Keynote Speaker: Leon Prochnik


Leon Prochnik: Hear it, Draw it, Remember it Forever

Keynote Speaker: Leon Prochnik

Program Titles

  • The boy who had the chocolate factory will share his story of escape
  • Jewish child, dreams of chocolate fueled escape from Nazis
  • Ours is a story of escape

Leon Prochnik: “the boy who had the chocolate factory,” began his escape from Poland in 1939, along with 13 other family members

As Leon Prochnik and his family fled from Poland after the Germans invaded in 1939, the 6-year-old boy held an image in his mind that helped him survive. The image was a tub of chocolate.

Prochnik tells the story of “The Boy Who Had the Chocolate Factory” to adults and children.

“My family owned the second-largest chocolate factory in Poland before World War II, and when I would go there, I’d sneak off to the chocolate tub,” Prochnik said. “I would dip my arm in the tub and eat all the chocolate off my arm, and I’d get sick from eating so much chocolate. And the next time, I’d do it again.”

They were on vacation in 1939 when they received a telegram from the manager of the chocolate factory telling them that the Germans had invaded and were looking for the Prochnik family.

They couldn’t return home, and overnight, 14 members of his family became refugees, fleeing with only the clothes on their backs. They made their way through six countries before arriving safely in the United States. That journey took a year and a half, and in that time, food, shelter and safety were hard to come by.

“Many are not interested in the Holocaust. To them, the Holocaust is like a thousand years ago,” he said. “Many don’t know who started World War II.”

The Holocaust had terrible consequences for Prochnik’s family, as his father lost four brothers and their families, and Prochnik lost his friends.

“I do not minimize what the threat of the Holocaust was,”
he said. “But we didn’t go to the death camps.

Ours is a story of escape.”

His family was never able to return to their Krakow home or the chocolate factory — which was the Swiss-based Suchard brand's Polish franchisee.

German officials "claimed they had bought them from us" and even had fake bills of sale drawn up, Prochnik said.

“I think this is a story that should be shared,” Prochnik said. “This is the last generation now where there are still Holocaust survivors left. Their stories will still be told, but it’s different when it’s from a Holocaust survivor.”

“The Boy Who Had the Chocolate Factory,” with an art project...

Additional Photos

Wally Amos

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