- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

Leo Bretholz stayed one step ahead of death for seven years during the Holocaust. He escaped

seven times from his wartime predators. On Nov. 6, 1942, he fled a deportation train in France on its way to Auschwitz, a German extermination camp in Poland.

His mother and sisters were killed in Izbica, an extermination camp in Poland. He lost 20 members of his family in various camps.

In 1947, Mr. Bretholz moved to Baltimore. “Leap Into Darkness,” a book that he co-authored with Michael Olesker, chronicles his journey.

“I went from one place to another, a little help here, a little help there,” Mr. Bretholz, 85, says. “I was never in an Eastern death camp in Germany or Poland. My efforts were not to get there.”

Mr. Bretholz will share his story at this week’s Holland & Knight Holocaust Remembrance Project, sponsored by the national law firm with offices in the Washington area. The event provides a free trip to the District for teachers from schools in rural areas with tight budgets.

Ten winners of the foundation’s essay contest also were invited to come to the nation’s capital, spend a week with Holocaust survivors and visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Southwest.

During Thursday’s awards banquet at the Fairmont Hotel in Northwest, essay winners will receive scholarships. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize-winning author, is the keynote speaker.

Mr. Bretholz says he is thankful for “angels” that he met during the Holocaust, such as Sister Jeanne d’Arc, a nurse at a hospital in Limoges, France. While working with the Resistance in France, he suffered a strangulated hernia and feared his Jewish identify would be discovered during surgery.

After the operation, the nun whispered: “As long as I am in this ward, you have nothing to fear.” He met her May 9, 1944, and she was buried May 9, 2006. He planted two trees for her in Jerusalem, symbolizing her status as a “righteous Gentile.”

“As long as there are people in the world, there will be atrocities,” Mr. Bretholz says. “People are not the perfect species. Hopefully, a lesson will be learned sometime.”

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