Oral history
History witnesses

Leon Weintraub

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Joanna Król
Joanna Król
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
8th September 2015
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN
March’68 Participants and Witnesses

Interlocutor biogram

Leon Weintraub was born on January 1, 1926, in Łódź in the family of Szula-Szlomo and Natalia. Leon Weintraub’s father died in 1927. In order to provide for a big family (son and four daughters), his mother opened a small laundry at 2 Kamienna Street in Łódź. By the time the war broke out, Leon Weintraub has completed 4 years of a general education school. In 1939, Weintraub’s family moved to the area of the Łódź ghetto, where he completes one more year of a general education school. He worked in a galvanising workshop, later at a metalsmith’s, and then as an electrician. In August 1944, the Weintraub family was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Leon is separated from the rest of his family.

A few weeks later, Leon Weintraub escapes from Auschwitz-Birkenau, gets to a transport to Głuszyce and is taken to a camp in Dörnhau (Kolce), where he is assigned to work in the Todt organisation. He stays in Dörnhau until the end of February 1945, where he is deported to other forced-labour camps. On April 23, 1945, Leon Weintraub was freed by the French army and is recovering in the Donaueschingen hospital, and later in a French military sanatorium on the Reichenau peninsula. While in the sanatorium, he learns that his three sisters survived the Bergen-Belsen camp.

In autumn 1946, he begins studies in medical school in Göttingen. In 1947, he marries Katia Ketitehuff from Berlin – later a translator of Polish literature to German (e.g. prose of Janusz Korczak and Czesław Miłosz). In November 1959, Leon Weintraub comes to Poland, where he graduates from medical school, gynaecology & obstetrics, and starts a job in Warsaw. In 1966, he is awarded a doctoral degree and is appointed the head of obstetrics & gynaecology in Otwock.

In 1969, in the wake of anti-Semitic feeling, Leon Weintraub is falsely accused of abuse of authority and mismanagement. He loses his position as the head of department and is unable to pursue scientific work in the People’s Republic of Poland. In 1969, he emigrates to Sweden, where he remarries and lives to this day. In 2008, at Leon Weintraub’s initiative, a Jewish cemetery was tidied up and the Jewish community of Dobra near Turek – his mother’s home town – was commemorated.

Recording circumstances description

The recording took place in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN in Warsaw.

Recording summary

    1. Reasons for returning to Poland in 1950 and quitting medical studies in Göttingen, marrying Katia Ketethoff, working towards enabling his wife and son to come to Poland, 0:00:40
    2. Circumstances of the wedding, ethos of college students after the war, thoughts on his wife's German identity, 0:04:43
    3. The idea of social solidarity and its philosophical sources in the eyes of the interviewee, the idea of solidarity in the times of the People’s Republic of Poland and how experiencing Holocaust affected evaluation of the reality of daily life, 0:06:18
    4. The reasons for choosing this medical specialty (obstetrics and gynaecology), procedure for admittance to medical school in Göttingen, 0:08:34
    5. Financial situation during the studies, the attitude of Survivors to worldly goods: determination to become self-reliant, 0:10:00
    6. The circumstances of graduating from medical school in Poland, problems with employment after graduation, first employment, 0:12:00
    7. Being head of department in Otwock, reorganisation and efficiency, change in the organisational structure of the hospital, 0:14:14
    8. Meeting of endocrinologists in Łódź in 1968 and professional success of the hospital’s transformation into a scientific facility, appreciation from ministerial authorities, visions of development of the facility, 0:16:30
    9. Suspension of the development of the facility and limitation of the hospital’s activity; suspension of scientific work, the interviewee’s activities towards restoring full operation of the facility, 0:17:50
    10. Accusations of the authorities of the People's Republic of Poland against the interviewee: accusations of corruption, charges, press publications, actions of the hospital staff to defend the interviewee, dismissal, 0:19:00
    11. Circumstances of going to the West in 1969, crossing the border, 0:21:00
    12. What emigration meant for the interviewee’s personal and professional life, 0:23:40
    13. Travelling with his belongings, Göttingen-Warsaw-Stockholm, 0:25:12
    14. Meeting due to the fiftieth anniversary of getting a diploma of the Medical University in 1998, a story of the interviewee giving his student grant to a friend, 0:26:29
    15. The events of March 1968, anti-Semitic propaganda, the interviewee’s son being expelled from the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of Warsaw, 0:27:50
    16. The interviewee’s attitude to the state of Israel, the death of the interviewee’s relatives during the Holocaust as an offering in the building of an independent state of Israel, choosing Sweden and the emigration destination, 0:31:43
    17. Emigration to Sweden, death of the interviewee’s wife, 0:32:45
    18. The interviewee’s situation and roots in post-war Poland: physician as a useful, apolitical profession, connection with Poland, 0:34:45
    19. Being accused of medical experiments on women, official grounds for dismissal: admitting patients from outside the county to the clinic, ban on scientific activities, 0:36:14
    20. Political and ideological affiliation of the interviewee in the 1950s, 0:42:40
    21. The interviewee speaking German, interview for the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation, disappointment in emigration, 0:43:47
    22. Returns from emigration, anti-Semitism and role of the Catholic Church, the interviewee’s attitude to anti-Semitism and thoughts on human nature, 0:47:23
    23. Restoring/confirming the interviewee’s Polish citizenship in 1991, first trips to Poland, 0:50:40
    24. Building a place of memory in Dobra near Turek, the place of birth of the interviewee’s mother and grandfather, taking care of local Jewish cemetery, building a lapidarium, 0:52:11
    25. Educational activities of the interviewee in Poland, Sweden and Germany; motivation to pursue educational activity, 0:56:11
    26. The interviewee’s speech in the synagogue in Munich in April 2015 during Yom HaShoah, 0:59:50
    27. Visit in the museum in Rogoźnica/Gross-Rosen, 01:00:49
    28. The interviewee’s daily life in pre-war Łódź, description of the flat and laundry at 2 Kamienna Street, school education, secular nature of the family, 01:03:06
    29. The interviewee’s attitude to religion, 01:08:45
    30. World Meeting of the Inhabitants of Łódź in 2000, the interviewee’s thoughts on Jewish identity, reaction to direct manifestations of anti-Semitism, 01:10:00
    31. Anti-Semitic atmosphere of March 1968; terror, disappointment and resentment, 01:17:30
    32. The interviewee’s thoughts on the message arising from history in support of dialogue, respect and tolerance, 01:21:39:24
    33. The interviewee’s personal survival strategy in Warsaw of the 1950s, the interviewee’s self-reflection on his own emotions and experiences regarding the camp period, 01:22:40
    34. Thoughts on the interviewee’s practice as an obstetrician, 01:29:07
    35. Business visits in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Treblinka in the 1950s and 1960s, 01:31:30
    36. The interviewee’s self-reflection on his identity and attitude to others, 01:33:20
    37. Presentation of distinctions: Igła Zasługi (Needle of Merit) of the Jewish Community in Stockholm, German Merit Cross, thoughts on the distinctions, 01:36:19
In order to properly print this page, please use dedicated print button.