The Global Pandemic of the Covid19 virus casts a shadow over our annual Auschwitz Liberation Commemoration on January 27th 2021, the International Day of Commemoration and Honouring the Victims of Nazi Ideology.

It is not possible for us to meet directly so I am submitting my speech in this form. Having turned 95 on 1 January this year, I belong to the small group of survivors who are able to bear witness to what took place in this concentration camp. It was in Auschwitz, in this German Nazi camp, a place symbolizing cruelty in the treatment of people unprecedented in human history, a place where the technique of mass and industrial murder was introduced, that the Nazis made their ideology a reality. I feel a great regret that groups of people who identify themselves with NAZISM, this degenerate nationalism on behalf of which they divided people into ‘superhumans and subhuman’ are appearing more and more openly in Europe, and also in our country. And in the name of this ideology, they murdered millions of innocent people, old people and children, men and women. To subscribe to Nazism today undoubtedly equals defining yourself as a person committing genocide, as this is the ultimate result of such a view. And this is happening with impunity in our country, in the country that suffered so much during the German Nazi occupation.

I would like to thank and express my gratitude to the management of the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim for their tireless work in preserving the memory of the victims of Nazi ideology and in combatting prejudices and hostility towards people because of their origin or religion.”

Leon Weintraub was born on 1st January 1926 in Lodz/Poland. After his father’s death in 1927, his mother had to raise Leon and his sister on her own which was not an easy task. Leon Weintraub remembers the invasion of the German Wehrmacht on 1st September 1939 very vividly as shortly after the invasion a ghetto for the Jewish population of Lodz was set up. In Winter 1939, the Weintraub family had to move to the Ghetto-Litzmannstadt. From the fall of 1940, he had to work in a metal factory the ”Resort” Metall II, then in a sheet metal shop, and then as an electrician. In August 1943, the Germans began the liquidation of the Ghetto and deported its inhabitants to Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp where Leon was separated from the rest of his family. After a couple of weeks Leon Weintraub managed unobserved by the guards to escape from Auschwitz and join the Gross-Rosen prisoner transport. The next camp was Dörnhau where as an ”expert” hehad to work as an electrician for the Organisation Todt. One of his most vivid memories of his time at Dörnhau is a visit to the town of Waldenburg with the foreman from the Organisation Todt. This was the only time during his entire imprisonment that he actually left one of the camps (except for his daily marches to work). Leon Weintraub remained at Dörnhau until February 1945. After the”Death March” he was transferred to KZ Flossenbürg and later deported to several other work-camps during the evacuations of the KZ camp system. He was finally liberated by the French Forces close to Donaueschingen. Due to his physical exhaustion, his weight had dropped to merely 35 kg and he was diagnosed with typhoid fever. Leon was hospitalised in Donaueschingen for several weeks and spent his convalescence until September 1945 in a French military sanatorium in Reichenau on Lake Constance.

In Autumn 1946 he started his studies at the Medical School in Göttingen. He returned to Poland in November 1950. His German wife together with their son Michael joined him in April 1951. After receiving his doctor’s diploma in 1953, he worked in the 1st Department of Obstetrics and Women’s Diseases at the Medical University in Warsaw until 1966. He then took up the position as head of the County Hospital in Otwock. Katja Weintraub translated Janusz Korczak’s works into German and her translations of Janusz Korczak’s books resulted in 1972 in The Peace Prize of the German Booksellers, posthumously. His wife Katja died in Stockholm in December 1970. With Katja he had 3 sons: Michał, Robert and Andrzej. At the end of the 1960s, due to growing anti-Semitism in Poland, Leon Weintraub lost his job as head of obstetrics and gynaecology in Otwock. He emigrated with his family to neutral Sweden. In 1976, he married Evamaria Loose, with whom he has a daughter, Emilia.

For 12 years he has been participating in meetings with young people in Sweden, Germany and Poland, sharing his experiences as a survivor from the Holocaust period.