Leon Leysen was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland, and his family had to move to a ghetto. Years later after surviving the death camps, he is prepared to speak about it all in this book. He tells his story without malice, without bitterness. It is not too dismal or dark, so children of nine years and up would be able to cope with it. It is something students need to study to be aware of what happened and to negate historians who even now make a career out of alleging that the Holocaust never happened. Above all it is a tale of hope, of getting up again and starting again despite the worst.
Generous was the word his daughter chose to describe him at his funeral years later: generous with his time and generous with his children – generous in so many ways. This is why I enjoyed reading this book so very much. It made me feel privileged to have got to know Leon through his story, and at times it moved me to tears.
Equally moving were the brave business movements of Oskar Schindler who sheltered Leon and his family by employing them in his relatively safe factories during the war. Elements of Schindler’s story not revealed in the film Schindler’s List will be learned about in this book. It is a rare account of someone who was actually on the List.
Even though Leon was separated from his mother by the Nazi guards, put on the side of the “no longer useful” and taken off Schindler’s list, he quietly and inconspicuously was able to creep back into the wrong line to be with his mother. He took “stupid” risks to be with her as he felt otherwise he could not go on. Somehow, he survived to tell this incredible story.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.