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September 11, 2016 10:13 am

‘Today’ Co-Host Surprises Holocaust Survivor by Introducing Him to Icon Tennis Player at US Open (VIDEO)

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Les Held and his daughter Elizabeth Leibowitz. Photo: Screenshot/Today.

Les Held and his daughter Elizabeth Leibowitz. Photo: Screenshot/Today.

A “Today” show co-host surprised a Holocaust survivor by introducing him to his favorite tennis player on Thursday at the US Open.

Hoda Kotb shocked 80-year-old Les Held after he finished watching his idol John McEnroe win a match at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY. Kotb walked out on the court and told the crowd about Held, who was sitting in the stands with his family and had no idea cameras were pointing at him. After a video played on the mega screen about Held’s story of surviving the Holocaust, Kotb told him, “There’s someone here who want to meet you.” McEnroe then walked back out onto the court, hugged Held — an avid tennis fan — and played a short match with him.

Following the game,  Held said, “I can’t believe they did that!”

Les loves sports and, according to his wife, Sandy Held, the Tennis Channel is constantly on in their house. She said he always watches McEnroe’s games and that meeting the tennis star was on his bucket list.

Aaron Held, Les’ son, said, “Tennis is one of the constants in my father’s life…It really is his outlet.” He said his father plays a couple games every morning before going to work. The “Today” show added that Les was kicked out of a tournament in his local community for being too good of a player.

According to “Today,” Les was 6 years old when he and his family were sent to a Nazi concentration camp. During his incarceration, he was spared the gas chambers by a fluke: that on the day he was sent to his death, there was nobody operating the facility. In another instance, he was rescued from a firing squad, when a man pushed him out of the way and took the bullet instead.

“My father’s entire life was a series of horrors with a series of amazing people who went out of their way to help him,” Aaron said. “[He] always focused not on the people shooting, but the man who saved him…[his] philosophy is life is just optimism and happiness. Given his background, that’s hard to believe.”

Speaking about how Les kept cheating death, Sandy said, “They couldn’t kill him, [though] they tried…We’ve decided that he’s here for a purpose in life: helping people [and] taking care of his family.” She added that her husband is “the happiest person I know.”

Les came to America with only a third grade education and learned English with the help of comic books, according to “Today.” His daughter, Elizabeth Leibowitz, called her father “the most giving and caring person.” She added, “He only wants to help others.”

Watch Hoda Kotb surprise Les Held in the video below:

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  • Nathan

    I was laughing and crying at the same time.

    A wonderful heart warming story that should be an inspiration to us all.

  • Martin Diament

    It’s like my own life story, but I was a little older,and I joined the underground army,thereby avoiding the Gas Chambers,after the war I immigrated to USA,and my son and I played tennis,he got a tennis scholarship to a major university, and played pro tennis for a while, I am now 89 years old,and finally stopped playing,but still an avid fan of tennis

  • Loved it. Thank you.

  • Superb!