Auschwitz survivor Leslie Kleinman shares his story with the Courier

Auschwitz survivor Leslie Kleinman
Auschwitz survivor Leslie Kleinman

Before visiting Poland, Calderdale sixth-formers heard from 85-year-old Auschwitz survivor Leslie Kleinman in a presentation at the Queen’s Hotel, Leeds.

For 64 years, Leslie never spoke of the Holocaust.

The son of rabbi Martin, Leslie grew up with his seven siblings, mother and father in Ombod, a remote village in Romania.

In 1944, Nazi’s came for his father - stating he was going to work on the Russian front. That was the last time the Kleinman family were all together.

Several weeks later, Leslie and his family were captured by Nazi’s who told them they were heading to Germany for work. Five people perished on the walk to the train. On board, over 100 people were crammed into a space comfortable for 50. In exchange for bread and water, Leslie’s mother traded her wedding ring and jewellery.

“As the train left Vienna, I heard a man say Germany was a lie - we were in fact heading East.”

“A few days later we arrived to a place unknown and were made to line up, men on the right side; women and children on the other.”

A group of Polish Jews told 14-year-old Leslie to say he was 17 thus saving him from the dreadful fate of the gas chambers.

“My mother and brothers and sisters were sent to the left of the line.

“Later that night prisoners told me their bodies would have already been cremated.”

Leslie became number 8230 at Auschwitz and endured inhumane physical and emotional torture. He worked 12 hour days on the railways in -20 temperatures on a diet of 400 calories per day - the average person was given a six week survival rate.

Leslie witnessed multiple hangings and shooting of 
Jewish men.

“A worker who stood up to straighten his back was shot to death.”

In 1945, 7,000 Auschwitz prisoners of war were liberated.

“They had taken my family, our home, money - I thought, what more could they want from me? I would not let them take my soul.”

To survive, Leslie ate frozen grass as he tried to find his way to freedom - others were forced to eat the flesh of those too weak to survive.

An American Jewish soldier found Leslie in the forest, wrapped him in his coat and carried him to the safety of an army hospital.

Today, Leslie lives in London with his wife Miriam and volunteers for the Holocaust Education Trust sharing his story.

He told the sixth-formers: “I want you to carry on my history of Holocaust so we can learn from it.

“I thank God that I am alive. I do not have hatred. Hatred breeds hatred - we can have only love.”