Leon Rajninger was born in Chernowitz, Romania (now Ukraine) and was 10 years old in 1941 when the Nazis invaded. He and his family were soon deported to a ghetto in the Transnistria region. The area contained ghettos as well as concentration, transit, and labor camps. From 1941- 1944, over 300,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews perished there as a result of violence, starvation, illness, and freezing conditions. He and his family managed to escape death many times. Once his mother bribed a German officer, not knowing if it would save them from getting sent to a concentration camp, but it did. Faced with malnutrition and lack of food, Leon’s resourcefulness saved them. He would sneak out early in the morning and place rocks in such a way that when the farmers’ wagons rolled over them, some of the beets would fall off. Leon ran out of hiding and collected the few beets and whatever potatoes he could find in the fields. This sustained them for the winter.
After the war, Leon’s family spent time in four displaced persons camps before finally leaving for the United States in 1951.
Leon has published a book about his childhood experiences during the Holocaust, entitled Black Days and Nights. A link to access the book is available on our Survivors page.