As a boy, Leib Lejzon worked in Oscar Schindler's factory, of Schindler's List fame, during the Holocaust and was on hand Monday evening telling his story at The Best Western in Oceanside.
JAMIE SCOTT LYTLE Staff Photographer

Youngest survivor of Schindler's list speaks in Oceanside

The number 69128 written on a folded and faded sheet of paper meant the difference between life and death for Leon Leyson.

Born Leib Lejzon, the youngest survivor of the factory made famous by the movie "Schindler's List" told his story of life inside the factory of Oscar Schindler, who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Nazi regime in World War II.

Organized by the Chabad Jewish Center of Oceanside, the conference center at the Best Western hotel, at 1680 Oceanside Blvd. was packed with close to 200 members of the community, many moved to tears as Leyson told his story of survival.


"Spielberg was smart to make the movie black and white, because that's how I saw it. Never in color," Leyson said.

Born in Poland, Leyson's simple life with his parents and siblings ended with the Nazi invasion in 1939, when he was 10 years old, and the family was imprisoned in a ghetto in Krakow.

Leyson described the ordeal: "The Nazis tried to dehumanize us all the time. They tried to break our humanity, but everybody resisted. We played games, told jokes, and sang songs as a way to keep our humanity in the ghetto."

He told the story of standing up to a Nazi officer three years later, insisting that he should accompany his mother to join the rest of his family at Oscar Schindler's enamelware factory, although his name had been crossed the list to do so.

At the factory, Leyson worked 12-hour shifts at night. He was so small he had to stand on an upsidedown box to reach the machinery.

He caught the eye of Oscar Schindler, who became fond of the skinny Jewish kid. The factory owner called him "Little Leyson" and showed him kindnesses such as providing extra rations of food and excusing him from the night shift when his vision began to fail.

"After parties, Schindler would come down and walk around the floor. He'd put his arm on my father's shoulder, considered a terrible sin by the Nazis. He'd leave packs of cigarettes accidentally on purpose," Leyson said.

"You could tell the difference between those who accepted Nazi ideology and those who didn't. Schindler spoke to us in complete sentences and there was a twinkle in his eyes. For the rest, there was nothing behind the eyes."

His two eldest brothers did not survive the war, but he, his parents, brother and sister were saved by Schindler.

"I couldn't tell you how many times my life was in jeopardy. I had series of good fortunes all along, " said Leyson.

In his introduction of Leyson, Rabbi Baruch Greenberg of Oceanside said: "Many people look at the 6-million-Jews-killed number, but it's not so close to us. When we listen tonight to Mr. Leyson, realize everyone, one person is the whole world."