(JTA) — The youngest person saved by German industrialist Oskar Schindler has died.
Leon Leyson, who Schindler called “Little Leyson,” died of lymphoma on Jan. 12 in Whittier, Calif., at 83, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Leyson was 13 when he went to work at Schindler’s factory in Krakow, Poland, where he had to stand on a box to operate the machinery.
He was a high school educator for nearly four decades and rarely spoke about his Holocaust experiences until the 1993 release of the Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List.” Following the interest generated by the Steven Spielberg movie, Leyson traveled throughout the United States telling his story.
Two of Leyson’s brothers were killed in the Holocaust, including one that Schindler added to his list but who refused to get off the train to Auschwitz because his girlfriend was not on the list, according to the Los Angeles Times. Schindler placed Leyson’s mother and two other siblings on the list of 1,100 Jews along with his father, making it one of the few families that he protected.
Leyson’s siblings later immigrated to Israel.
Leyson criticized the film for emphasizing Schindler’s womanizing and profiteering as opposed to his decency and compassion, the newspaper said.
In 1949, Leyson immigrated to America and later fought in the Vietnam War. He taught machine shop and was a guidance counselor at Huntington Park High School, retiring in 1997.
He was the father of two and grandfather of four.