Leon Shear of Beachwood has lived an extensive life at 91 years old. It has been filled with happy moments, and one extremely haunting and unforgettable period.
"I was at the time in Auschwitz," Shear said.
Shear was just 12 years old when he was imprisoned at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in German-occupied Poland in 1943.
Like countless other Jews, he saw his mother and sister sent to the gas chambers, a moment that filled him with tremendous grief and the awful thought that he might be next.
"They went to the chimney. We don't use words like gassed, killed, we just use the word chimney. I'm next in line. What future do I have except going to the chimney?" Shear said.
Shear said the cells he was kept in were so packed with people, he struggled for each breath.
"You're locked in. There's no air to breathe. Once you see a spot that you can breathe you wanted to go and breathe more so your life will continue to go on."
Shear was moved from Auschwitz to another camp before he was eventually freed.
He saw tragedy every single day.
"I've seen thousands of people die, not hundreds, thousands of people go through there and thousands of people died in such a horrible, horrible, place," Shear said.
Shear said he's going back to Auschwitz to remind others to never forget the history of the Holocaust.
"I don't want to forget, and I don't plan to forget. I'm going back for the people who are no longer with us. We will never forget you."
Shear, who still speaks to high school students about his tragic ordeal, is going back with 150 others from the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
"I'm going back like I'm going to the cemetery visiting a grave. What else can I tell you. It's not going to be easy for me, but I'm going to be with my son and grandson and that's a blessing to me," Shear said.
Shear will travel to Auschwitz April 12th.
If you would like to learn more about the Holocaust you can visit to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood.