WHEN the Nazis came for Leslie Kleinman's father, Martin, he was convinced he'd see his wife and children again.

The family lived in the remote village of Ombod, in Romania and, while they were aware of the war raging around them, their lives remained relatively untouched by the traumas facing other Jews.

But in March, 1944 the outside world caught up with them. Martin, a rabbi, was taken to work on the Russian front, or so the family were told.

Leslie, who was 15, still remembers his father's goodbye. "They cut off his beard, which was a shocking thing to do to a Hasidic Jew," he said.

"My mother was crying and saying, 'We will never see you again', and my father, a man who trusted in God, said that of course he would be home soon."

Leslie never saw his father again. It was only in 1968 that Leslie discovered his father had not gone to Russia; he had been sent to Auschwitz, in Poland.

Three weeks later the soldiers returned and Leslie, his mother Rosa, and his seven siblings were moved to a ghetto in the city of Satu Mare. A month later, Leslie and his family were put into a train carriage, 110 people crammed into a space meant for 50. They were given one bucket for a toilet and no food.

"The children were screaming, it was so crowded. We didn't understand where we were going but rumours started to circulate that we were going to Auschwitz, which was a crematorium," he said.

"I didn't know what that word meant."

On arrival at Auschwitz, they were made to stand in a single line. A group of Polish Jews told Leslie to pretend he was 17, saving him.

He said: "My mother and six of my brothers and sisters were sent to the left of the line. I was sent to the right. I had no idea where they had gone but later that night other prisoners told me that they would have gone to be gassed and their bodies already cremated. My family would have been gone within hours.

"Years later I spoke to a man who had talked to a prison guard at Auschwitz. He spoke of the blood on the walls as people scratched to get out and of blue smears of the chemicals on the walls.

"I cannot bear to think of what happened to them."

Leslie, now 84 and living in London, was taken to be showered and his prisoner number 8230 was tattooed on his arm.

He was put to work on the camp's vast railroad tracks, mining coal and moving cement. To make sure the men were kept under control the guards picked prisoners at random and hung them to show what could happen to those who disobeyed orders.

There are other memories that Leslie still does not like to speak of, particular horrors of the camp that he will stay with him.

What kept him going was the belief that his older sister Gitta may still be alive. His six younger siblings, Herman, Olga, Irene, Chaia Sara, Abram, and Moshe, all perished.

By January 1945 Russian troops were moving closer to Auschwitz and Leslie and his fellow prisoners were transferred to Oranienburg, north of Berlin, in Germany.

WHILE they were being moved from camp to camp as the Nazis tried to avoid the Russians, Leslie became increasingly weak from cold and lack of food.

One day he collapsed and feared he would not be able to get up again. While lying on the ground he promised God that if he survived he would spend one year in a yeshiva, a Jewish seminary. Just then a guard appeared with bread and coffee.

From there he was transferred to Flossenbürg in Bavaria, where his main memory is of the lice.

On April 13, 1945, Leslie was finally liberated while on a death march to the concentration camp Dachau.

As he and his fellow prisoners marched through the forest guards would shoot anyone too weak to keep walking.

Finally the Americans arrived, shooting overhead in planes. A bullet hit Leslie's arm and went through the jaw of a boy behind him, killing him.

The teenager decided to take shelter in a fox hole and it was there that an American soldier found him.

Leslie said: "I didn't know he was American. I didn't know the different uniforms, I just knew that a uniform was a Nazi.

"He said, 'Juden?' and I said yes because I had had enough. 'So what if I am,' I said to him."

The soldier was a Jewish man from New York who wrapped Leslie in his coat and carried him to an American Army field hospital.

Leslie now thinks of April 13 as a holiday and marks it every year.

After time in a displaced persons camp he was sent to a convent to recuperate for six months before being moved to England.

He learned that Gitta had survived selection in Auschwitz but had died two days after liberation.

He said: "I promised God I would spend a year in a yeshiva and I ended up in a convent. But the nuns were kind and when I was well enough I kept my promise and spent a year in the yeshiva in Manchester.

"Everyone was wonderful to me. Wonderful. It restored my faith but I was devastated to learn about Gitta. The thought of her had kept me going."

In London Leslie met his wife Eva, a German woman whose father had sent her and her siblings and mother overseas to protect them.

Eva worked as a nurse in Kilmarnock before moving to London.

The couple had two children, Steven and Roslyn, and Leslie set up his own dress manufacturing company before moving to Canada in 1979.

They were married for 49 years before Eve died of leukemia in 2004 and Leslie came back to London to be close to his children and grandchildren.

TWO years ago, aged 82, he married his second wife, Miriam, in Tel Aviv and now works with the Holocaust Education Trust to share his story.

In 2011 he went back to Auschwitz for the first time and has been each year since.

Last year his rabbi persuaded him to sit shiva for his family, a Jewish tradition to honour the dead.

He said: "I sat on a low stool and people walked past wishing me health. It was moving, very emotional.

"I had never taken time to mourn them and it meant so much to me that the rabbi had planned this moment.

"People say, 'How can you have married a German?' I didn't see her as German, I saw her as a person.

"We are all just people together."