Leo Rosner

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Leopold "Leo" Rosner (26 June 1918 – 10 October 2008) was a Polish-born Australian Jewish musician. Rosner survived the Holocaust in Nazi concentration camps during World War II by playing his accordion for Nazi guards and officials, earning the attention of Oskar Schindler who likely saved his life.[1] His survival story became known after Australian author Thomas Kenneally's 1982 novel, Schindler's Ark, was adapted into Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film, Schindler's List.[1] He appeared in the epilogue of the film at the Schindler memorial in Yad Vashem, Israel.[1]

Early life[edit]

Rosner was born in Kraków, Poland, in 1918.[1] He was one of nine children within a family that performed in the music business.[1]

Schindler's List[edit]

Rosner was a successful cabaret artist and entertainer in Poland by the time Hitler launched his blitzkrieg and occupied the country in 1939.[1] He and his wife, Helen Rosner, were deported separately to the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in 1943.[1] While at Plaszow, Rosner was forced to perform his accordion for commandant Amon Goeth.[1]

Rosner's talent with his accordion earned him the attention of Oskar Schindler. Schindler personally had Rosner moved to an enamelling factory in Brinnlitz, Czechoslovakia, in 1945.[1] However, Rosner's wife, Helen, was transferred to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.[1] Rosner was able to successfully persuade Schindler to have Helen Rosner removed from Auschwitz. The couple were reunited in Brinnlitz, where they remained until the end of World War II.[1]

Post World War II[edit]

Leo and Helen Rosner immigrated to Australia in 1949 and settled in Melbourne.[1][2] He worked as a musician and eventually fronted a twelve piece band.[1] He continued to perform into his eighties.[1] He was well known in the Melbourne musician business as well as in the Australian Holocaust survivors community.

The couple had two daughters in Australia, Anna and Frances.[1]

Rosner suffered from Alzheimer's disease during his later years, but was able to perform at his and Helen's 65th wedding anniversary celebration in 2008.[1]


Leo Rosner died on 10 October 2008, at the age of 90 of complications from Alzheimer's disease in Melbourne, Australia.[1] He was survived by his wife, Helen Rosner, who was 84 years old at the time of Leo's death.[1] Rosner was also survived by his daughters, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.[1]

His funeral was held at Chevra Kadisha in Springvale, Victoria.[1]

His wife died in 2010.[3]


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