Holocaust Survivors' Network
Robert LeRoy, Auschwitz and Bunzlau Holocaust survivor tells kids:
Keep hatred out of your lives
By Glenn Jeffers
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
Published February 12, 2005
Between coughs and sips of bottled water, a man once known as No. 46288 sat in front of more than 30 schoolchildren and told his story one last time.
Robert LeRoy couldn't have a name, he told students Friday at the Einstein Academy in Elgin, [Il., USA] not during those days at the Bunzlau concentration camp in Poland. He had to be a number. The guards made sure of that.
"They beat it into me," LeRoy recalled. "You learned to become a number because you learned to survive."
The children sat silent as they listened to LeRoy. Friday marked the 60th anniversary of LeRoy's liberation from Bunzlau, and he wanted to tell one more group of schoolchildren about past atrocities and the lessons that could be gleaned.
"Hatred is not part of your life," said LeRoy, 80. "It should never be part of your life."
For 30-plus years, LeRoy, an Elgin resident, has related to schoolchildren his stories of the Holocaust. But in recent years his health has deteriorated.
"No more," LeRoy said, taking a seat after his talk. He said this would be his last appearance talking about the Holocaust. "My physical strength is gone, and I have to adjust to it."
LeRoy and his family were rounded up when the Nazis invaded his hometown of Nyirmada, Hungary, in 1944. They were first taken to Auschwitz, where LeRoy, then 19, was selected to go to the Bunzlau work camp.
He watched as his mother, father and 2-year-old brother were led to a showering area, he said.
"No one knew it was a gas chamber," LeRoy said.
LeRoy said he spent almost a year as a laborer at Bunzlau before the Germans abandoned the camp and Russian tanks liberated those inside in 1945.
Memories of Auschwitz and Bunzlau have stayed with LeRoy, who came to America in 1949. He cries sometimes when he enters a shower, said his wife, Carol.
On Friday, LeRoy stressed the destructive nature of hate.
"It's not easy confronting youngsters like you," LeRoy said. "Please learn to be a decent human being."
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune