Today is April 12, 2024 ()

Leon Horn

Leon Horn, Holocaust Survivor, Member of Free French Troops         
Leon Horn was born August 26, 1924. He and his family were living peacefully in Krakow,
Poland.  In 1939, when Leon was 15 years old, his world was turned upside down with the
invasion of Poland by the Nazis.
In 1940, the family was forced to live in a ghetto in the town of Rzeszow.  His brother Isidore
was murdered in the street by Nazi.  In 1941, the family was deported to the Szebnie
Concentration camp.  In 1943, his mother Adela was taken with nearly a thousand others to the
Dobrcova Forest where they were forced to dig their own mass grave prior to their being
murdered.
In 1943, Leon and his father Benjamin were forced onto cattle cars and transported to the
notorious Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration camp.  The crowd was forced towards Mengele
(The Angel of Death) who, with a flick of his finger, motioned the Jews to either the left or the
right. In Leon’s own words: 
“When we arrived at the camp I was separated from my father and had no idea where he was.
Mengele must have motioned my father into the left line where it was extremely crowded with
everyone from men, women and children and elderly and sick.  I was also motioned to the left
and passed Mengele.  For some unknown reason, that even I still don’t know, just that I had to
get into the other side where there were very few people.  Intuition or something told me that’s
where I should be.  There were Nazi guards back there, who for whatever reason said nothing
when I moved over into the right column. Again, fate intervened, because all that were ordered
to go into the left column were then marched to the gas chambers.” His father was in the left
column, and he never saw him again. 
This was one of many situations where fate or karma intervened. While in the camp Leon was
put in sick bay with typhus in filthy conditions. Mengele happened to see him there and told him
either get up and work or die right there. Needless to say Leon was up with a broom sweeping
immediately.
At the end of 1944, with other prisoners, Leon was forced to march hungry and cold for several
days to Buchenwald Death Camp.  In 1945, he was marched to Spaichingen, which Leon
described as the worst of the camps. When the camp was being dismantled on May 1, 1945,
Leon and others were forced to march from the camp into the forest. On the way, Leon and a
friend managed to escape and finally reached the Free French Troops. Thus began his trek to
Paris and freedom. For two years after his escape from Spaichingen he continued to suffer
severe medical maladies as a result of the final camp.
In Paris, he reunited with his Uncle Isi Hirschhorn and wife Cesia. While in Paris he spent quite
a lot of time recovering from Typhoid fever, which was a horrible illness. When he felt well,
Leon reconnected with the Free French Troops and served in the French Resistance.
By 1950 he immigrated to the United States and joined Isi and Cesia in New York.   Leon was
working as a waiter in the Catskills and various jobs. His English was fairly proficient as he had
studied as a student in Poland and while he was in Paris. On a trip to New York City with a

friend he met young Muriel Bronstein at her place of employment. She was immediately taken
with him and his “French” accent. She thought that he was French.
His Uncle Isi Hirshhorn (Horn) had purchased a store in Brownsville from the Ortons who he
knew from New York and were survivors also. Isi convinced Leon to move to Brownsville
because a company (Franklin’s) was hiring Holocaust survivors to manage their branch stores
along the border with Mexico. 
Muriel told him if he went alone, she would not wait for him.   Shortly thereafter they married in
New York and in 1953 the couple moved to Brownsville to join his uncle Isi Horn and his wife
Cesia. 
Leon managed stores in Brownsville and Laredo but had the ambition to establish his own store. 
Downtown Brownville offered a good opportunity and he soon opened a ladies clothing store
there called La Centrala on Elizabeth Street.  Leon and Muriel joined Temple Beth-El and were
surprised to see an organist and singer at Friday night services.  According to Muriel, Ray
Hughston was the organist and singer at that time.
Leon and Muriel raised their children, Monica, Richard, and Jonathan in Brownsville.  Leon
overcame his difficult past while still reminded of it daily, made a success in business and life
and always had a sense of humor to all whom he met. With a limited education due to the war, he
spoke seven languages and had an amazingly sharp mathematical mind. He could look at most
things and calculate them in his mind. He used to laugh about people using calculators. Their
friends for life were all the downtown Jewish merchants and their wives. They both transitioned
from a European and east coast lifestyle and make a good life in completely different
environment. Muriel brought 10 tubes of lipstick with her from NY thinking there would be none
sold in Brownsville!
Leon and Muriel traveled across the ocean for vacations, but Leon could never bring himself to
return to his birthplace of Poland as there was too much emotional trauma from that. His
grandchildren traveled there for the “March of the Living” and said Kaddish for his family. This
pleased Leon very much as one of his great desires was to have his perished family honored.
Leon’s pride was never greater upon seeing Israel for the first time and its accomplishments and
contributions to the world. He couldn’t stop talking about that after arriving back in
Brownsville.
Leon Horn died on May 6, 2018, and is buried in the Hebrew Cemetery. Also buried there are
Isi and Cesia Horn, as well as Muriel’s mother, Shirley Blatt Bronstein.