NEW YORK (JTA) – Leon Weliczker Wells, a Holocaust survivor who testified at both the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, has died.
Wells died of cancer Dec. 19 at his home in Fort Lee, N.J., at the age of 84. He was cremated, as per his wishes, having said that his people had gone that way.
He was 17 years old in 1943 when he was among those in the Janowska camp in Lvov forced by the Nazis to dig up and burn the bodies of hundreds of thousands of Jews and some Polish political officials murdered in Lvov in order to hide the truth about the Nazi death camps from the approaching Allies.
Wells testified at the Eichmann trial in Israel in 1961 that he was the only member of his "whole family, including all cousins, uncles," among 76 to survive the Holocaust. Among those killed were his parents and six siblings.
His harrowing memoir, "The Death Brigade," first published in 1963 by Macmillan as "The Janowska Road," is universally considered a classic of Holocaust literature.
"I knew him very well and his work was a very important contribution," Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, told JTA. "Everybody who knew him liked him very much because of his intelligence and sensitivity."
After World War II, Wells immigrated to the United States, where he taught at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and was a research fellow in the Naval Research Office.