Leon Leyson, who was the youngest of 1,100 Jews saved from the Nazis by Oskar Schindler, has died at age 83.
Leyson died Saturday in Whittier, Calif., after a four-year battle with lymphoma, his daughter, Stacy Wilfong of Warrenton, Va., told the Los Angeles Times.
Leyson was nearly 10 when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Six months later, his family was sent to a ghetto in Krakow. He survived as mass killings and deportations to concentration camps escalated.
One time, Leyson recalled to the Times in 1994, SS commandos surrounded the ghetto. He and some other boys hid in an attic crawlspace in a building next to their apartment. Leyson's mother managed to join them, but another boy's mother was taken away.
"I can recount dozens of times where if I had stepped to my left I would have been gone, or if I happened to step to my right," Leyson said. "It wasn't anything like being smart or clever or anything like that."
He lost two brothers during the Holocaust. One fled to the family's village and died in a massacre of its 500 residents. The other, who was 16, was deported from the ghetto to a concentration camp.
Leyson was the youngest of the Jewish workers that Schindler, an industrialist, saved by declaring them necessary for production at his factories. Schindler called him "Little Leyson," and at 13 he was so short that he stood on a box to work at the machinery. He was weak from hunger, so Schindler doubled his rations. He also put Leyson's mother and surviving siblings on his list.
Leyson emigrated to the United States in 1949 and taught at Huntington Park High School for 39 years.
He rarely talked about his experiences.
"The truth is, I did not live my life in the shadow of the Holocaust," he told the Portland Oregonian in 1997. "I did not give my children a legacy of fear. I gave them a legacy of freedom."
However, after the 1993 movie "Schindler's List" rekindled interest in the story, he began a public speaking career around the U.S. and Canada.
"Any time he told his story, he never used notes; he never gave the same talk twice. It always came from the head and the heart," said Marilyn Harran, his friend and a religious studies professor at Chapman University. "It made people walk away wanting to be better people, to care more, to remember not only the Holocaust but to remember that we can never be indifferent."
Leyson saw a screening of the movie and said it "was like having an out-of-body experience," especially scenes that showed boys running from Nazi commandos.
"That was me. That was my friends," he recalled.
Leyson saw Schindler for the last time in 1974. Schindler visited Los Angeles shortly before his death and Leyson was with a group of Jews who went to the airport to greet him.
Leyson began to introduce himself.
"I know who you are," Schindler said with a grin. "You're Little Leyson."
Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, 26, hangs himself
The family of a Reddit co-founder is blaming prosecutors for his suicide just weeks before he was to go on trial on federal charges that he stole millions of scholarly articles.
Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment Friday night, his family and authorities said. The 26-year-old had fought to make online content free to the public and as a teenager helped create RSS, a family of Web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users.
In 2011, he was charged with stealing millions of scientific journals from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an attempt to make them freely available.
He had pleaded not guilty, and his federal trial was to begin next month. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.
In a statement released Saturday, Swartz's family in Chicago expressed not only grief over his death but also bitterness toward federal prosecutors pursuing the case against him in Massachusetts.
"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office and at MIT contributed to his death," they said.
Elliot Peters, Swartz's California-based defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the case "was horribly overblown" because Swartz had "the right" to download from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from more than 1,000 academic journals.
A zealous advocate of public online access, Swartz was extolled Saturday by those who believed as he did. He was "an extraordinary hacker and activist," the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international nonprofit digital rights group based in California wrote in a tribute on its home page.
"Playing Mozart's Requiem in honor of a brave and brilliant man," tweeted Carl Malamud, an Internet public domain advocate who believes in free access to legally obtained files.
Swartz co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.
He apparently struggled at times with depression, writing in a 2007 blog post: "Surely there have been times when you've been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. ... You feel worthless. ... depressed mood is like that, only it doesn't come for any reason and it doesn't go for any either."
Before the Massachusetts' case, Swartz aided Malamud in his effort to post federal court documents for free online, rather than the few cents per page that the government charges through its electronic archive, PACER. Swartz wrote a program in 2008 to legally download the files using free access via public libraries, according to The New York Times. About 20 percent of all the court papers were made available until the government shut down the library access.
The FBI investigated but didn't charge Swartz, he wrote on his website.
Three years later, Swartz was arrested in Boston. The federal government accused Swartz of using MIT's computer network to steal nearly 5 million academic articles from JSTOR.
Prosecutors said Swartz hacked into MIT's system in November 2010 after breaking into a computer wiring closet on campus. Prosecutors said he intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites.
JSTOR didn't press charges once it reclaimed the articles from Swartz, and some legal experts considered the case unfounded, saying that MIT allows guests access to the articles and Swartz, a fellow at Harvard's Safra Center for Ethics, was a guest.
Experts puzzled over the arrest and argued that the result of the actions Swartz was accused of was the same as his PACER program: more information publicly available.
Swartz faced 13 felony charges, including breaching site terms and intending to share downloaded files through peer-to-peer networks, computer fraud, wire fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer, and criminal forfeiture.
JSTOR announced this week that it would make more than 4.5 million articles publicly available for free.
Former Oklahoma DHS director dies in Florida
A former Oklahoma Department of Human Services director who later was the superintendent of Kansas City's schools has died.
Benjamin Demps died Saturday of complications from surgery in Port Charlotte, Fla., where he had been living. He was 79.
Demps resigned as Oklahoma's DHS director in January 1994 after 35 months on the job.
A non-educator, he was hired in 1999 as Kansas City's 19th superintendent in 30 years.
But Demps lasted only 20 months in the Kansas City job. He was fired by the school board, then reinstated by a federal judge before he and six members of his staff resigned.
Demps, who retired to Florida, had worked for the Federal Aviation Administration before his DHS tenure.