Born August 25, 1930 | Bamberg, Germany
I don’t believe anyone can make you happy. You have to make yourself happy.
The daughter of seamstress Fanny Stern and cattle trader Ludwig Eckmann, Leni lived on a farm believed to have been in her family since the 1700s. Leni felt disappointed when she was not allowed to join the Hitler Youth and further traumatized when she was thrown out of school for the “crime” of being Jewish. Her parents did not think they could adjust to life elsewhere, but Leni’s uncle—who had settled in America prior to the war—helped them to secure a spot for her on a Kinderstransport to Belgium in the summer of 1939, just a couple of months before the war. At first Leni lived in a Jewish children’s home in Zuen before being moved to safer orphanages in Middelkerke and Brussels. In 1942, Leni stopped receiving her mother’s letters; she later learned her parents had been gassed to death in a mobile killing-truck somewhere in Poland.
After the war, Leni’s uncle arranged for her to travel to New York with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. She lived in his family’s apartment, attending school until the age of 17. While serving as a medical secretary at the Bronx Hospital, Leni met Dr. Burt Hoffman, a dentist. Married in 1951, they had two children, Joan and Kenneth. After living in Puerto Rico for 12 years, the Hoffmans settled in Calgary in 1970. Leni worked in medical, real estate and school settings. Returning to Germany for the first time in 1987, Leni spoke there about her Holocaust experiences. Active in the Calgary chapter of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, she also shared her story there. Leni has three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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