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Nate Leipciger was born to a Jewish family in Chorzów, Poland in 1928. When he was eleven years old, the Nazis invaded, and Nate and his family spent the next three years living in ghettos. The family was later deported to Auschwitz, where Nate was separated from his mother and sister. He would never see them again. By the time he was liberated in 1945, Nate had survived seven different concentration camps.

Nate and his father, the only remaining survivors of their family, moved to Canada in 1948. He became a successful engineer, married, and had three daughters.

Nate shares his experiences during the Holocaust in this Stories Survive speaker series program. Watch the program below.

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Sydney Yaeger (she/her): hi everyone, my name is Sydney Yaeger and i'm the public programs coordinator at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And it is my pleasure to welcome you to today's story survive program with nate leipziger.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): nate has spent many years, speaking about his experiences during the Holocaust, but this is his first time speaking at the museum.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): All interview nate for about 45 minutes and then we'll have time for audience q&a so feel free to share questions in the zoom Q amp a box throughout the program and we'll get to as many as we can.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So now i'd like to welcome nate and thank you so much, all of you to for being here with us today.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So nate if you want to turn your camera back on.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): I may Thank you so much for being with us today.

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Nate Leipciger: Thank you, is my pleasure to be here.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah so so you were born in Poland in 1928.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Correct um, can you tell me about where you grew up and what you remember about your childhood and, unlike before the war.

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Nate Leipciger: The place where I grew up in Poland isn't the West Southwest part of Poland and it's a very industrial part of the of the country it's where they're all the coal mines and smelters are and so it's a very dirty city and.

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Nate Leipciger: You couldn't go out for the day without coming back and having change your shirt because it was blocked from the suit.

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Nate Leipciger: That was flying in the air, so because of that my parents used to take us to the farm every summer to get some fresh air because we had to you know, was a respiratory.

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Nate Leipciger: Problems were very prevalent in that city, so we used to go down to the Carpathian mountains and have wonderful life together.

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Nate Leipciger: My family consisted of myself by sister who were three years older mother, my mother and father, my father had a very large family had there was eight eight siblings in his.

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Nate Leipciger: generation and.

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Nate Leipciger: about the most of the siblings lived in our on our town my mother's family was much smaller or to share two sisters that did not have any offsprings and.

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Nate Leipciger: We were a modern family were belong to a synagogue which.

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Nate Leipciger: People who are really religious will not go to the synagogue they go to a stable, which is a small prayer room and but, most people came to synagogue and talk bad and the clear saving.

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Nate Leipciger: Our rabbi I think I don't remember, but I think he spoke many in English or or in Polish, but I think mostly mostly he spoken English That was our.

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Nate Leipciger: Language that we were communicating also my language, my first language, German and second was.

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Nate Leipciger: salesian and then third was Polish and the fourth was English, so we had we were very, very, very rich family were actually on the lower middle class family and we lived in very relatively small apartment but we had a wonderful family life and I never knew that we were poor.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): um so What was your relationship like sort of with your parents and and your sister your immediate family.

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Nate Leipciger: Well, that depends on the time of day and then depending on the circumstances and my mother was my protector, and my idol I loved her very much I.

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Nate Leipciger: Like to watch her work with her hands, my father was very strict and my sister.

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Nate Leipciger: Was.

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Nate Leipciger: The apple of my parents I because she was very she was a brilliant girl and.

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Nate Leipciger: You know that was the relationship so with my father, when I did something wrong he took.

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Nate Leipciger: He took the work to me and I used to run to my mother to save me.

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Nate Leipciger: Is a picture of my engagement of my parents in 1922.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah and then, and this is your mother.

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Nate Leipciger: Her mother, and this is one of the last photographs taken in 1938.

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Nate Leipciger: In the town where we lived.

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Nate Leipciger: And it was dedicated to a.

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Nate Leipciger: woman who worked with my grandparents all her life, she was she was there for all the time that I knew and even after the war, she stayed with my ends and she actually died in my aunt's house.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And then, and this is more of your sort of extended.

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Nate Leipciger: This is the.

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Nate Leipciger: My father is in the middle of standing and his brother and sister to his right.

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Nate Leipciger: and his.

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Nate Leipciger: sister to his left and her husband both both yelling guys that you are the husband's of their of his two sisters, so he had a there were seven of them, this is there were seven of them and the land, the eighth one lived in Canada.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Okay, and then, and this is your sister.

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Nate Leipciger: Yes, this is significant because you notice that she is wearing the Star of David the yellow Star and as required and she's sending this picture to a Christian girl.

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Nate Leipciger: kept this picture all through the war, after this is 1942.

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Nate Leipciger: And or that time already, was very.

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Nate Leipciger: prohibitive for Jews, to have any intercourse with.

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Nate Leipciger: Polish people any social intercourse.

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Nate Leipciger: And, but she.

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Nate Leipciger: They communicated and my.

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Nate Leipciger: Her girlfriend kept the picture, also the war in Germany and Kevin and Labor slave Labor camps and she gave it to me in 1945 when I went back to Poland to look for what's the rhyme.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): See so so when it was clear that the Nazis were going to invade Poland.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Your family moved further inwards into Poland two loads, so why, why was that decision made to move there and and what happened after that move.

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Nate Leipciger: We were expelled from our hometown because they started to make many cities you didn't run free of Jews and they concentrated Jews in our area was just no yes.

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Nate Leipciger: and actually in some refounding area of that was the area where we're so small vs was in Auschwitz were actually annex to the right, but they kept the Jews in the area not enclosed ghettos, including Krakow, which was also an open get on first and then.

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Nate Leipciger: So we were moved, we were had to move to.

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Nate Leipciger: source vs, which was a and we had to move into the Jewish district of safaris and.

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Nate Leipciger: that's it and was actually changed for me, because in horseshoe I was a minority in our apartment I was the only do in the apartment, but when I moved to service all the people in my apartment were Jewish.

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Nate Leipciger: So that was the change the character of my friends and my relationship to the Jewish kids.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Right um and so in the ghetto you became an electricians apprentice, and you are.

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Nate Leipciger: In 1939 the Nazis close all the Jews, schools, and so I was in grade 11.

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Nate Leipciger: I mean a great age 11th grade for and just finished grade four so that's all the schooling, I had and.

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Nate Leipciger: I was running on the street, together with all the other kids that didn't go to school and Jewish community created it as trade schools with the Nazis allowed.

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Nate Leipciger: And so my mother enrolled made me two years older and enrolled me at the age of 12 he had to be 14 but anyways I went to the school, I became electrician and I got a job, right after working in a shoe factory, which was a very good situation for us, while we were in the service gatos.

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Nate Leipciger: They say ghettos, because we were removed from sister yes and open ghetto.

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Nate Leipciger: Right to and still.

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Nate Leipciger: An open ghetto, which did not have any walls or barbed wire, but it was on a hillside and hilltop and there was surrounded by field so anybody who left to get there was very, very noticeable.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): and be but, before you move to the second ghetto before you were moved to the to sure doula.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): your father was sent to do for sleeper right.

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Nate Leipciger: Yes, he was sent to and forced Labor in 1940 already.

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Nate Leipciger: 19 1939 he was expelled going to Soviet Union.

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Nate Leipciger: And then he came back in 1940.

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Nate Leipciger: And right after he came back, he was sent to a big can Labor and forced Labor camp in Germany and then he was there for four months, he came back and.

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Nate Leipciger: situation was good, so you wanted to go the second time, but this time it was already concentration camp from what she actually escaped.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And, and how how did that escape happened, do you did he ever talk to you about that.

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Nate Leipciger: Well, anyway, I know exactly how it happened, he made himself sick and since the camp did not have any medical facility, they had to bring them into Soviets and so some of his he jumped out a second story window and when you're hiding.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Okay, so so then he so he comes back to the ghetto, and then in 1942 your family was relocated to show doula.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So what what were kind of the differences between these two ghettos and what was the experience like for you kind of.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Moving between the tail.

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Nate Leipciger: Well, moving to the second ghetto was actually.

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Nate Leipciger: Actually, an advantage because we had a house one half a room.

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Nate Leipciger: were so so crowded, and they get done.

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Nate Leipciger: Each family of four or more people had half a room, so we had a half a room and which consisted of two beds in the table between them that's it.

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Nate Leipciger: And I can racing.

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Nate Leipciger: credentials and but I had there was a garden and I went to end and proceeded to.

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Nate Leipciger: Plant some vegetables syncing is I was going to the city and look working in a factory and we're going to city, every day, I could obtain seeds and I see the various different things letters with carrots tomatoes and all other things cabbage and.

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Nate Leipciger: You know, it was growing and we got there early early April and by by the time we were we were.

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Nate Leipciger: deported, which was in August, the second, there was a crop there we I had just partly.

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Nate Leipciger: took some radishes off and stuff like that, but there was a big problem because I had to make sure that I got there before my neighbors that.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): um are you still working as an electrician at this point.

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Nate Leipciger: or working well, actually, I was I started as an electrician but then.

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Nate Leipciger: I changed my day job was finished so.

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Nate Leipciger: I convinced the owners to make me.

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Nate Leipciger: Part of the warehouse so I was they were housekeeper giving out material to the shoemakers and cutting leather.

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Nate Leipciger: shoe letters and top brothers and learning a lot, so you know I had difficulties as a child, I had difficulties learning.

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Nate Leipciger: And my as opposed to my sister was brilliant my parents always used to say, well needs not gonna be a scholar is going to be a Taylor or shoemaker and, of course, their prediction came true and I think you to 15 I became a shoemaker.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): what's your sister working at this time as well.

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Nate Leipciger: No my sister did not work she worked at home with my mother, they were knitters.

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Nate Leipciger: So they would take apart take apart limited clothes.

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Nate Leipciger: And really let them into other things, and they did that, for in order to have an income.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Okay, so after your sentence sure doula you were then deported and send outfits.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And at that time.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): You were sent a selection, so can you talk about what happened during the selection process.

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Nate Leipciger: Okay, and i'll tell you about the deportation, which was the most traumatic experience that I ever had so he we were in the ghetto, which was you know we were free to go and we could.

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Nate Leipciger: stay at home or go no go to work and when we can when we were not on Sunday, when we did not work, we could go over the ghetto, we could meet friends have.

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Nate Leipciger: You know snacks together or play cards or whatever football and or soccer but then suddenly on August 1 Saturday night August, the first Sunday August, the second.

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Nate Leipciger: They Nazis invaded our ghetto and then proceeded to go from house to house pulling people out of my friends and I we created two hiding places which we had, and the first selection, the first.

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Nate Leipciger: Deportation we survive within our hiding place, but in the afternoon, they came back and this time they were much more.

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Nate Leipciger: equipped with ladders and PICs they can access and breaking down walls to find to find the people who obviously we're hiding, and so they found us meantime and the first hiding place that we weren't at.

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Nate Leipciger: A young woman came with it with a baby that must have been days old and she wanted to be admitted, and unfortunately.

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Nate Leipciger: The men did admit it, but when we came out after the first search her child was then, and there was a terrible situation because to me.

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Nate Leipciger: It didn't occur to me at that time, because you know at that time we justify that the death of a child saved maybe 35 people for possibly another few weeks or maybe forever or but at any rate, later on, it became obvious that.

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Nate Leipciger: A child, then we became murderous didn't know dominated the Nazis murderers, but we became murmurs on order to survive, another few hours, another few days.

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Nate Leipciger: And then they took us to the railroad station, we had to spend the night, and of course you can imagine, there are thousands of people.

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Nate Leipciger: And women and some children, sale and the children are crying mommy I want to go home i'm hungry i'm tired, I want to sleep I want my mad that.

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Nate Leipciger: And what did the mother What could the mother do other than conference to them, just to hold them to the bottom, and just give them love because that's all we had there was no food no water and the only thing that the mothers could give their children is their last minute of love.

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Nate Leipciger: And, of course, in the morning, the train came they pulled up a train.

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Nate Leipciger: Where.

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Nate Leipciger: The cars with the.

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Nate Leipciger: Cattle cars, and then we were we were shoved into the cattle cars and, of course, it was the bedlam because the family, tried to stay together we felt that.

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Nate Leipciger: We were told that we being resettled and as long as we were being recycled, we wanted to stay together didn't think.

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Nate Leipciger: That we will be in or separated, but so as long as we could we want to sit together so people were pushing and shoving in order to be together it's a.

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Nate Leipciger: it's a terrible seeing what you see today on the movies, of the of the people going into the train you you wonder why are they fighting to get into the train.

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Nate Leipciger: that's why they were fighting to maintain their contact with the family, and so we were in the train and we're in the middle of the train, I think there was about 80.

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Nate Leipciger: or 90 people in that car and we just have room to to sort of stand and the four of us are huddled together and my mother said, whoever survives will meet her mother's neighbor her mother by that time was.

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Nate Leipciger: demise she died of natural causes, as did her father so was only the four of us and.

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Nate Leipciger: We were in the car for a few hours much, unlike the many people who came from hungry and other places, which were.

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Nate Leipciger: There for hours and hours and days, but we were just there for a few hours, then came the train arrived somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and we were told to disembark and.

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Nate Leipciger: shouts everybody everybody out everybody out and I stayed with my mother and my sister because.

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Nate Leipciger: I didn't want to leave them and my father came over to me and says you come with me they separated men and women into two columns.

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Nate Leipciger: And he says, you come with me at that time I was 15 years old and, of course, my father was selected to go to work and my mother and my sister were selected.

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Nate Leipciger: But I been 15 years old, looking like 12 was selected to to staying wherever it meant to that this place was so I was trying to.

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Nate Leipciger: assess as to what the situation was and I reason that my sister my mother would go to Germany to Labor can my father, likewise, and I would just stay.

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Nate Leipciger: Wherever I was, and this was most likely, the place where they said we're going to be resettled.

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Nate Leipciger: And I had no no inkling of what's going to happen to me, neither was I worried because I felt I was self sufficient, and I could.

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Nate Leipciger: look after myself I worked there for three years and the shoe factory so for suddenly i'm gonna get lost and then my so I heard my father call my name and there, he was standing with a Nazi officer and he says, this is my son he's 17 years old and.

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Nate Leipciger: he's.

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Nate Leipciger: That one.

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Nate Leipciger: Okay he's 17 years old, and I want him to be with me and then, as he looked at me and he says he's hardly looks like 17 my father told them that you know, lack of food was prevented me from growing up, at any rate, then.

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Nate Leipciger: After an interrogation I satisfied him by speaking perfect German and.

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Nate Leipciger: telling him answering his question is okay you take now, we were marched off and we went into a big bear we're.

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Nate Leipciger: Just men they told us to give off all our possession rings.

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Nate Leipciger: Money whatever we had on us and we were two tubes, which was the number on my arm.

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Nate Leipciger: And we were our hair was shade all over the body will just affected, and then we were given a lecture.

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Nate Leipciger: We got the lecture consistent was given by us by a couple by a prisoner who was in charge of the prisoners and he said, this is not a sanatorium, this is a concentration camp and if you do as you are told, and you don't do any infractions then your lifespan is four months.

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Nate Leipciger: The only way to get out of here is to go through a factory in Germany, or you go through the gas chamber and the chimney.

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Nate Leipciger: So that was a very severe lesson which I had.

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Nate Leipciger: trouble to understand and it took me years and even today I don't know how I survived that information that they were telling us that our families our cousins and uncles and aunts were being gassed to this.

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Nate Leipciger: for no reason whatsoever, so this is the transition works i'm talking about being and to get to being a free human being.

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Nate Leipciger: Being a number in a prison in a concentration camp, and it was terrible terrible terrible transition, there was the most difficult moments of my of my existence, up to the point.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Was that the first time you knew what was happening outfits and I like it.

155
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Nate Leipciger: That was, I had no inkling whatsoever my parents may have, but they certainly if they did they did not share it with me.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So after you were in Auschwitz, you were then transferred to food tiken I believe i'm pronouncing that correctly.

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Nate Leipciger: Yes, that's good.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): um so how long were you at Auschwitz before you were transferred and what was the difference between the two camps.

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Nate Leipciger: We were there for months.

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Nate Leipciger: Then, in the full extent of.

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Nate Leipciger: Our lifespan and in November we went to first I went to the intervention of my father again who convinced the Nazi officer, at the risk of his own life that he should let me go with him, so I was.

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Nate Leipciger: 601 men 600 and first person on am 600 men transport what they took 49 more so 650 but the official record shows that only 600 people.

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Nate Leipciger: So, as far as the record show, I did not survive till I got to the next camp and two years later, when I ended up and rose growth rosen I got a new number.

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Nate Leipciger: And then the documentation is again that i'm alive and i'm with my father and we were in fintech and we were to was a group factory.

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Nate Leipciger: And I worked as an electrician, which was a very good job, because I worked inside I work with tools and I didn't have to use pick and shovel shovel and it was much easier to survive and my father became a machinist they will became a very, very skilled.

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Nate Leipciger: machinist so we had relatively easy way to survive for the next 16 months till January, and this is still January almost the same day as the liberation of Auschwitz.

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Nate Leipciger: January the deliberate January 23 of January 19 were forced on a death March.

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Nate Leipciger: From temptation to gross rosen where we live, where to there was 180 kilometers and we have to do that in four days and we lost the third of this prisoners.

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Nate Leipciger: At that time we were already about 50% Jews and 50% non Jews with extent, most of the non Jews were Catholic or Polish prisoner of.

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Nate Leipciger: four.

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Nate Leipciger: different factions for sabotage or underground work.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So some sort of in succession your your Center gross rosen floss and Berg and Leon Berg.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And you spent two weeks each at gross rosen and floss in Burg before then being transferred again, so what what was this period really like for you and how did it feel to sort of be going from from.

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Nate Leipciger: Every time we went on a train and was without foods.

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Nate Leipciger: Maybe we were given some food when we started, but no food, while we're on the train to give us food for two days we were usually on the train for four or five days, up to a week and.

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Nate Leipciger: No water so, but it was we're an open cars open railroad cars, so we could eat the snow that was falling on us for water, but then every time that they transport us it was very, very uncertain situation, whether we would survive the next Transport and there were transported.

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Nate Leipciger: From groceries and to flush number flushing Burke was terrible camp was a steinbrueck or the quarry and people were dying, the left, right and Center was the very brutal camp.

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Nate Leipciger: And we were very happy to register to go to work in a factory they asked for people who are skilled in factory work, so we we.

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Nate Leipciger: lined up, but it was the question whether they would let me go because of the fact that I was still.

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Nate Leipciger: looked like a 12 to 15 year old boy, rather than 1617 year old boy, and we finally we arrived and laufenberg I mean and then.

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Nate Leipciger: yeah and loewenberg and there we were exposed to attack with fever when they were sent us to another camp.

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Nate Leipciger: And it was a question whether they go where they were going to survive their next trip because they usually disposed of people who had.

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Nate Leipciger: been infected by typhoid fever, but we want to send to the how and from that how we went to we did not go into the whole camp over the sub can Camille the earth and then from middle do we went to a forest.

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Nate Leipciger: And there I by that time, I must have had exposure to type of server because I was totally emaciated I had no flesh on my body, and I was what they call Muslim on and skin, I was ready to give up, and I was.

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Nate Leipciger: I already talked to my father, I told them you go ahead i'm going to stay here i'm not going i'm giving up.

186
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Nate Leipciger: And I said whatever's going to happen here and camp i'm going to i'm going to take my chance I can't go because I just been shot before we get to the next railroad car.

187
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Nate Leipciger: And my father wouldn't hear about it, and he so we lined up and play really well the last people to leave the camp.

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Nate Leipciger: And there was the comment and standing at the gate and I broke line and I went over to the content, and I said, Sir, I can't go, I will not make the next destination, I don't want to be shot on the way I rather stay here, so he took one look at me and he saw that I was totally totally.

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Nate Leipciger: Totally spent and I said, but my father's I want him to stay with me and he said no, he has to go, and so we argued with him for a few seconds and.

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Nate Leipciger: He pulled up my father puts his arm underneath his hand under my arm and we started walking away when you called out after us and with a smirk he said me can boast they.

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Nate Leipciger: And we didn't know what that smirk meant to but maybe we didn't care that point because we knew that we could not make the next destination, so we stayed in the camp and the three days later, or four days later.

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Nate Leipciger: So the Americans came and liberated us.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So this was in April.

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Nate Leipciger: Of 1945 they may the second.

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Nate Leipciger: day the second 1945 and, as I say, this was an empty an empty victory, we were totally alone.

196
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Nate Leipciger: With just the two of us, which were.

197
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Nate Leipciger: More than 99% of the people who were there just by themselves not not a brother or father and we were unusual, the fact that we were together.

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Nate Leipciger: And, but we had nowhere to go, we have our possessions were gone all our family was gone and now we had you know the terrible time.

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Nate Leipciger: To decide as to what we're going to do, how are we going to reconstruct our lives, and the only thing that we had without on us was our life so our desire that point to live.

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Nate Leipciger: was even stronger than it was in the camp and, unfortunately, two days after the war ended may the eighth and may the 10th I became deathly ill with typhus fever and I almost expired from typhus fever, and I remember lying on the bed.

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Nate Leipciger: Most of the time I was.

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Nate Leipciger: In a coma and I was arguing with my God, I said, why are you doing to take me now why why now nobody is trying to kill me anymore what am I what am I going to die now.

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Nate Leipciger: And he responded.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah.

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Nate Leipciger: today's live four days later, after my favorite fever broke, and I was on my way to recover, which was very, very slow.

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Nate Leipciger: Because I was skeleton and I had all kinds of other diseases skin diseases stomach problems and the recovery was very, very slow.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So I actually have a picture of you soon after liberation about six weeks afterwards.

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Nate Leipciger: But then we can see.

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Nate Leipciger: i'm to hardly look like a 17 year old boy.

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Nate Leipciger: At this point, i'm 17 years old.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): wow so.

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Nate Leipciger: Maybe being looking young for my life, maybe that's what saved my me so that today i'm at the 94 almost 9493 and three quarters, I am still going strong so.

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Nate Leipciger: yeah this was this was the way there's the first grow for my hair, as you can see, because our hair was shade, you can see how my years stick out and it was the first pair of glasses, that I had because the glasses, a day work in Camp only had one lens.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Oh wow.

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Nate Leipciger: And for almost two years I walked around with only one answer and, of course, one of my eyes became dysfunctional.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): mm hmm.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): um.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So eventually you decided to go back to Poland to try to find members of your family, if I understand correctly.

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Nate Leipciger: Yes, after I recovered, I was in the hospital for six weeks.

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Nate Leipciger: And after that I decided i'm going to go and look for who is survived.

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Nate Leipciger: And this remember my mother said we should meet their her mother's neighbor so that was my.

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Nate Leipciger: Art and my greatest desire is to go and to see who, who has survived and who, I will find and there was a.

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Nate Leipciger: I went by myself, because at that time, my father was motor age and the Soviet Union was still in war with Japan, and they were taking men from.

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Nate Leipciger: The came from Germany from the camps and they sent them straight to the front, so I was advised to go by myself, and so I went to Poland by myself, my father stayed in Germany and.

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Nate Leipciger: I went to Poland and I found three cousins.

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Nate Leipciger: And my my my ex husband.

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Nate Leipciger: And I found two of my mother's sister sisters who were saved by Gentile people the righteous among the nations who saved them on the difficult conditions.

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Nate Leipciger: And they survived, and they were there in Poland one was in cutaways one was in lodge and I went to visit them and I got the pictures that picture of 1938 of my mother I got from them and.

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Nate Leipciger: Because, then the woman that was with my grandmother the all her life live now with my end and she had that picture, so it was all circumstance that we have been able to piece things together about our former life was not easy, as everything was gone and.

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Nate Leipciger: Then I had a difficult time, but I did return to Germany and while I was in Poland, I found that my mother and my sister were executed and the gas Chamber number four or five in Birkenau in 19 in October, the sixth 1930 1943 while we were still in Auschwitz was doing.

231
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Nate Leipciger: In America, now, and I saw that the women being transported naked from the woman's camp, to the crematorium.

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Nate Leipciger: Not thinking that my mother and my sister were among I wish I never saw that scene, was the terrible scene, because the women were.

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Nate Leipciger: screaming and crying because they knew what was awaiting them they knew that they going to the death, there was no more charade there's no more.

234
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Nate Leipciger: Hiding to what was really happening because, once you were announced with everybody knew or breaking up everybody knew was happening to the gassing and and the burning.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah um so yeah that's terrible and so you you're still living in Germany.

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Nate Leipciger: They will make the trip to Germany and now the thing was the Germany, Poland was under the occupation of the Soviet Union there's no way we're going to go there and.

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Nate Leipciger: You know, there was no we're not going to stay in Germany, my father had his oldest brother's still living in Canada, so we applied, we sent him a secret message and he responded to getting us papers, but the Canadian Government is wouldn't, let us until 1948 we.

239
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Nate Leipciger: Read in Germany.

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Nate Leipciger: For three long years that's you know it's a 17 year old boys life seven three years is very, very long.

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Nate Leipciger: yeah and I was fortunate that I had that I have met some German university students who I hired to teach me some algebra and German, so I spoke perfectly I did not know how to rewrite.

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Nate Leipciger: So they.

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Nate Leipciger: or grammar so they they they taught me about that, and then in 19 I will refuse twice to go to Canada on the third time we were admitted and 48 we arrived.

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Nate Leipciger: And then, thirdly, there we were now, the question was what are we going to do with my life and I asked my cousin with with my chances are to go into high school, so he says well let's go and find out took me to Harvard collegiate in one of the very prominent and.

245
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Nate Leipciger: prestigious high school in Toronto many Jewish people and I went to the principal and the principal called the.

246
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Nate Leipciger: head of the mathematics and he said this guy claims he knows the algebra so he gave me a an equation to solve and I solve that he says okay he's got he's got algebra so I got grade 13 algebra grade 11 algebra.

247
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Nate Leipciger: And I had great 11 subject grade 12 subject and grade 13 German.

248
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Nate Leipciger: And that's how I started school and I was 20 years old, I reverted I made myself two years younger vegan.

249
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Nate Leipciger: And so, this time I was.

250
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Nate Leipciger: On my papers, I was 18 years old, I was admitted to school, I made to my greatest surprise, I work day and night, but I made grade 1112 and 13 and two years.

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Nate Leipciger: And I was admitted to university and to I wanted to go into dentistry with the refuse me, and so I went into honor science with one of the most difficult courses that University on second to engineering science and.

252
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Nate Leipciger: I survived under science and I came through with good marks I stood seventh in the class of.

253
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Nate Leipciger: 80 of only, of which only 20 made it.

254
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Nate Leipciger: Out of eight students on the 20 2020 made the grade.

255
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Nate Leipciger: or the other ones were failed because there was a very, very difficult course with very difficult.

256
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Nate Leipciger: Barclays you ology chemistry and physics and mathematics was brutal and I survived that and then I decided i'm not want to go for them to stay, I want to go the engineering, so I went to ryerson and I told them in the principle that I wanted to become.

257
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Nate Leipciger: Students at ryerson which was adjusted collegiate which are only required grade 12 now I had great 13 and one university, he says he would advise me not to.

258
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Nate Leipciger: Go to there, but to continue to go to engineering, so I switched I went to engineering and I graduated 1955 54 one year before my graduation, I met my wife and I wouldn't let her go, so I married her right away.

259
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Nate Leipciger: And I was six years old, so I knew I knew, if I had a good good thing, going so I married her, she was 19.

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Nate Leipciger: And then.

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Nate Leipciger: We then had three beautiful daughters and wonderful granted some laws and nine great grandchildren and then, and you know seven of them are now married.

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Nate Leipciger: wow with their partners and.

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Nate Leipciger: You know we're we're we're fantastically well.

264
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Nate Leipciger: And the fact that we have a big family.

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Nate Leipciger: I have.

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Nate Leipciger: Nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren with one on the way, unfortunately, three years ago my middle daughter succumb to cancer ovarian cancer and we lost her, and that was the greatest blow in my adult life to what could happen to a parents to lose a child.

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Nate Leipciger: And wife and I we.

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Nate Leipciger: Fast through it together and we had to overcome it that it's not something that is easy to overcome but life must go on, and so we felt that life was sacred and we have to go on and then.

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Nate Leipciger: yeah.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Well i'm so sorry for your loss but think, thank you for sharing all that it's really amazing to hear about your life in Canada.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): After the war, and you know all the things you've accomplished are really amazing and I, I do wonder how how is your relationship with your father changed when you arrived.

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Nate Leipciger: Well, difficult, I always used to think that he didn't care for me because.

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Nate Leipciger: Whenever I tried something guy I usually did not come up to the to his mark of acceptance and I always always failed and I always saw the disappointment and, as I, and I was.

274
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Nate Leipciger: severely punished for any infraction that I did not deserve being punished that for sure, but so I felt that he didn't love me but.

275
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Nate Leipciger: When we were in Camp together, I was became you know, he would he risked his life on many, many occasions to save my life and after the war, we became like brothers, rather than father and son.

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Nate Leipciger: We had a wonderful relationship, though he died in 1972.

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Nate Leipciger: at the age of 70.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): wow, and so I really want to ask you about this before we move into audience Q amp a in 2016 you accompanied Prime Minister justin Trudeau to Poland.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And we actually have some really amazing pictures that you sent me at this time, secure to talk about how this trip kind of came about and what this experience was like for you.

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Nate Leipciger: Is it.

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Nate Leipciger: Yes, since the since the year.

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Nate Leipciger: 20 1998 I was going on the Marchal delivering.

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Nate Leipciger: This is 2016 so I was on the marks about 18 times and the leader of the martyrs living Canadian leader asked me to go with the Prime Minister Annie rubenstein asked me to go on the march with.

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Nate Leipciger: The Prime Minister asked me the way I would go I said, certainly, I would certainly go, but I had the three conditions and the conditions were actually for conditions.

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Nate Leipciger: The first condition was of them have to go on business class, because I have to sleep, and the second condition was that I had to go with my wife, the third was that I had to bring one one of my daughters and the fourth that I had to bring over my granddaughter's.

286
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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So there we were there were the three generations of us and company the.

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Nate Leipciger: Prime Minister, who vacated administer from the first class seat and gave us the first car seat to my wife and I, so we should be traveling in comfort and then, when we got to Auschwitz.

288
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Nate Leipciger: It was unbelievable because he was very responsive and was visibly move of what we went through Auschwitz first.

289
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Nate Leipciger: One for is that the hair and the suitcase and the shoes and the utensils and he saw of them and they you know I explained to him what happened, and then we walked into.

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Nate Leipciger: into brick an hour and just went through the gate you know and there you could see immediately what what this place was and I took him we walk together this one kilometer from the gate to the monument and then front of gas Chamber number three.

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Nate Leipciger: Western and we said, the person that's in front of you on the on your right.

292
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Nate Leipciger: Is rabbi schneer.

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Nate Leipciger: Here and he's from Montreal and they're behind this the director of options museum Professor dubinsky.

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Nate Leipciger: But so he was he was standing there and we end the rabbi was returning more rahaman condition we were saying I was sending, then I was obviously visibly moved and crying and I looked over to see my the President to see the Prime Minister and he tears were flowing from his eyes.

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Nate Leipciger: He was moved, together with me, so there was the situation where he came, you know only only seven years earlier, I was standing in front of the gas Chamber as a 17 year old boy or 15 year old boy.

296
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Nate Leipciger: yeah with no PR nope no future was no hope, and here I came back with my family.

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Nate Leipciger: And you know many times they came back with the march of the living with thousands of students and even so, they gave us a one way ticket to Auschwitz, we came back with Jewish.

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Nate Leipciger: Jewish kids for wearing.

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Nate Leipciger: Blue jackets with the Star of David on it and flying the Israeli flags and singing songs and you know this was our victory, and here I was.

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Nate Leipciger: You know, seven years at my age of what was done Ada and I was standing there in front of the gas Chamber with the Prime Minister of my country that.

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Nate Leipciger: gave me a new life and I been able to raise a family, this was the pinnacle of my of my achievement in life, to be able to do that and to speak to him and to bless him for the fact that he allowed me to come with.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): that's amazing.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah like there's no words let's just truly amazing, so we have a lot of questions from the audience so someone asked how so early in the war, how did your parents sort of explain to you what was happening, when you were moving into the ghetto and.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah how did they explain that to you.

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Nate Leipciger: Within ask questions you must remember.

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Nate Leipciger: in Europe.

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Nate Leipciger: Children did not ask questions and parents were not obliged to answer the children's questions, so I didn't ask them, they did not share with me anything.

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Nate Leipciger: The only thing that I knew about the war and the progress of war is when I listen to this senior to the older people reading German newspapers and you're seeing the pictures of the.

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Nate Leipciger: German newspapers showing how they were conquering Belgium and France and the Netherlands and the blitz blitz creek and was you know I knew all that.

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Nate Leipciger: But I had no inkling as to what's going to happen to us, I mean I knew that they threw out all the Polish Jews from Germany, because they were in our hometown and I was.

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Nate Leipciger: running for them as an errand boy and earning money as tips, but we did not ask questions you just found out by as Moses just by by listening keeping your eyes and your ears open to what was happening around you.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And can you talk about sort of what a typical day I guess would have been like in outfits are we also have a question about that.

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Nate Leipciger: Well, I should we were in a darkened Sligo, which means transition camp, which was a.

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Nate Leipciger: store like a warehouse for.

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Nate Leipciger: merchandise that we're going to be processed either you get shipped to Germany or you're going to be gassed and we were there, for you know many weeks.

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Nate Leipciger: For 12 weeks before we got on the transport and each week we had to I had to hide, because there was selection weekly selections so I had to hide but.

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Nate Leipciger: Other than during the selections I know I could, I had the run of the of the entire camp, I could go from back to back and talk to other people and see if there was there was one of the kid That was my age, and then we played together and.

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Nate Leipciger: You know, we we had the little food, but I was treated well by the couple.

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Nate Leipciger: They stood Manchester, then the person that was in charge of our block and I had, I did not lack food in Auschwitz.

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Nate Leipciger: And I did not have to go to work because there was nobody is working and some people were worth taking breaks from one pile to put in another and then taking them back, but other than that some people went to work and, one day, my father volunteer to go to work and he did.

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Nate Leipciger: And he left an area in the morning and didn't come back till night and the sky was already black and the chimney was spewing out the flames of different my criteria.

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Nate Leipciger: And I was thinking that see my father made it we made a mistake that he went to work, the reason why you went to work because he wanted to let my mother know.

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Nate Leipciger: That I am with him because you see you needed you needed hope you needed something will to live, you know and so he.

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Nate Leipciger: He felt that if she knew that i'm still alive, that would give her an added incentive to stay alive, but he didn't meet her up with a he came back, and you know I asked him, where you so anyways after work he was taking to Canada, which is the camp where there was the showers and.

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Nate Leipciger: Human mentor and tailor to foreman who offered him a job that was I didn't tell me he didn't tell me that, for too many years later, but.

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Nate Leipciger: At the time, he brought me some clothes that fit me and I when I put them on I looked like a human being, again, which helped me to leave the camp and when when we did when he saved me the second time and.

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Nate Leipciger: He then if if I found out that he was offered to a job in Canada, which was pretty well and guarantee of survival and he refused it.

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Nate Leipciger: Because he said he wants to be with me and because, without without him being with me, I had no chance to survive and he was right and so he he came back and then weeks later he saved me to go to Germany.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And when you, we have some people who are wondering when you were in Germany, what what were your interactions like with.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): With the there, especially post more immediately after the war.

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Nate Leipciger: Here you find yourself among your murderers.

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Nate Leipciger: And you look at every face and you try to picture of he was in a uniform with a he was one of the people that were shoving people into the gas Chamber or either the he was wanting to assess people, and you know, I was it was constantly an easy.

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Nate Leipciger: When I met German people I met German people my own age, which was no there were no Jewish kids of my age there in bamberg there was only two other.

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Nate Leipciger: kids of my age, and that means being 17 years old, and so I befriended some Germans of my age, which i'm sure there were not involved in any Nazi activity.

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Nate Leipciger: But I didn't I wasn't sure about their parents and you know we were there was a very difficult time because I spoke to many the universe, especially the university students that.

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Nate Leipciger: That tutored me and I was trying to convince them that Nazi committed a crime and they told us well, then the Nazis were not the only one that hated the Jews and he pointed out that Ford.

337
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Nate Leipciger: Ford company leader and the Henry Ford was an Anti Semite and he had letters written to Hitler and he also agreed with Hitler that we should be.

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Nate Leipciger: exterminated and he said, you know and then he said well the next day Americans weren't so so nice to us, I said, what do you mean he says, well, they bombed Dresden, I said well yeah but.

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Nate Leipciger: You bond all the cities into into into oblivion, so they only retaliated I said, what about the Soviet they invaded Germany and they raped women and they destroyed the.

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Nate Leipciger: houses in factories and I said well you know you didn't take any prisoners of the of the Russian soldiers, they were very kind to you, they could have been much worse and but they could not convince that they did anything wrong.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So we also have another question, who somebody is wondering when you first started to telling her story after the war and.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): What that was sort of like to to make that decision to talk about it.

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Nate Leipciger: Well till 1972.

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Nate Leipciger: And that time I was already 34 years old.

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Nate Leipciger: I did not speak about my experiences.

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Nate Leipciger: My father was the spokesman for the two of us, and when he spoke, when I was President when he spoke, I just listened and a lot of the information that I have sensory you know I added to my own memory came from the memory of my father and.

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Nate Leipciger: In 1972 when he died.

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Nate Leipciger: I suddenly became the they're the carrier of the memory.

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Nate Leipciger: And it became very important to me to continue to tell the story by that time I was a member of a synagogue I was actually the President represent a gun.

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Nate Leipciger: And I talked to the confirmation class and we only talked to this 1617 year old students, because we felt the subject was to moodle two parts to.

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Nate Leipciger: to share with younger students and we, together with another friend of mine and ellie god's we went to different classes and we went to the conversion classes and we spoke about our experience.

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Nate Leipciger: And that's how I started, and then I became Chairman of the Toronto Jewish Holocaust Remembrance committee and then 1980 or 70 7075 I think 78 something like that, and then I was instrumental in organizing the.

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Nate Leipciger: Ottawa Holocaust gathering that was modeled after the Holocaust survivors gathering and washing two years prior and so in 1985 I organized it together with two other guys I organized the March the.

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Nate Leipciger: Gathering and we had 3500 people registered, and it was a huge success, and then I became I was asked to join the.

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Nate Leipciger: Canadian Jewish Congress, which was the national body and I became a chair there of the Holocaust Remembrance committee.

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Nate Leipciger: And then I became a Member, I was asked to join the Auschwitz Council, which was the responsible for changing.

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Nate Leipciger: The tone and the information that was miss miss miss miss information that was displayed in Auschwitz Birkenau as to the number of people that died, and the fact that.

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Nate Leipciger: Very few of those who who were murdered there were Jews, so we had a huge job of changing it and I was there for 15 years, so we accomplished a lot.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): that's amazing um so as we kind of near the end of the hour, I want to ask you one last question um, what do you hope people take from listening to your story.

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Nate Leipciger: that's a very difficult question.

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Nate Leipciger: They have to decide themselves of what they're going to take out of my question, I cannot give them, I only give them my information and it's up for the to them to assimilate information and I gave them to.

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Nate Leipciger: You know, in two years, three years ago, when I was asked what I was awarded the the honorary doctorate.

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Nate Leipciger: And I had to make a speech to the students, the graduating class of the of teachers have some 2000 students graduating from the Faculty of.

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Nate Leipciger: Education and my speech was that the second generation third generation and the generations that come with the after us.

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Nate Leipciger: Are the bears of the message that we are trying to convey and the message that we're trying to convey is that hatred leads to Auschwitz, and it does xenophobia leads to Auschwitz and anti semitism.

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Nate Leipciger: leads to propagating the hate, which leads.

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Nate Leipciger: So we have we have i'm giving it you only the information from which i'm asking you to do the most that you can.

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Nate Leipciger: Because it's your world i'm almost i'm not the end of my life, but you are there you are your life is ahead of you.

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Nate Leipciger: And the way you are going to behave in the way you're going to teach your people, your children, and you, your patriots of what's what the situation was during the show, and what the dangers are of the anti semitism and the xenophobia and the hatred of Israel today it's in your hands.

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Nate Leipciger: And I can't fit anymore, but you are responsible for what's going to happen, then the next hundred years, not me not the survivors we're gone and now Now the ball is in your hands So my message is take whatever you can from what we tell you.

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Nate Leipciger: And the information that we're trying to impart to you and run with it and change the world because if you don't change the world, it will happen again.

 

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Learn More About Nate’s Story
In The Weight of Freedom, Nate discusses his story of surviving seven different concentration camps and how his experiences during the Holocaust changed his relationship with his father. He also discusses immigrating to Canada, and how he rebuilt his life after the war. You can purchase the book here.

Hear From Other Polish Holocaust Survivors
Fania Wedro was born Fania Hellman in Koretz, Poland on August 25, 1927. When she was fourteen years old, the Nazis took away her father and the other men living in the village. Fania then spent six months in a work ghetto in Koretz, where she escaped two mass killings by the Nazis. After escaping the second mass killing, she lived in hiding in the forest for eighteen months. Fania immigrated to Canada after the war. Hear her story in this Museum program.

Learn About the Work of Alfred Kantor
In December 1941, Alfred Kantor arrived at the Terezin Ghetto. An 18 year old artist from Prague with one year of study at the Rotter School of Advertising Art under his belt, Kantor began to draw scenes around him. Kantor continued drawing and painting at night after he was deported to Auschwitz and to Schwarzheide, and then again after the war in the Deggendorf Displaced Persons Camp. Learn more about Kantor’s work in this Museum program.