Andover Alumnus Leo Ullman ’57 Recounts Holocaust Story at ASM

Leo Ullman ’57 inspired students with his experience in the Holocaust.

Andover Alumnus Leo Ullman ’57 recounted the harrowing tale of his experience hiding from the Nazis as they invaded the Netherlands at last Friday’s All-School Meeting (ASM). 

Ullman spent the majority of his time on stage describing his life throughout the Holocaust. He depicted his memories of the scenes in Amsterdam: ports bustling with people trying to escape, frequent Nazi raids, and the lack of food.

“We all had to wear Jewish stars, which had to be sewn on your clothes for anybody from six on. We had to hand in a form with everything that we owned of any value up to and including gold teeth. We were not allowed to have telephones. We were not allowed to use public transportation. We were not allowed to have bicycles or cars or motorcycles. We could not use restaurants, we could not use public parks. Life became difficult, but we were alive,” said Ullman. 

Gracie Aziabor ’26 recalled that her reaction to the story was somber. She said that hearing the story of a Holocaust survivor in person made her understand the history on a more emotional level than reading the stories in textbooks.  

“I [felt] a lot of sadness, especially when he was talking about what his parents had to go through. I was also in shock. I feel like when you learn about the Holocaust in school, you learn about the gravity of the situation, you learn how serious it was, but coming from more of a firsthand perspective, it feels completely different. It feels like a much more individual story, which I think is why it strikes the listener or the audience more because you’re connecting with a person on a much deeper level compared to just reading about how many people suffered,” said Aziabor. 

One student, Michael Williamson ’25, recalled how he found inspiration in Ullman’s story, highlighting the success Ullman found later in his life.

“I found a lot of beauty within his story. I thought that it was really cool that he was able to make it through such a dark time and then be able to come to the United States [of America] with his family and then be able to attend amazing schools and do extremely well in all pursuits in his life. I think that his determination to not only challenge his mind but also work on his body was very fascinating: 145-plus triathlons and three Ironmans were extremely impressive,” said Williamson.

Nate Bechard ’24 noted how valuable it was to see Ullman’s perspective on Holocaust education.

Having spent part of his childhood living in Germany, Bechard shared how he was taught about the Holocaust while in elementary school.  

“While living in Germany, everything about the Holocaust was really serious. They would take fifth graders to the Auschwitz memorial to teach the kids from a young age about how bad it was. The German flag, you know when you walk around America you see American flags outside everywhere, there was not a single German flag to be seen: they were very self-conscious about their national pride even to this day,” said Bechard.

Aziabor also touched on how Ullman sharing his story was motivational. She commemorated him for deciding to speak about his past and to continue sharing his family’s legacy.

“There’s a lot of power in speaking about the experiences you’ve had in your life. He lived through something that was very traumatic and painful. And I think that although it would be completely understandable if he didn’t want to talk about it, I find it really admirable and inspiring that he came to talk and teach all of these students about what he experienced because I think it’s like reclaiming the story for yourself, which I think is pretty cool,” said Aziabor.