Youngest member of 'Schindler's List' will speak in Ashland

Leon Leyson, Holocaust survivor and the youngest member of "Schindler's List," will give a free talk at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

Throughout the Holocaust years, ordinary people faced moments of decision that transformed them into witnesses, perpetrators or rescuers. Oskar Schindler, who became known to the world through Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning movie "Schindler's List," chose to become a rescuer.

A member of the Nazi Party, Schindler went to Krakow, Poland in 1939, soon after Germany's invasion of that country, to seek his fortune. By the end of the war, Schindler had given away the vast wealth he had accumulated in order to protect the Jews who worked for him and for whom he had come to feel responsible. Schindler never believed that he was helpless to make a difference; instead, he dared to do what he believed was right, even when it put his own life at risk. His actions saved some 1,200 Jews.

Leyson was 13 years old when his father brought him into Schindler's enamelware factory. Because they were protected by Schindler, Leon, his parents and older brother and sister all survived the war. Two other brothers and all of Leyson's extended family were killed.

Leyson met Oscar Schindler once after the war, in 1972, when a group of survivors invited Schindler to Los Angeles. Leyson was among those who welcomed him at the airport and wasn't sure Schindler would recognize him. But when Schindler saw him he said, "I know who you are. You are little Leyson!" After the war Leyson spent three years in a displaced persons camp near Frankfurt. He came to the U.S. in 1949, served in the U.S. Army and became a teacher. He taught at Huntington Park High School for 39 years.

Leyson is now a member of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education Advisory Board at Chapman University and has told his story to school groups, universities and community organizations hundreds of times across the nation.

Call 488-7716.

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