19 February 2014
Leslie Schwartz BIO
Born January 12, 1930, Leslie Schwartz divides his time between the United States and Germany. His mission is to educate and to uplift people. His method is to bear witness to what he experienced during the Holocaust and to make his life a force for positive change, unity, and healing among all people. His life is testament to the power of the human spirit in its search for freedom, truth and beauty.
Leslie Schwartz’ story has generated international attention; articles on the Talking Weeds blog have been read by thousands of people in over fifty countries. He is also very much in demand as an educator and lecturer. His recent travels and speaking engagements have been covered by major media in the United States including The New York Times, CBS and ABC news. Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest daily newspaper with over one million readers, featured his story in August 2011.
The memoir of Leslie Schwartz, adolescent survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, was first published in Denmark in 2007—To Survive Hell by Karen Thisted quickly became a number-one best-seller in Denmark. Berlin based publisher Lit Verlag published a German translation in 2010 under the title Durch die Hölle von Auschwitz und Dachau or Through the Horrors of Auschwitz and Dachau: A Boy Fights for Survival.
Surviving the Hell of Auschwitz and Dachau: A Teenage Struggle Toward Freedom from Hatred, co-written with Marc David Bonagura, the English version of Schwartz’ memoir is available in the United States beginning January 2014.
Schwartz was born in the small village of Baktalórántháza in Hungary. In May 1944, he and his family were deported, first to a Jewish Ghetto in Kisvarda, Hungary and then to Auschwitz. Once in Auschwitz, he never saw his mother and sisters again. The book follows his struggle as a fourteen-year-old to survive the camps including Auschwitz, Dachau, and Mühldorf.
His memoir also revisits small acts of kindness he experienced from German civilians during the darkest moments of his imprisonment—especially his search to reconnect with one unnamed hero, who in a small farmhouse in Bavaria on 27 April 1945 offered a starving and emaciated fifteen-year-old boy bread, butter and the most delicious glass of milk he ever received. The events Schwartz would survive later that day became known as the massacre at Poing.
For sixty-five years Schwartz never forgot that farmer woman. In the summer of 2010 he discovered her name was Barbara Huber. When he met with her daughter, Marianne Maier, the fragments of his soul began to reassemble beginning an incredible healing journey, with the most interesting and unique aspect being the manner in which Germans have embraced him—his longing for wholeness has aligned with younger Germans seeking to heal the generational trauma passed down by their ancestors.
A documentary film about Schwartz’ experiences during the massacre at Poing debuted to large audiences on Bavarian television in April 2012: The Mühldorf Train of Death by Beatrice Sonhüter explores the last days of the war and Schwartz’ survival of the Mühldorf “death train” as researched by six modern-day German teenagers.
In 2013, Schwartz was awarded Germany’s highest civilian honor—The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel made a point to visit Schwartz expressing her gratitude for his tireless efforts to educated German students.