Leon Chameides, MD
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Leon Chameides, MD

Leon Chameides, MD Born: June 24, 1935, Poland
Went into Hiding: Late 1942
Liberated: Summer 1944
Immigrated to America: 1949

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Leon Chameides was born on June 24, 1935 in Katowice, Poland where his father, Kalman Chameides, served as chief rabbi. With the German invasion of Poland, Leon’s family fled eastward, joining the migration of 250,000 Jews. With the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland, the family first settled in Szczerzec, with Kalman’s parents, near Soviet-occupied Lwów, Poland (present-day L'viv, Ukraine).

When the Germans invaded in June 1941, the family remained in Szcerzec, but Leon’s father was appointed to the Religious Affairs department of the Jewish Council in the Lwów ghetto. In August 1942, Leon’s father met with the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytski (1865-1944), the head of the Uniate Church in Ukraine, as part of an effort to hide several hundred Torah scrolls saved by the community in Lwow. In the course of the meeting, Sheptytski agreed to shelter Leon and his brother, Herbert, under the protection of the church.

In late 1942, Leon (age 7) and Herbert (age 9), were transferred from Szczerzec to two separate monasteries run by the Uniate Church in Western Ukraine where they were given new identities, taught to speak Ukrainian and instructed in prayers and rituals so they could pass as Christian children. Leon ended up spending two years in hiding, living in an orphanage in Briukhovychi, Ukraine, before moving to Univ, where he was sheltered with two other Jewish boys and protected by Brother Danil Temchyna (later recognized as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem).

Leon’s father died of typhus on December 25, 1942; his mother perished in 1943, following the liquidation of the Lwow ghetto in April 1943. Leon and his brother were liberated by Soviet forces in the summer of 1944; Leon tried to return to Lwów only to have the Russian soldiers send him back to Univ. He finally returned to Lwów, where he reunited with his brother; there they discovered that their parents and grandparents perished during the war. 

Leon and Herbert immigrated to England in 1946 to live with his maternal grandparents (the Konigshofers). He immigrated to the United States in 1949, entering medical school in the first class at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 1967, he moved to Hartford, and served as the founding Chair of Pediatric Cardiology at Hartford Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for 30 years, as Chair of Pediatrics at Hartford Hospital for 10 years, and as Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

He and his wife Jean have 3 children and 7 grandchildren. He is known as the father of “pediatric resuscitation” a technique he developed in the field and has also become a dedicated Holocaust educator, authoring the book Strangers in Many Lands: The Story of a Jewish Family in Turbulent Times and most recently On the Edge of the Abyss: A Polish Rabbi Speaks to His Community on the Eve of the Shoah, a translation of his father’s sermons and essays as Rabbi of Katowice.