PASADENA – Industrialist Oskar Schindler saved the life of Polish teen Leon Leyson several times during World War II, making sure the lanky boy had a place in his factory. “As decent as he was depicted in the movie,” Leyson said Monday night, referring to the 1993 Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List,” “he was better in real life than he was in the movie.” “He was a special kind of person – he had a twinkle in his eye,” Leyson said. Two days before the beginning of Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year – Leyson, now 77 and a Fullerton resident, spoke about his experiences as the youngest Holocaust survivor on Schindler’s list to about 100 people gathered at Chabad of Pasadena. Luckily for him, the officer let the brash boy go. At age 13, Leyson was working 12-hour night shifts at Schindler’s factory. “I couldn’t reach the controls, so I had to stand on a box eight inches high,” Leyson said, laughing. Unlike the Nazis and others who associated with them, Leyson said, Schindler treated the Jews who worked for him like human beings, a welcome relief from the brutality they suffered. “He spoke in complete sentences, waited for an answer and looked us straight in the eye,” Leyson said of his boss. “He used to stop by and talk to me.” Indeed, Schindler remembered “Little Leyson,” leaving word that he should receive two rations of food instead of one because he was so malnourished. “You can’t imagine what that signifies, what it tells you about the man,” he said. Luck – which Leyson says he is blessed with in abundance – struck once again toward the end of the war around 1944, when Schindler decided to dismantle his factory and take his workers with him to then-Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, only Leyson’s mother made the cut to stay with Schindler’s workers. But when Schindler came to see who was leaving, “Little Leyson” made his presence known. He moved out of line to get Schindler’s attention and a Nazi guard hit him, breaking his Thermos. “Everybody’s attention was in my direction, so I yelled out to him, I said, `My father, my brother and I are being sent away!’ ” Leyson said. “(Schindler) ordered us out of the group immediately, sent us back to the group in another location where my mother was. So, he saved our lives then.” Not only that, but Schindler personally informed Leyson’s mother that her husband and two sons were on their way back to her. “So, that is the kind of man he was, and I don’t mind telling you, he was a genuine hero, but not a perfect man,” Leyson said. “As far as the kind of humanity he had, it was just unbelievable.” Later, Leyson’s mother and sister were sent away to the gas chambers, and Schindler “bribed more people, persuaded them” to send them back to him. “He didn’t just save 1,200 Jews – if you think of the future generations and generations and generations of people that are here today because Schindler saved 1,200,” Leyson said. [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4496 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Schindler, who was from what was then Austria-Hungary, is noted for saving the lives of nearly 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by having them work in his enamelware and ammunitions factories located in then-Poland, in what is now the Czech Republic. Though Leyson’s two oldest brothers were killed – one by a firing squad of Nazis in their tiny hometown of Narewka, Poland, and one in the gas chambers – time and again, Schindler ensured that “Little Leyson,” as he called him, as well as Leyson’s father, mother, sister and remaining brother David would survive. Leyson was about 12 years old when he and his family were split up – Leyson and his mother went to a work camp, his sister to another camp and his father and brother to one of Schindler’s factories. In time, Leyson’s father asked Schindler to add his wife and two other children to his now-famous list. But after they were added, Leyson somehow got crossed off the list. But, a brave “Little Leyson” approached a Nazi officer, known around the camp for murdering Jews who stepped out of line even a little, and insisted that he should be heading for Schindler’s factory.