Child refugee who survived two Nazi concentration camps and a death march dies aged 92

Leslie Kleinman, who regularly shared his testimony, has been praised as an ‘inspiration’


Leslie Kleinman BEM, a Shoah survivor who regularly shared his testimony with schoolchildren across the UK, has died in Westcliff-on-Sea aged 92.

Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, confirmed reports of his death and paid tribute to Mr Kleinman on Wednesday.   

“Leslie Kleinman was an inspiration to all of us at the Holocaust Educational Trust,” she said.

“In later years, Leslie worked tirelessly to share his testimony with the next generation, travelling the length and breadth of the UK, for which he was awarded a BEM. Leslie was often invited back to schools year on year, such was the impact he had.”

Mr Kleinman was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Romania in May 1929. At the age of 14, when the Nazis invaded Hungary, Mr Kleinman’s father was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Meanwhile, Mr Kleinman, his mother and seven siblings were forced to leave home and spend the next month in a ghetto, before they too were deported to Auschwitz.

At the concentration camp Mr Kleinman was selected for work while the rest of his family, except for one sister, were taken straight to the gas chambers. Mr Kleinman spent months building a railway and unloading bags of cement from trains. 

Towards the end of 1944, with the Red Army approaching, Mr Kleinman was sent on a death march to Sachsenhausen and then onto Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he remained for three weeks. 

He and the remaining prisoners at Flossenbürg were then sent on a second death march, during which they were liberated by American troops. 

After the war, Mr Kleinman was told the British government would allow 1000 child refugees to come to the UK. 

The Shoah survivor joined 731 other children in leaving mainland Europe for Britain, a group that became known as 'The Boys'.

Later in life, Mr Kleinman married and settled in Canada, where he had two children before returning to the UK.

He is survived by his wife Miriam, his son Steven, his daughter Rosalyn and three stepchildren. 

Mr Kleinman worked closely with the Holocaust Educational Trust to share his story with younger generations. He accompanied groups on educational visits to Poland and was passionate that the children and grandchildren of Shoah survivors continue to preserve the legacy of the Holocaust. 

Ms Pollock said: “Leslie was a religious man, who often spoke of nearly losing faith in G-d during the Holocaust. His commitment to Judaism and the Jewish community was unstinting.

“A deeply kind and generous man, Leslie exuded warmth and compassion, always with an infectious smile. 

“He will be very sadly missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Miriam and his family.”

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