A Baltimore resident who escaped from a train that was transporting him to a Nazi death camp died Saturday, two days after his 93rd birthday and one day before he was to testify in favor of reparations for those who were forced to ride those trains during World War II.
Leo Bretholz was to testify Monday before the Maryland House of Delegate’s Ways and Means Committee during its consideration of legislation that would prevent companies from winning tax-funded rail projects until they were held accountable and paid reparations to those who were forced onto these trains. Bretholz had become the face and voice of the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.
Bretholz was a young boy on one of the deportation trains when he and another boy began filing the bars that covered the train’s windows. Many others on the train begged them to stop for fear that they would all be punished, but one rider urged them on, telling them to tell the world their story, Bretholz recalled over and over again during testimony and in his book, Leap Into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe.
“To know Leo was to love him and respect him, and our work to ensure justice for him and the thousands of other SNCF victims will continue in his memory,” according to a statement issued from the Ad Hoc Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.