Even in the darkest of times—especially in the darkest of times—there is room for strength and bravery. A remarkable memoir from Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list.
Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, a man named Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon Leyson’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory—a list that became world renowned: Schindler’s List.
This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s List child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Most notable is the lack of rancor, the lack of venom, and the abundance of dignity in Mr. Leyson’s telling. The Boy on the Wooden Box is a legacy of hope, a memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read.
About the Author
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.
* "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 Kraków. 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."
* “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.”