Ziggy Landschaft

Le Chayim – The miraculous survival of Ziggy Landschaft.

Leah Burman tells the story of Ziggy Landschaft, her father.

Ziggy was born in 1925 in a town called Chorzow, about an hour’s drive away from Cracow and near the border with Germany. He had a younger brother, Mayer, and parents, Chaim and Liba. They lived a traditional orthodox Jewish life in a well-established Jewish community. Chaim, owned a food shop which supplied everyone in the town.

Life was turned upside down following the start of the Second World War. There wasn't time to escape from Poland and in 1940 they were transported to the Cracow ghetto. Ziggy was 15. Liba was murdered here one day simply going about her shopping.

Ziggy, Chaim, and Mayer were moved to Plaszow labour camp, just over the bridge from Cracow, and in May 1944 in cattle trucks, to Gross - Rosen concentration camp in Germany. Life was very tough and Chaim, only in his forties, died in Ziggy’s arms from overwork.

Ziggy and Mayer were taken on a death march in the freezing winter of January 1945, dressed only in camp uniform, without shoes, and sleeping in the open air, to the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. They were one of the few to survive. However, Mayer was extremely ill and on arrival was separated from Ziggy never to be seen again. He died soon after, aged 18, from starvation and exhaustion. Ziggy, aged 19, starving too, was taken under the wings of a small group of Czech political prisoners who generously shared their meagre rations. They could feel the end of war was approaching and they decided to escape. The group dug a tunnel under the fence and on May 6th, escaped under the wire taking Ziggy with. Ironically this was the date the Americans liberated the camp. Ziggy was shot through the back of his neck and his thigh. The next thing he remembers was waking up in hospital. The liberators had rescued him.

In hospital for three weeks Ziggy was nursed back to good health. On reception to the hospital Ziggy weighed only 48 kilos. An average weight for healthy male of his age and height is 74 kilos.

Ziggy spent some years working out what to do in his life and where to live. The Jewish community had been wiped out in Chorzow. He travelled to a few countries, eventually meeting Renia, another Holocaust survivor, settling in London, and in their retirement, in Israel. They married in 1951, had 3 daughters, 5 grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren. He has always been positive and looked forward. His motto has been Le Chayim, a Jewish toast meaning “To Life”.

This, then, is the miraculous story of Ziggy’s survival. He is the only one to have survived from his nuclear family. Had it not been for his own resilience throughout the war, the Czech prisoners and the brave escape, he would surely have died.

This story is suitable for students of 14 + and adults.