The Boy on the Wooden Box – Leon Leyson

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boyonbox

  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 256 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471119682 |
  • May 2014 |
  • Grades 4 – 9

List Price

AU$ 9.99

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Subtitled ‘How the Impossible became Possible…on Schindler’s List’ which says it all, this is an amazing read. Most of us are no doubt familiar with the history of Oskar Schindler and his extraordinary efforts in saving his Jewish workers from certain extermination in wartime Poland, largely due to the publication of Tom Kenneally’s Schindler’s Ark (inspired by the retelling of the heroic rescue by Poldek Pfefferberg) and the subsequent Spielberg movie, Schindler’s List.

Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was a mere ten years old when his world imploded following the Nazi invasion of Poland and his family’s forced relocation to the Krakow ghetto. The overcrowded urban concentration camp was tyrannised by a vile despotic commandant, Amon Goeth, whose complete indifference to suffering and amoral and inhuman treatment of the Polish Jews, resolved Schindler to take action. Outwardly a staunch Nazi supporter, a womanizer, a black marketer and a capitalist, Schindler set about to protect some 1 200 Jews becoming a rather unlikely hero by continually ‘flying under the radar’ of the SS, using his own funds to bribe officials and subvert the Nazi war effort through his factory’s production of imperfect ammunitions.

Leyson’s memoir is the only one from a Schindler’s child and as one of the very youngest saved by that man, is a story of immense despair told without bitterness, and at the same time, a story of limitless hope – when one man’s refusal to stand by and do nothing resulted in the saving of many lives.

Seemingly a quiet and modest man, Leyson had not told his story until the book and subsequent film brought Schindler’s name to the wider public. After his first telling of his personal history he was asked many times to speak to groups and organisations which he did willingly to share his recollections and to honour both Schindler and the many victims of the Holocaust.

After providing his testimony verbally for many years, we are fortunate indeed to be able to read it as well and while there are certainly literary aspects to this book, for a large part Leyson’s voice as he recounts the often chilling evidence lends gravity to the telling.

Leyson died almost two years ago but in this book he has left a real legacy to young readers (as well as older ones). For your readers who have already seized on other Holocaust histories, whether factual or fictional, this will be an admirable addition to your library shelves.

Highly recommended for readers aged around 9-15.

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