Leonard was born in Dresden, Germany in 1923. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a housewife and amateur pianist. He had one younger brother, Gert. Leonard spoke German at home and had a secular education until he was 15 when he was no longer permitted to attend school because he was Jewish. Leonard’s father was arrested in 1938 and came home 3 weeks later with a broken spirit.
In January of 1941, on Leonard’s 18th birthday, the Gestapo came to his home at night and told his family they were to leave the following morning for an unspecified destination. They were taken to Riga and Leonard’s father was taken to a nearby death camp, where he was shot while trying to escape to Sweden. Leonard, his mother and brother remained in the Riga ghetto until 1942. They were then taken to Danzig, and that was the last time Leonard saw his mother.
On April of 1945, Leonard and his brother were liberated by the American 7th army. They stayed in Buchenwald and worked for an American motor pool and were paid for fixing German trucks. When the Russians took over the sector, they were allowed to take whatever cars they wanted, so they took trucks, a car and two motorcycles, moved to Bavaria and started a trucking business. Shortly after, his brother tragically passed in a motorcycle accident. Leonard decided he wanted to move to the United States, so he found work there and learned English.