“Not even the scariest of fairy tales could have prepared me for the monsters I would confront while just a boy of ten…or the hero, disguised as a monster himself, who would save my life.”
Layson as a young child racing barefoot through meadows, skinny dipping in the river and pulling childish pranks to pass the idyllic early days of youth.
This high spirited and curious child moved from his mountain village to the big city of Krakow when he was eight years old. He easily made friends with Gentile and Jewish children his age. Surrounded by the deep abiding love of parents, and the freedom to explore his new urban world that now included indoor plumbing and streetcars, Leon could not have imagined or prepared for the evil heading his way.
Leon, the young Jewish child, unskilled and uneducated, incredibly survives against all odds, to be a witness to the horrors of the Holocaust. For forty eight years he couldn’t believe anyone would be interested in his story. When the movie, Schindler’s List introduced Oskar Schindler and his heroic efforts to the world, Leon knew it was time to reveal his deepest secrets.
“Oskar Schindler thought my life had value. He thought I was worth saving, even when giving me a chance to live put his own life in peril. Now it’s my turn to do what
I can for him…This is the story of
my life and how it intersected with his.”
What makes Leon’s story so special is the care he has taken to tell us what it was like to be a little boy, separated from his parents sometimes for months, forced to live an unimaginable life. This courageous child never gave up. And he would be the first to admit just plain lucky.
When most people think of the Holocaust they envision humiliated, tortured and dehumanized Jews packed into cattle cars. They picture rows upon rows of emaciated and poorly clothed bodies stuffed onto wooden barrack bunks. You don’t dare look deeply into their vacant eyes to see their memories and lost lives. You can’t begin to understand where they find their strong will to live one more minute, one more hour, and one more day.
As the world regained control in Europe, the battle sounds receded and the crematoriums stopped spewing souls to the sky, questions were asked. Why didn’t the Jews fight back? Why didn’t they see this coming and prepare ways to save themselves and their families? What was life like for those that survived trying to find out what happened to those closest to them?
Leon takes us gently by the hand and tells his story in his own words. It is not an easy story to read but written carefully and truthfully without overly graphic scenes. There is no good way to describe brutality, murder, starvation, and random torture. Many, however, will be surprised by the number of times he told of tiny ways the downtrodden lifted each other’s spirits or showed the courage to resist.
Little Leyson also shows us that we can never forget but we must go on living. He and his parents moved to the US. Although he was not an American citizen, was drafted into military service during the Korean War. Using GIs bill benefits; he obtained a college degree, found the love of his life, and enjoyed over 30 years as a high school teacher.
But he never forgot…