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September 23, 2013

New book by Leon Leyson, the youngest survivor on Schindler’s List

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:44 am

This news article in The Independent tells about Leon Leyson, the youngest survivor on Schindler’s List, who died just before his memoir was published.  I have not read the book; it has just “hit the shelves” according to the news article.

I previously blogged about the death of Leon Leyson here.

This quote is from The Independent:

He was one of the youngest Holocaust survivors to be saved by Oskar Schindler, and he waited almost 70 years to tell his story. Sadly, Leon Leyson died before he could see his memoir published. The extraordinary, horrifying and heart-breaking book The Boy on the Wooden Box, about a 13-year-old who found his way onto Schindler’s famous list, was released in the US by Simon & Schuster’s children’s division today.

The Plaszow labor camp where Leon Leyson was a prisoner

The Plaszow labor camp where Leon Leyson was a prisoner

Reading through the news article in The Independent, this quote grabbed my attention:

The [Leyson] family was sent to the Plaszow camp in 1940, and Mr Leyson only managed to rejoin his family after sneaking past a guard at huge personal risk. He described stepping through the gates like “arriving at the innermost circle of hell” adding the moment he arrived “I was convinced I would never leave alive”.

The Plazow camp was set up, as a forced labor camp for Jews, in the fall of 1942, according to the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel.  So Leon’s family could not have been sent to Plaszow in 1940.  Leon is the second person that I know of, who sneaked into the Plaszow camp.

Fence around the former Plaszow camp, which has been torn down

Fence around the former Plaszow camp, which has been torn down

The quote from The Independent continues with this information:

The camp’s commandant was the infamous Amon Goeth. Among the frequent brushes with fate, Mr Leyson once had his leg bandaged at the infirmary, finding out later that Goeth had all the patients arbitrarily shot moments after he had left.

Amon Goeth was the Commandant of the Plazow camp from February 1943 to September 1944 when he was arrested by the German Gestapo for stealing from the camp.  How much contact did Leon actually have with Amon Goeth?

Did the reporter, who wrote the news article, make a mistake in the dates, or did Leon Leyson make a mistake in his memoir?

This quote is also from the news article:

In a final act of salvation, in April 1945 with the Germans fleeing, they were ordered to murder all the Jewish workers in the Brinlitz camp. Schindler managed to thwart the plan and have the SS officer in charged transferred out of the area.

Not according to the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has this to say about Oskar Schindler’s factory:

Though classified as an armaments factory, the Brünnlitz plant produced just one wagonload of live ammunition in just under eight months of operation. By presenting bogus production figures, Schindler justified the existence of the sub-camp as an armaments factory and thus facilitated the survival of over 1,000 Jews, sparing them the horrors and brutality of conventional camp life. Schindler left Brünnlitz only on May 9, 1945, the day that Soviet troops liberated the camp.

There were stories about the Nazis planning to kill all the prisoners in all the camps, at the end of the war, but this turned out to be untrue. You can read about the alleged plan to kill all the prisoners at Dachau on my website here.

At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, Ernst Kaltenbrunner was accused of ordering all the prisoners to be killed at the end of the war.  You can read his testimony on another blog post which I wrote.

February 10, 2013

youngest survivor on Schindler’s List has died at the age of 83

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 1:38 pm

Leon Leyson, who was 13 years old, when his name was put on Schindler’s List, has died in Los Angeles, CA at the age of 83.  You can read the news of his death here.

This quote is from the news article about his death:

Because of Schindler’s interventions and after being ultimately placed on his list of workers which meant they were save from the death camps, Leon survived alongside his parents and an older brother and sister.

His other two brothers were killed.

“Five of us survived the war, this is the bottom line, out of everyone who was related to me in Poland. And we survived because we were on Schindler’s list,” Leon said during an interview in 2008 on NBC4.

On June 1, 2010, I blogged about Leon Leyson and Schindler’s List here.

I am re-posting part of my original blog post from 2010:

Scene from the movie Shindler's List

Scene from the movie Shindler’s List

Schindler did not personally make up the “List of Jews” for his factory, as it was portrayed in the movie. David Crowe wrote a book entitled Oskar Schindler, in which he revealed that the movie scene, shown in the photo above, is pure fiction.

According to Crowe, Oskar Schindler had no role in preparing the famous list, other than giving SS-Hauptscharführer Franz Josef Müller some general guidelines for the type of workers he wanted on the list.

Amon Göth, the Commandant of the Plaszow camp, who shot prisoners from his balacony in the movie, had been arrested by the SS on September 13, 1944 and was in prison in Breslau when the list was prepared, but this is not mentioned in the movie.  Göth just disappears in the movie and no one notices that he is gone.

David Crowe wrote that the person responsible for the preparation of Schindler’s List was Marcel Goldberg, a corrupt Jewish prisoner at the Plaszow camp, who was a member of the Ordnungdienst, the camp’s Jewish police force. Goldberg was the assistant of SS-Hauptscharführer Franz Josef Müller, the SS man responsible for the transport lists. Only about one third of the Jews on the list had previously worked in Schindler’s factory in Krakow.

The novel, Schindler’s Ark tells about how Goldberg accepted bribes from the prisoners who wanted to get on the list.

In his book Oskar Schindler, David Crowe wrote:

“… watch how Steven Spielberg traces the story of Marcel Goldberg, the real author of Schindler’s List, in his film. He begins in the early part of the film with Goldberg sitting near Leopold “Poldek” Page and other Jewish black marketeers in Krakow’s Marjacki Bazylika (church) as Oskar Schindler tries to interest them in doing business with a German. What follows throughout the rest of the film is the subtle tale of Goldberg’s gradual moral degeneration. Schindler, for example, gives Itzhak Stern first a lighter, then a cigarette case, and finally a watch to bribe Goldberg to send more Jews to his factory from Plaszow.”

Here is the true story of what actually happened:

After Germany conquered Poland in 1939,  Oskar Schindler purchased a factory in the city of Krakow, where he employed Jews from the Krakow ghetto.  When the Krakow ghetto was closed, all the Jews were sent to the nearby Plaszow labor camp which was just outside the city of Krakow.

Schindler got permission to turn his factory into a sub-camp of the Plaszow camp, so that he could continue to employ Jews, instead of Polish workers.

He built barracks at his factory for Jewish prisoners, who were then transferred from the Plaszow camp to his sub-camp. After the Plaszow labor camp became a concentration camp, Schindler’s  factory sub-camp was then put under the authority of the WVHA, the economic office of the Nazi concentration camp system.

Oskar Schindler was making a fortune during the occupation of Poland during World War II.  Schindler was hiring Jews in his factory and paying lower wages than what he would have had to pay Polish workers.

By 1944, the Nazis were only allowing munitions factories to become sub-camps in their concentration camp system. 

Schindler’s factory in Krakow had two parts; one part of his factory made enamel pots and pans for the German army, but he was also producing munitions for the German military.  The Nazis did not want to open a munitions factory that would be a sub-camp of Gross Rosen, so Schindler had to bribe them to allow him to open a munitions factory near his home town of Brünnlitz, in what is now the Czech Republic.

When the Plaszow camp was closed in 1944, all the men in the camp were sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp, including the Jews on Schindler’s List.

All the women in the Plaszow camp had to go to Auschwitz temporarily until barracks could be built for them at Gross Rosen, which was a men’s camp.

After barracks, for both men and women, were built at Schindler’s new sub-camp, the Jews on his List were sent there, including his female workers, who were temporarily staying at Auschwitz.

In real life, Schindler sent his secretary to Auschwitz to make sure that his Jewish workers got on the right train, but he didn’t go himself.

What if Schindler had just closed his munitions factory in Krakow and not bribed the Nazis to allow him to move it to Brunnlitz?  What would have happened to the prisoners on his famous list?  Would they have been sent immediately to the gas chambers?  No.  The men would have been sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp which did not have gas chambers.  The women and children would have been sent, temporarily, to Auschwitz which was only 37 miles from Krakow, but they would not necessarily have been gassed.  There were numerous survivors of Auschwitz, including old women and little children.

The food for the prisoners in Oskar Schindler’s sub-camp was provided by the Nazis, but Schindler spent his own money to buy extra food and medicine for them.  His workers had a better chance of survival than they would have had in any other camp, but even then, some of his workers died of disease.  The Plaszow prisoners, who did not get on Schindler’s List, were not condemned to “certain death.” 

This quote is from the news article about Leyson’s death:

When the Nazis ordered the remaining Jews of Krakow to be sent to Auschwitz., Schindler acted again paying huge bribes and using all of his influence to ensure as many as possible were relocated to outside [his] home town and thus away from the Final Solution.

Schindler also dramatically intervened when Leyson’s mother and sister were among 300 Schindler women accidentally re-routed to Auschwitz when they were meant to be led to safety.

They knew the gas chambers awaited them until they heard Schindler’s voice.

The information in the above quote is based on the story that is told in the movie Schindler’s List.  It is true that Schindler had to bribe the Nazis to allow him to set up a factory outside his home town in what is now the Czech Republic, but the reason that Schindler had to bribe the Nazis was not because the workers in his factory had been ordered to be sent to Auschwitz to be killed.  No, the prisoners in Schindler’s factory in Krakow had been scheduled to go to Gross Rosen, a concentration camp which did not have a gas chamber.  Schindler’s Jews had not been scheduled to be killed.

The female prisoners on Schindler’s List had to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau to wait until barracks at Schindler’s new factory could be built for them.  In the movie Schindler’s list, the women are shown in the shower room at Auschwitz and they are over-joyed to see water come out of the faucets, not gas.