After seeing the movie at a screening, Leyson was awed, particularly by scenes showing boys running from the Nazi commandos. "It was like having an out-of-body experience," he told The Times, "because those little kids who were … trying to get away from the Sondercommando — that was me. That was my friends."
His only criticism was that he felt the film emphasized the imperfections in Schindler's character — the womanizing, profiteering and Nazi ties — and did not show enough of the businessman's "basic human decency." Leyson worked 12-hour shifts like the adult Jews, but Schindler doubled his rations when he saw how weak he was and took him off the line when his eyesight began to falter. He left packs of cigarettes for Leyson's father and added Leyson's mother and surviving siblings to his list, making them one of the few families he took under wing.
"He put everything on the line," Leyson said of Schindler in the Fort Collins Coloradan in 2010. "Even to treat us as human being was against the law.... He did it because he was a decent human being."
Leyson immigrated to America in 1949. His work experience in Schindler's factories led him to study industrial arts at L.A. City College and Cal State L.A. before earning a master's in education from Pepperdine University in 1970. He taught machine shop and was a guidance counselor at Huntington Park High School for four decades, retiring in 1997.
In addition to his daughter Stacy of Warrenton, Va., he is survived by his wife of 46 years, Lis; a son Daniel, of Los Angeles; a sister, Aviva Nissenbaum, and a brother, David, both of Israel; and six grandchildren.
A public memorial will be held at noon Feb. 17 at the Chapman University chapel.
Leyson saw Schindler for the last time in 1974, just before the man regarded as a savior of Jews died. Schindler was on a visit to L.A. and Leyson joined the group of Jews who greeted him at the airport.
He started to introduce himself, but found it wasn't necessary.
"I know who you are," Schindler said, grinning at the middle-aged man before him. "You're Little Leyson."