for the industrialist and he asked the factory owner to add his wife and children to his list of essential workers.

After the War the story of the people saved by Oskar Schindler remained relatively unknown. Leon Leyson travelled to the United States where he became a teacher in L.A and for years his pupils and colleagues were unaware of how he had survived the Holocaust.

But when the film Schindler’s List (based on the book Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally) was released in 1993, Mr. Leyson began to tell his story. In the years that followed he gave talks across the United States (see below).

The teacher, whom Schindler called “Little Leyson”, had only one criticism of the movie — he believed it needlessly highlighted the German industrialist’s imperfections and did not show enough of his “basic human decency”.

The pair were to meet for the final time in 1974 when Oskar Schindler visited Los Angeles. Leon Leyson recalled how he stepped forward to greet the man who had saved him all those years before, and was about to introduce himself when the elderly German stopped him by saying: “I know who you are. You’re Little Leyson.”

To view an excerpt from one of Leon Leyson’s talks, click here.

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