The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's List

Overview

“Much like The Boy In the Striped Pajamas or The Book Thief,” this remarkable memoir from Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list, “brings to readers a story of bravery and the fight for a chance to live” (VOYA).

This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s list child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the ...

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The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...on Schindler's List

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Overview

“Much like The Boy In the Striped Pajamas or The Book Thief,” this remarkable memoir from Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list, “brings to readers a story of bravery and the fight for a chance to live” (VOYA).

This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s list child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow.

Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon Leyson’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory—a list that became world renowned: Schindler’s list.

Told with an abundance of dignity and a remarkable lack of rancor and venom, The Boy on the Wooden Box is a legacy of hope, a memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read.

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Editorial Reviews

Ashley Bryan
“Tragic remembrances of war's sufferings often go untold. However, if we are to "study war no more" we need to hear

them. After long silence Leon Leyson has written his World War II memoir. I am an African American veteran of

World War II. I survived the invasion of Normandy. Leon Leyson's story returned me to a time when the life of each

step could be one's last. THE BOY ON THE WOODEN BOX is a heartbreaking story that ends, mercifully, with a

heart restored."

Publishers Weekly
Leyson, who died in January at age 83, was No. 289 on Schindler’s list and its youngest member. He was just 13 when Leyson’s father convinced Oskar Schindler to let “Little Leyson” (as Schindler knew him) and other family members find refuge in the Emalia factory; Leyson was so small he had to stand on a box to work the machinery. Leyson and his coauthors give this wrenching memoir some literary styling, but the book is at its most powerful when Leyson relays the events in a straightforward manner, as if in a deposition, from the shock of seeing his once-proud father shamed by anti-Semitism to the deprivation that defined his youth. Schindler remains a kindly but enigmatic figure in Leyson’s retelling, occasionally doting but usually distant. Leyson makes it clear that being “Schindler Jews” offered a thread of hope, but it never shielded them from the chaos and evil that surrounded them. Readers will close the book feeling that they have made a genuinely personal connection to this remarkable man. Ages 9–14. Agent: Peter Steinberg, the Steinberg Agency. (Aug.) ¦
VOYA - Mirta Espinola
The Boy On The Wooden Box is the memoir of a young boy on Schindler's List. This list allowed a unique fate for him and his family. The sincerity and raw emotion detail not only a miserable time in history but also the bravado of several individuals as they risk death or torture to do what is right. The boy's memories of standing on a box to work in the factory are meticulously written and depict his life during this time—they are memories of perseverance, bravery, and innocence. Leyson brings readers to tears while leading them to empathy for the people of this devastating time in history. Through his words readers can experience life through an innocent child's eyes. Much like The Boy With The Striped Pajamas (David Fickling, 2006/Voya December 2006) or The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006/Voya June 2006), this title brings to readers a story of bravery and the fight for a chance to live. Perhaps history forgets the children among all the wars and travesty throughout history, but this book does not allow readers to forget. They will be exposed to simple and sensitive accounts; young adult readers will relate to this historical piece of literature. This is a must-read. Reviewer: Mirta Espinola
School Library Journal
11/01/2013
Gr 5–8—Leyson describes his childhood prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland as "a world defined by the love and warmth of family." In 1938, he moved with his mother and four older siblings from a small village to join his father, who was working in the city. But soon after, everything changed as the Nazis "tightened their grip on Kraków." Through luck, skill, and tenacity, Leyson's father became one of Oskar Schindler's first Jewish workers and managed to secure a place on his notorious list for his wife and children. Throughout his six years of immense suffering, including in the Plaszów work camp, Leon was convinced that his luck would eventually run out. But Schindler made sure that didn't happen. In 1949, at age 19, Leon immigrated to America with his parents. He served in the U.S. army during the Korean War, went to school on the GI Bill, and taught high school in southern California for 39 years. But he rarely spoke about his wartime experience until Steven Spielberg's film was released. As Leyson explained: "Maybe I hadn't really been ready to speak about my experiences…or maybe people hadn't really been ready to listen, or maybe both." But for the next 18 years, he spoke to countless church, synagogue, and school groups and was encouraged to write his story. He died in January 2013 without knowing that his book would be published. Black-and-white photographs of the Leyson family before and after the war are appended. This powerful account succeeds at putting a face and a name, and a fully developed story, to one of the nearly 1200 Jews who were saved by Oskar Schindler. Leyson's clear, concise, and accessible narrative is profound and inspiring.—Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL
Kirkus Reviews
A posthumous Holocaust memoir from the youngest person on Oskar Schindler's list. Completed before his death in January 2013, Leyson's narrative opens with glowing but not falsely idyllic childhood memories of growing up surrounded by friends and relatives in the Polish village of Narewka and then the less intimate but still, to him, marvelous city of Kraków. The Nazi occupation brought waves of persecution and forced removals to first a ghetto and then a labor camp--but since his father, a machinist, worked at the enamelware factory that Schindler opportunistically bought, 14-year-old "Leib" (who was so short he had to stand on the titular box to work), his mother and two of his four older siblings were eventually brought into the fold. Along with harrowing but not lurid accounts of extreme privation and casual brutality, the author recalls encounters with the quietly kind and heroic Schindler on the way to the war's end, years spent at a displaced-persons facility in Germany and, at last, emigration to the United States. Leyson tacks just a quick sketch of his adult life and career onto the end and closes by explaining how he came to break his long silence about his experiences. Family photos (and a picture of the famous list with the author's name highlighted) add further personal touches to this vivid, dramatic account. Significant historical acts and events are here put into unique perspective by a participant. (Memoir. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442497825
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 8/18/2015
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 241,768
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Leon Leyson was one of the youngest members of Schindler’s List. He brings a unique perspective to the history of the Holocaust and a powerful message of courage and humanity. Believing that no one would be interested in his story, he rarely spoke about his experiences until the film Schindler’s List received worldwide attention.

A graduate of Los Angeles City College; California State University, Los Angeles; and Pepperdine University, he taught at Huntington Park High School in Huntington Park, California, for thirty-nine years. In recognition of his many accomplishments as educator and witness to the Holocaust, Mr. Leyson was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Chapman University.

Mr. Leyson passed away in January 2013, leaving behind his wife, Lis; their two children; and six grandchildren.

Dr. Marilyn J. Harran is the author of The Holocuast Chronicle: A History in Words and Pictures, which has sold more than 250,000 copies. She holds the Stern Chair in Holocaust Education at Chapman University, where she is also the founding director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education. Dr. Harran is a 2008 recipient of the Spirit of Anne Frank Award and a member of the board of the Association of Holocaust Organizations. She lives in Orange, California.

Elizabeth B. Leyson, Leon’s wife, lives in Fullerton, California.

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