Born: January 8, 1926
Leon was the oldest of two boys born to a Jewish family in Zgierz, a central Polish town in the heart of Poland's textile producing region. The family lived at 15 Konstantynowska Street. Leon's father worked at a textile factory. At age 7, Leon began attending public school in the morning and religious school in the afternoon.
1933-39: On Friday, September 1, 1939, Leon's mother had just returned from the market when the family saw German planes. On Sunday they flew over again, lower, panicking the city. Leon's father left to join the Polish army and the Kusmireks fled to a nearby town, but soon returned. They were home one hour when they heard shooting--the Germans had entered Zgierz. Leon's father returned when Poland was defeated. Then the Germans expelled Zgierz's Jews; Leon's family went to Lodz.
1940-44: Leon was 14 when the Germans set up a ghetto for Jews in Lodz and his family was moved to Mlynarska Street in the ghetto. Through contacts at his job in the ghetto hospital, his father managed to get him work as a courier. A job was vital since weekly food rations were only a piece of bread and a few grams of potatoes; the only way to get more food was at work. There Leon was given soup twice a day. In 1941 conditions worsened when Germany invaded the USSR. People were deported every day.
At 18 Leon was deported from the Lodz ghetto to the Kielce labor camp, and then to several other camps. Leon escaped from a transport to Germany in 1945 and survived the war.