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Cousin Leo Schreiber was the son of my grandfather’s brother David. He came from a family of Rabbinic giants of Europe; the Europe that does not exist anymore. His family was loving and righteous and they were destroyed by Hitler, yimach shemo. But Leo survived. He was only 13 when he was separated from his family, and they were all murdered. Leo survived as part of Oscar Schindler’s people. He worked in the hellhole of humanity, but his life was spared. As his daughter Michelle related, “My dad was a survivor. He survived on Schindler’s list, because he said he could work as a blacksmith. I asked him how he knew about being a blacksmith before the war and he told me he didn’t. But understanding that it was a skill that could save his life at the moment, he said he could do it. He learned by carefully watching everything the man next to him did. He was a quick study and must have been the best since he was chosen to make a table for Hitler.”
Leo met Miriam after the war and fell in love with her. She too was a survivor, a hidden child, and knew the horrors of World War Two. To quote Leo’s daughter Susan,
“Their’s was a powerful love story, born out of the agony of the Holocaust. It was love at first sight for both, although my mom was the one who initiated the contact and proposed marriage. ‘Will you marry me’, she asked? ‘But you are just a kid’, my dad said (she was only 16 when they were married). ‘I’ll grow up’, she said. ‘If it doesn’t work out we’ll get divorced.’ My father said, ‘I will marry you, but no divorce.’ I don’t know how he could have known that he had found his soul mate, but somehow he did.”
After the war, my grandfather, Rafael Schreiber searched for any survivors of his once large family. The few he found, he brought to America. When Leo and Miriam came to America, they came to our house to live for a brief time. I was a child of about seven at the time, but I cannot forget those days. Miriam was the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen and I followed her around every minute that I could. Leo was tall and handsome and looked so strong. I thought that he could do anything.
They stayed with us until they found a place to rent but they came back for visits and how I waited for those visits. Grandfather took Leo to work in my father’s newspaper printing place and Leo was a very quick learner. He wasn’t afraid of hard work. What was hard work to Leo after all that he had been through? He watched and learned and became a pressman, eventually starting his own printing company. Michelle says, “He built the company from scratch and made every decision that made it a successful business. But if you walked into Amsel Litho you wouldn’t know that my dad owned the company. He put on a uniform and ran his own press every day. He was such a wise man and yet so humble. In his business, long before it was a popular subject, my dad made sure that every employee had an incredible pension plan and health benefits. He did it not because it was mandatory, but because it was the right thing to do for his workers. Having worked for him myself one year, I can tell you he was an amazing boss.”
About the Author: Naomi Klass Mauer is associate publisher of The Jewish Press.
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