“Leon Leyson (born Leib Lejzon) passed away on January 13, 2013. Despite the six years of horror he endured as a child, he never lost the meaning in his life, going on to become a gifted teacher and an inspiration to many.
Those familiar with Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning movie, Schindler's List, will recognise his name from war profiteer Oskar Schindler's famous "list," which meant life for young Leon along with more than a thousand others.
This is Leon's story, which he shared only in the latter part of his life and although depressingly similar to that of many others, its focus is a little different.
On reflection, several things stand out about this memoir:
Leon recounts in vivid detail his idyllic childhood - a simple life without the trappings of wealth but with family at its heart - in such a way that the reader can appreciate fully his loss when it is stolen from him and genuinely share his grief.
He speaks of Oskar Schindler as a complex man - a war criminal, profiting from the misery of others - and yet as a hero, by definition an ordinary man who does "the best of things in the worst of times." (An influential Nazi who had a choice).
Most heart-wrenching is Leon's struggle to come to grips with the concept of "freedom" as the war draws to a close and his struggle to look into his future, when he has never allowed himself to do so before.
My only criticism is not of the memoir itself (who has the right to do that?), but of its pacing towards the end, where it feels a little rushed. That said, I love that Leon shared his early experiences in the States: the first time he encounters racism from someone other than a Nazi and the small and meaningful ways in which he receives help with daily life in his new country.
Although written decades after the fact, the maturity of the "boy" shines through. A wonderful legacy.”