Born: 1932 Wilno, Poland (Now Vilnius, Lithuania)
Survivor: Wilno and Warsaw ghettos
"I lost the ability to be too emotional," says Leonard Chill. "To this
day I believe if you are too sensitive, you couldn't live with
yourselves for the horrible experiences of war." In 1941 Leonard was
nine years old. He and his father remained in Poland while his mother
fled from France to Portugal to Canada.
Leonard and his father were forced into the Wilno ghetto. "There was
tremendous overcrowding - four or five families to a room," he
remembers. They escaped to Warsaw. "We changed our identities and took
new names. I looked Polish so it was easier for me to pass. I was
never in true hiding; I just hid my identity," says Leonard.
When the Germans began liquidating the area, Leonard recalls, "we knew
we had to escape." His father, working on a road gang, detached
himself from the group and fled on foot. Leonard, relying on his
Polish appearance, walked away from the ghetto unnoticed. Father and
son were briefly reunited before his father was captured and sent to
the infamous Pawiak prison in Warsaw.
Leonard sold fruit and vegetables door to door. He remembers, "One of
my customers knew I was alone and invited me to live with her. I never
knew if she realized that I was Jewish." Six months later, his father
was caught trying to escape and shot immediately. "I was ten and
completely alone," he says.
A man with whom Leonard's father had entrusted him found Leonard after
liberation. Not long after, he was reunited with his mother. She was
joyful and tearful, but he remained stoic, fearing tears would bring
too much at once. ...
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