Leslie Aigner (b. 1929)

Leslie “Les” Aigner, one of three children, was born Ladislav Aigner in 1929 in Nové Zámky, Czechoslovakia. In the early 1940s his family moved to Csepel, Hungary on the outskirts of Budapest in the hope of escaping oppressive Nazi discrimination against Jews. But in 1943, the Nazis forced Les’s father into a slave labor camp and his sixteen-year-old sister was taken to a factory to do forced labor.

Then in 1944, 15-year-old Les, his mother, and his eight-year-old sister were forced into the Budapest Ghetto. From there they were taken to Auschwitz, where his mother and sister were sent directly to the gas chambers. Les spent five months in Auschwitz in late 1944 before being shipped to Landsberg, Germany, a sub camp of Dachau, where he was forced to perform hard labor.

From Landsberg, Les and the other prisoners were relocated to the Kaufering concentration camp before finally being sent to Dachau on the “death train” which was thus named because it arrived with more dead passengers than living. By the time the train reached Dachau, Leslie weighed just 75 pounds. He was liberated from Dachau by American troops two weeks later on April 29, 1945. Doctors treated him for over a month before he could walk on his own. After liberation, he returned to his home in Hungary to find that most of his family members had been murdered in the Holocaust. Fortunately, he was reunited with his older sister and his father in Budapest.

In Budapest, Les finished trade school, worked as a machinist, and met and married his wife, Eva, in 1956. Five months after they were married, the Hungarian Revolution broke out and Leslie, Eva, his father and his step-mother escaped from Hungary and moved to Portland, Oregon, where they became the proud parents of two children.