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After Decades, A Child Holocaust Survivor Speaks


South Lake Tahoe resident Leon Malmed is a child of the Holocaust. When he was a young boy, his parents were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. A neighboring family took in both Leon and his sister Rachel, raising them as their own. Leon will be speaking about his experiences at the Northwest Reno Library on Wednesday, April 5, at 5 pm. He also talked to our news director Michelle Billman back in 2015 and today we'll listen back to their conversation.

For sixty years, Leon did not speak about what happened.

When he finally opened up, he ended up writing a book called We Survived…At Last I Speak, in which he recounts everything he can remember, including the moment his parents were taken away.

“I can see myself, to this day, just hanging to the skirt of my mother and crying. And my mother was crying. My father was not crying; he was just trying to keep as calm as possible in order not to frighten us.”

It would be another thirty years before Leon and his sister learned the fate of their parents. For months after the war, the children held out hope that their parents were in another country and would soon return. Eventually, they were told about the death camps.

In 2007, the German government finally released millions of Nazi documents making up the so-called Holocaust Archives. From those documents, Leon and his sister discovered that ten days after being arrested, their parents were taken to Auschwitz. Their mother was never tattooed at the camp, which most likely means she died in transport or was murdered upon arrival. Their father was tattooed and they know he was still alive more than two years later in September of 1944, just a few months before that camp was liberated.

Leon now makes a special effort to meet with area schoolchildren to share his story. His hope is that the more we talk about atrocities like the Holocaust, the less likely they are to happen again.

Leon Malmed's parents, Chana and Srul, were arrested at their home in France and never returned home. Their children, Leon and Rachel, did not learn their exact fate until decades later.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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