The Life & Stories of My Dad
June 12, 1920 – December 29, 2014
Even at 62 years of age, I thought I was exempt from losing a parent. My father, Henry Landman (born Heinz Landmann) survived Dachau, World War II and was still going strong at 94.5 years old. He was even invited to go back to Dachau for the 70th Anniversary of its Liberation in April 2015 since he was not only an inmate after Kristallnacht in 1938, but an American soldier when Dachau was liberated in 1945. Although not up to traveling, we were going to try to do something on Skype in April for their program. Coincidences and survival were always part of his life, but on December 29, 2014 he died.
My dad was a kind and peaceful man, always sharing his sense of humor and wisdom of the ages. He had a varied Jewish background, which in large part encouraged him to understand and appreciate the diversities of people’s lives. His maternal side was rural German Jews, while his paternal side were “Ost Juden” from Galacia. Gerson Landmann, his grandfather, was a Chasidic scholar that was able to migrate from the Pale with his 5 children to Munich, and did not have to come to America around the turn of the 20th Century like most of the “Fiddler on the Roof” Jews. As a result, Henry spoke not only his native German, but understood Yiddish. Gerson on the other hand lived in Munich without becoming fluent in German. Joseph, my father’s father was the only one of Gerson and Sofie’s children to survive the Holocaust. Gerson and Sofie died in Theresienstadt.
My grandpa Joseph was naturalized as a German citizen and moved to Augsburg where Henry was born in 1920 as a German citizen. They all became stateless with the Nuremburg Laws in 1935. After being in Dachau after Kristallnacht, Joseph was released to sign over the Jewish property to the Nazis and he was able to go to Stuttgart for a visa out of Germany since he was born on the Russian side of Galicia and was considered a Russian under the US quota system. Henry then got a temporary transit visa out of Germany to London and, as an American infantry soldier, he made his way to New York and then back to North Africa, Italy, France, Germany; and finally Munich, Dachau and Augsburg.
His life experiences taught him to appreciate differences, hate violence and love his children unconditionally. In the 1960’s when I first told him that I was gay, he was supportive. That was unheard of at the time, but it gave me the courage and support to become active in trying to show that there was nothing wrong with being gay in American culture; just as wrong as what they said about being Jewish in a Nazi world.
My dad was my quiet role model. He was always there when I needed him, and his simple, unpretentious life made me who I am today. I didn’t share in his love of sports, so I shared in his love of the non-Nazi Germany of his childhood. My dad held two reunions for the Jews of Augsburg and stayed in touch with his German friends up until the end of his life. I will miss hearing all the stories of the Jewish aspects of Germany and the war, while the whole world lost a very special soul.