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Leon Leyson, Holocaust survivor on 'Schindler's List,' dies at 83

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Leon Leyson, who was among the youngest of the refugees to be saved from the Holocaust by German businessman Oskar Schindler, has died.

He was 83.


Leyson was 10 years old when Poland was invaded by the Nazis and 13 when he started to work for Schindler, the hero in Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning movie, "Schindler's List."

Many of Leyson's family members died in the Holocaust. Leon, his parents, older brother and sister survived.

Leyson and his family moved to the United States in 1949.

It wasn't long before he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He often spoke about how grateful he was to serve his new country.

The youngest of 1,100 Jews saved by the Nazis by Oskar Shindler, Leon Leyson taught high school for nearly 40 years in Southern California. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

A counselor at Los Angeles City College helped him get his education, and he became a teacher at Huntington Park High School.

He taught students there for 39 years. He lived in Fullerton with his wife, Liz, and raised two children.

For a long time, most people didn't know Leon was a Holocaust survivor. It wasn't until "Schindler's List" came out that Leyson began talking about what happened to him and his family.

He began talking at elementary schools, high schools and college campuses.

He told students about losing his freedom, how he was hungry and frightened.

He talked about losing family members, including a beloved older brother.

"Five of us survived the war, this is the bottom line, out of everyone who was related to me in Poland. And we survived because we were on Schindler's list," Leon said during an interview in 2008 when he was the subject of a 30-minute profile with NBC4's Fritz Coleman.

Related: Watch the rest of the Leyson documentary on NBCLosAngeles.com

Leyson spoke at the the Orange County's Chapman University often. In 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

When he heard about that, he joked, "I'm really speechless. I'll be a doctor, so if you have a headache, come see me."