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Testimony of Leon Schwartz

Leon was born in Jassy, Romania on the 22nd February 1922 and was one of 7 children. At age 11 he attended a trade School and learnt to become a fitter and turner.  The Jews of Jassy were mainly tradesmen and were well-respected.There was very little anti-Semitism there. His older brother, David served in the Romanian army from 1937-1939.
Everything changed on the the 29th June 1941 when  the pogrom of Jassy began.  The local Romanian population cooperated willingly with the Germans. Army trucks stormed the town and soldiers rounded up all the Jewish children in the courtyard of the condominium where Leon lived.   Leon’s mother paid a Romanian soldier a lot of money so that he would not take her husband.  All the men who were not fortunate enough to evade capture and the older boys were taken to the police station in the town.  Those that tried to run away were instantly shot by the aggressive and mostly drunken guards.  They were then marched to the train station being hit by the rifle butts of the numerous soldiers surrounding them, all the way.
At the station they were herded into cattle trains and squashed up like sardines for a journey that would last 7 days. Many died from dehydration and because of the sweltering heat.  Leon only survived due to the fact that he had awoken on the day of the pogrom with a  terrible thirst and had drunk liters of water that morning.  Leon’s younger brother who was very strong managed to force open the bars of his carriage and climbed on to the roof running across many carriages until he found Leon.  Sadly he also found that their older brother, Janku had perished in another carriage on the perilous journey.  The train eventually pulled in to the small town of Lalomița where the surviving people were given water and bread.  Sadly, many of those that partook of the bread died shortly afterwards.
At Lalomița Leon was fortunate enough to meet up with his master from trade school. They were eventually returned to their hometown of Jassy to spend the remaining war years in various labour jobs.  Leon had a back-breaking job pushing train trucks onto railway lines and he also worked in Sperdon Hospital for 2 years where he had to clean out hospital geyser tanks. He was never paid for any of his labour. At one point Leon and another boy of 15 were imprisoned in the Hospital and were due to be shot the next week. However a warden took pity on them and allowed them to escape. When the Russians arrived in Jassy in 1944, a German officer let Leon go free.
Leon’s brother David also survived the war and they, together with David’s wife and two small children left Romania in 1945 for Budapest. From there they travelled to Vienna where David and his family stayed in a refugee camp.  Leon moved onto to Italy via Innsbruck in the Alps and then to a refugee camp in Milan where he received Hagannah army training and eventually left for Israel arriving by boat on 15th May 1948.  He went to Kibbutz Dan where he completed his army training and fought in the War of Independence as well as being involved after the war in many skirmishes with local Arabs.  He worked in Sodom for 17 years sending money back to his parents in Romania, who eventually emigrated to Israel.
Leon met Shirley Glaser in Sodom and they married in South African in 1958.  They returned to Israel and then emigrated to South Africa with their 2 sons eventually returning to Israel again in 2006.  Towards the end of his life Leon had heart surgery and suffered a stroke which  affected his speech. Despite all the adversity in his life, Leon remained a hard-working, courageous and determined person throughout his life and who always supported his family with love and care. May his memory be a blessing to his family and all who knew him.

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