About Isabella Leitner:    Information taken from : The Center for Holocaust and Genocide  Studies  http://www.chgs.umn.edu/museum/responses/leitner/                                                                                         The Big Lie

Isabella Leitner - Born Kisvarda, Hungary.

A survivor of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp, where her mother and youngest sister were murdered immediately on their arrival; May 31,1944.

Transported six months later to Birnbaumel, another concentration camp, where she was compelled to dig anti-tank traps against the advancing Russian army.

Escaped in a blizzard with two sisters during a forced death march to Bergen-Belsen, where a third sister perished.
Liberated by the Russians on January 25, 1945. Arrived in USA on May 8, 1945 (VE Day), the very day the war in Europe ended, making her and her two sisters the first survivors of Auschwitz to set foot on American soil.

Married American-born Irving A. Leitner, a combat veteran of World War 11, on August 18, 1956. Two sons, Peter (graduate of Princeton University) and Richard (graduate of Bennington College.) Considers them "her greatest victory over Hitler".

FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A Memoir of Auschwitz, her first book, was published in 1978 to great critical acclaim. The work was considered for the Pulitzer Prize for that year. It was also awarded a place on the American Library Association's list of best books of the year for young adults.

The book has been translated into Japanese, German, and Italian, and dramatic works based on it have been produced in Ireland, France, Austria, Iceland, Russia, and the United States. In addition, an audio tape was recorded by the author, in her own voice, and a motion picture based on the book was produced by the Abbey Theater in Ireland.

The film has been screened in Ireland in, support of Amnesty International, and in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States at various film festivals. It has also been seen at various educational institutions and religious organizations.
Saving the Fragments: From Auschwitz To New York, a second work, and ISABELLA: From Auschwitz To Freedom, a combination of the prior books plus new material, followed the initial memoir.

In 1992,
The Big Lie: A True Story was published by Scholastic Inc. fox elementary school children. This book retells Isabella's story in language suitable for young minds and its impact tier has been enormous. Fourteen editions have been printed, and. hundreds of thousands of children throughout Canada and the United States have been exposed to this inspiring tale of love, courage in the face of evil, and survival with faith in the future.

Over the years, Isabella has appeared on many television and radio programs, and has inspired thousands and thousands of people of all ages, races, and creeds at public gatherings in schools, churches, temples, and other forums. Her adult life, through her work, has been dedicated mainly to the betterment of humankind and hope for future generations.

Please note that: Both "Saving the Fragments" and "Fragments of Isabella" are out of print. "The Big Lie" is in print.  "Isabella: From Auschwitz to Freedom," Published by Ex Libris is available from Amazon.com. This is different from the other books in that it contains new materials plus the other two earlier books. This is the relevant title that is print. Available in hard cover or paperback.

Please e-mail CHGS for Isabella Leitner's contact information.

Return to Top

Saving the Fragments

"A touching, haunting and beautiful work - a worthy companion to Isabella Leitner's Fragments of Isabella" - Gerald Green, author of the famed TV series "Holocaust."

From Auschwitz to New York Isabella Leitner with Irving A. Leitner Introduction by Howard Fast.

Saving the FragmentsIsabella Leitner was a young woman in May 1944 when she, her four sisters, her brother, and her mother were rounded up - along with the other Jews - for deportation to Auschwitz death camp. There they were scrutinized by the immaculate Dr. Josef Mengele who, with a whistle and flick of his thumb, indicated who would live (for the time being) and who would die.

Isabella's memories of this nightmarish episode in her life were distilled in her critically acclaimed classic of Holocaust literature, Fragments of Isabella. Now with the same immediacy and passion, she continues her heart-wrenching, and ultimately inspiring, story of her emancipation from the death camps and her struggle to become human again. Returning to the moment of liberation at Auschwitz, she vividly recreates what happened to her when the Allies advanced through the smouldering ruins of Hitler's Reich to save thousands of broken and emaciated souls from certain death. She recalls, with searing intensity, the conquering Russian Army, encounters with Polish anti-Semites, sympathetic interludes with American and British soldiers and, finally, the five-week trans-Atlantic odyssey that took her and her two sisters through submarine-infested waters to the promise of New York.

Saving the FragmentsThis powerful and poignant work is Isabella Leitner's haunting testament to the Holocaust survivors' indomitable courage to forge a new life from the fragments of civilization's most shattering experience.

Isabella Leitner came to the United States in 1945. She lectures frequently about her experiences, in addition to being a vice president of the American Gathering and Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and a board member of the juvenile Diabetes Foundation. She is married to Irving A. Leitner, an author and freelance editor.

ISBN: 0-453-00502-0
$12.50($16.50 in Canada)
This book is currently out of print.

Also Available on Film: Fragments of Isabella

Directed by Ronan O'leary, with music by Carl Davis.

Filmakers Libary Inc.
124 East 40th St,
New York, NY 10016

Fragments of IsabellaThis riveting film based-on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book by Isabella Leitner, recounts the true story of a young Hungarian Jew and her sisters interned in Auschwitz, their struggle to survive, and their daring escape from a death march to Bergen Belsen. In 1944, Isabella and her family were arrested and deported by cattlecar to Auschwitz where they encountered Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called "Angel of Death." He condemned Isabella's mother and youngest sister to death "by a flip of his thumb," but Isabella, her brother and three remaining sisters were spared to suffer until their miraculous escape.
The left¥motif of this extraordinary film is love not hate, the love that sustained Isabella and her sisters through the horrors of the Holocaust. Performed by Gabrielle Reidy of Dublin's Abbey Theatre, this is a lyrical testament to the soul of a young woman yearning to transcend her fate.

- London International Film Festival, 1994
- Jewish Film Festivals, Boston, Toronto, 1994

80 min. Video. Sale $195. Rental $75. Isabella Leitner is available for speaking engagements.

Return to Top

The Big Lie

News From Scholastic Books for Children and Young Adults; For immediate release. Contact: Maria Sinopoli (212) 505-3192.

Holocaust Survivor and Acclaimed Author Isabella Leitner Tells Her Story to Children

As a young woman, Isabella Leitner's life changed drastically. She, along with the other Jews in Kisvarda, Hungary, were forbidden from walking the streets after 7p.m. and attending school. Laws became progressively harsh until thousands of Jews were evicted from their homes andlike cattle-- shipped to Auschwitz, a notorious death camp.

In her first children's book, THE BIG LIE: A TRUE STORY (September 1,1992; $13.95; Ages 8-11), IsabelIa Leitner relates to readers the tragic experiences that she and her family endured during WWII. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, Isabella's mother and youngest sister, Potyo--to whom THE BIG LIE: A TRUE STORY is dedicated-were immediately sent by Dr. Mengele to the gas chamber. Her mother's last words to her children were those of encouragement: "Be strong, l love you."

With their mother's words etched in their hearts, Isabella and her sisters struggled to survive. During roll call, Chicha, one of Isabella's sisters, was forced by a Nazi officer to hold two rocks high in the air for hours, or she would be shot. She did not drop them. " It was a small victory, but still a victory. Chicha had stayed alive, and that gave all who saw her the courage to carry on."

Isabella Leitner is the author of two highly acclaimed adult books, FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A MEMOIR OF AUSCHWITZ (Crowell) and SAVING THE FRAGMENTS FROM AUSCHWITZ TO NEW YORK (NAL Books). FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA was submitted for the Pulitzer Prize, voted onto The American Library Association's "Best Books For Young Adult's List," and adapted for a theatrical presentation and a soon to be released motion picture.

Isabella Leitner's story is one of universal tragedy. In sharing it with a younger audience, she is not only educating them about a dark part of history, but also instilling in them a sense of courage and determination. "Because children are the makers of the future, I want to inspire them to live full and productive lives and work for a brand new way of life where human beings do not nurture hatred and destroy other human beings."

Isabella lost her mother and two sisters to the Holocaust. The three remaining sisters were reunited in America on May 8,1945 with their father, who had been trying to secure immigration papers for his family. Later on, the sisters learned that their brother, Philip, had also survived the war.

Currently a board member of the juvenile Diabetes Foundation and a finalist of the Wonder Woman Foundation, Isabella Leitner is married, has two grown sons and lives in New York City. She is often a guest speaker on the Holocaust at schools, colleges, universities, churches, temples and other important gatherings