French student credits Holocaust survivor for changing his life in new film

When Leon Zyguel visited a French classroom eight years ago to tell the story of how he survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, he probably hoped the students would listen and remember.

But Zyguel, who died in 2015, got more than he expected from the unruly students at Lycee Leon Blum in Creteil, a diverse Paris suburb. The students used Zyguel and other children who lived through the Holocaust as the basis of a project they entered in a national competition. The story is told in the film “Once in a Lifetime,” which will be released in South Florida theaters on Friday.

The screenwriter, Ahmed Drame, who was a student in the class and appears in the film, is visiting high schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties this week to share a clip from the movie and discuss the role Zyguel, whom he came to respect and revere, played in his life.

“I was captivated by the way he talked, his charisma,” said Drame, 23, the son of Malian immigrants to France. Drame was 15 when he met Zyguel, the same age as Zyguel when he was deported to Auschwitz.


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