Leon Weintraub, living memory of Auschwitz

Jewish Link.- The surviving Jewish doctor of several Nazi camps, Leon Weintraub, publishes a book about his life, writes the correspondent of The vanguard María-Paz López in today’s edition.

“The worst thing is that the world forgets,” he says Leon Weintraub.

More than 75 years after the end of his ordeal in Auschwitz and in other Nazi death camps, the nonagenarian Jewish doctor Leon Weintraub He decided to put his life in writing. His memoirs, published a year and a half ago in his native Poland, now arrive in Germany with the title Die Versöhnung mit dem Bösen. Geschichte eines Weiterlebens (Reconciliation with evil. Story of a life after), written by four hands together with the Polish journalist Magda Jaros. Those who directly suffered in their flesh the horrors of the Holocaust They disappear as time goes by, and the testimony of those who remain is essential for historical memory.

Leon Weintraub and the cover of his book (Credit: oto: Malgorzata Musielak, Wallstein Verlag)

“As long as I can, I will continue to tell my experience, because there are only a few contemporary witnesses like me; the worst thing is that the world forgets, ”says the protagonist before the presentation of his book at the academy attached to the Jewish Museum of Berlin. The old age of Leon Weintraub, now 96 years old and living in Sweden since 1969, is elegant and jovial. Asked to stand in front of a wood-paneled wall for the photo, she jokingly replies, “It’s not to shoot me, is it?”

At 96 years old, Leon Weintraub recounts what they told him when he arrived at the Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Auschwitz: “You don’t come to live here”

After the moment of relaxation, Weintraub he looks back and explains himself to the audience. The fifth son of a poor family – his father, who died shortly after his birth in 1926, was a rag picker; and his mother, a laundress, was 13 years old when she Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. They lived in Lodz, and Lionwho had finished primary school, was no longer able to go to high school.

“I have the acoustic memory of the boots of the columns of German soldiers parading; Like all the Jews in the city, my mother, my four sisters and I were locked up in the ghetto; there I saw a scene that I have never forgotten: a soldier with his bayonet pulled out the beard of an old Jew and drew blood; I had the romantic vision of the French movie war the great illusionlike something about gentlemen, but war is terrible, it’s something else”.

the teenager Lion he was a forced laborer for four years, until the Nazis destroyed the Lodz ghetto and in the summer of 1944 they sent the captives to the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz.

Leon Weintraub living memory of Auschwitz
Forced laborer card of Leon Weintraub, forced by the Nazi occupiers of Poland in the Lodz ghetto, when he was a teenager (1940 to 1944). The Germans called it the Litzmannstadt ghetto (LEON WEINTRAUB)

“On the train we thought we were going to a new job. Arriving at the ramp, they separated men and women. My mother was 50 years old, but she seemed older after so much suffering. She yelled at me: ‘See you inside.’ It was the last time I saw her”. At 17 years old, Lion was selected to work. “A man in a prison uniform ripped my backpack out of my hands; I explained to him that I had my seals inside it, and he told me: ‘You don’t come to live here’”. The mother of Lion and an aunt were immediately murdered in the gas chambers, although he only found out much later.

Six weeks later, thanks to a stroke of ingenuity, he managed to get out of Auschwitz. “I saw a group of naked men between two barracks, I asked them, and they told me they were waiting for clothes to go outside to work. Out, they said out. I also undressed and got between them. Nobody controlled me. They put us on a train and sent us to the Gross Rosen. Decades later I found out that within a few days all the young people in block 10, my block, were gassed to death.”

In the last months of war, Leon Weintraub was deported to the camps Flossenburg (Bavaria), and Natzweiler-Struthof Y offenburg (Baden-Württemberg). In April 1945 he managed to escape with other prisoners when the train in which SS men were transporting them was bombed by the Allies; he arrived on foot at a town already occupied by the French, where he was released. “I was finally able to sleep; I ate very little, our stomachs were so empty that they would not have been able to bear it, it was dangerous –he continues-. In September I found out that my sisters had survived in the camp Bergen-Belsen; she was not so alone”.

Holocaust testimony

In the last months of the Second World War, Weintraub was deported to the Nazi camps of Flossenbürg, Natzweiler-Struthof and Offenburg

In 1946, Leon Weintraub He began to study Medicine at the University of Göttingen, without having attended secondary school and hardly knowing German, but he managed thanks to the similarities with Yiddish, his mother tongue. “I was able to get in because the British established that the universities in their area had to accept a certain number of displaced people like me.” There he met the Berliner Katja, they got married and had her first child.

After finishing his studies, in 1950 he returned to Poland with his family and worked as a gynecologist in Warsaw, where he received his doctorate in 1960. “I am not a communist, but it was my country; I have always been an ‘encyclopedist’, my reference is Voltaire and the motto ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’”.

In 1969 a wave of anti-Semitism in his native Poland prompted Leon Weintraub and his family to emigrate to Sweden.

But there came a bitter twist of fate. To contain social discontent in 1968, the communist government spurred the antisemitism latent in Polish society. As a result, many Jews left the country. The family Weintraub emigrated to Sweden. “For us survivors of the Holocaust, it is very disturbing that young men use Nazi slogans; I cannot understand that it also happens in Poland, which suffered so much under the Nazi occupation. Those men are either very ignorant and don’t know history, or they are very evil and really want what the Nazis wanted.”

A Leon Weintraubfather of three sons and a daughter, is saddened by the death of his first wife in 1970 shortly after settling in Stockholm, where he resumed his medical activity and later married Evamaria, who accompanies him on his educational trips about the Holocaust. “When he operated, when cutting with the scalpel, all people are the same,” he says, aware that racism continues and it is still necessary to reiterate the obvious.

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Leon Weintraub, living memory of Auschwitz


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