These essays are on the topic of how Judaism, Augsburg and the Holocaust have had an impact of these children's lives. This is an on-going project still in formation.

rick Rick Landman (born in 1952 in New York City) is the son of Henry Landman who was born in Augsburg in 1920. Henry was one of the youngest Jews arrested on Kristallnacht in 1938 and sent to Dachau. After being released he fled to England then America where he was drafted as an American Soldier. He was the first American to enter Augsburg in 1945. The Landman family also was at the rededication of the Augsburger Synagogue and Henry Landman gave a speech at the 60th Anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1998. Rick Landman founded the Second Generation Group for the Descendants of the Holocaust Survivors from Augsburg.
Triply Blessed
By Rick Landman

I am the result of a mixed marriage. You see my mother was born in Nurnberg and my father in Augsburg. However thanks to the Nazis both were turned into German Jewish refugees years before I was born.

I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in New York City during the 1950's before the term "Holocaust Survivor" was even coined. We were the only ones on our block with a direct link to the Holocaust. Of the 30 families on our block, two were Christian, 27 were Jews whose ancestors came to the United States before the 1920's; and then there was us.

Being Jewish was always a large part of my life. I was the Valedictorian of my conservative Hebrew School and Hebrew High School. I have also visited Israel three times. But as I grew older, my knowledge of Judaism deepened and my beliefs became more reformed. To me there is only one Jewish people sharing the same history, same Torah and belief in only one G-d. To me the only difference between the most ultra-orthodox Jew and the most reformed Jew is which interpretations of Torah and which traditions they follow.

Some Jews follow the traditions of Eastern European Jewry and the biblical interpretations of their Orthodox sages, but I seem to be following the extension of Germany's Reform Jewish movement, following the interpretations of the male and female rabbis of our time.

I consider myself an active Jew and just finished a three-year term on the Board of Directors of my synagogue (Congregation Beth Simchat Torah). I happen to be a vegetarian for health reasons so in a way I keep a kosher home. I don't eat any pork, shellfish or meat at all. I do attend Friday night Sabbath services on a regular basis at my synagogue, which happens to hold these services in an Episcopal Church.

My congregation has approximately 800 members and began in 1973 in Manhattan. The only religious group to give us a small room to pray in was the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea. We started having our services there in 1973 until we moved into our bigger space in Greenwich Village a few years later. But in 1998 we needed to find a larger sanctuary of around 450 seats for our Friday night services. There was an orthodox synagogue in the neighborhood who didn't use their main sanctuary on Friday night. But they wouldn't let us use their space because they do not believe in women leading services, and our Rabbi is a woman. So we asked the Church of Holy Apostles if we could rent their main sanctuary and they readily agreed. So now there is a mezzuzah on the church's door and a sign on the front of the church letting everyone know that Congregation Beth Simchat Torah has services in that building.

Every Friday night, the church staff covers most of the Christian iconography and we move in our ark and bimah to have our service. The experience helped me to understand that religions can be used to bring people together and spiritually uplift them. At first I had reservations about the move, but in time I grew to appreciate their openness and the mutual respect that hold for each other's practices.

My synagogue is non-affiliated with any of the 4 major Jewish movements (orthodox, conservative, reform and reconstructionist). Although our members tend to be more progressive than most synagogues, out of deference to our more traditional members we have chosen not to become affiliated with any one movement. We have several different minyanim (services) for the various needs of our congregation. There is an orthodox service, a feminist service, and new-comer service, etc. in addition to the larger service on Friday night that I attend. There is even a minyan for those who do not feel comfortable about praying in a church.

We have a campus approach to facilities. We have one space for our school for children and adult education, staff offices and a chapel for Saturday morning services, and we have the rented church for Friday night services, and we rent the Javits Convention Center for the High Holidays when we have over 3,500 people in attendance.

German was always a secret language to me, since we could speak it at home and no one else could. It was similar to learning Hebrew in school. Both are related to my historical past. Being of German descent has always been a strange phenomenon. To this day if people ask where my family is from I say, "Germany …but we are Jewish". But at Chanukah time my family would eat Lebkuchen sent from Nurnberg instead of potato pancakes, and I mix spaetzle in with my kasha instead of bow-tie noodles. Being a son of German Jewish refugees also influenced my education (I have three masters degrees and a law degree.) There are many influences of my parent's culture that was subconsciously implanted in me.

To me "tikkun olam" or fixing the earth is one of the strongest drives that I feel from my Jewish roots. I learned from the Holocaust how one horrible man could do so much damage to society and the world and that it gave me the strength to see how much good can accomplish by one person. So I try to do one good thing each day and watch how they grow. My view of world was definitely colored by my parents' life experiences. Whatever I do in my life can never be as intense as the stories that I heard as a child. But my parents were always supportive of my endeavors and I learned my sense of tolerance and speaking out from them.

That is why from a very young age I remember marching in the streets collecting funds for charities or in my college years going to civil rights and anti-war marches to protest against injustices. In 1970 I started the first Gay Liberation group in my college and have been very active in trying to make this a world where gay and lesbian people can find equality and justice. Maybe that is why my synagogue is able to cover such a wide group of Jews. All of us are either gay or lesbian or family and friends of such.

I feel that there are many similarities between being gay and Jewish. For one thing, the groups that hate one always seem to hate the other too. The homosexual movement started in Germany with Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld in the 1890's and then due to Hitler had to move to America and the Reform Jewish movement also started in Germany and moved to America due to Hitler. It seems that both are now moving back to Germany after years of being dormant.

I also had to go through a painful period of losing so many of my friends to AIDS which also seemed to reflect the fears and pains of my parents when they lost so many loved ones at an early age. Ironically, my ultra-orthodox great grandparents lived on Ickstattstrasse in Munich before being deported to their death in Auschwitz, and now Ickstattstrasse is in the heart of Munich's lesbian and gay neighborhood. Go figure!

So to conclude I have a strange sense of similarity with Augsburg. The first time I visited was in 1972 to see where my father was born. I was also there in 1985 when the Synagogue was re-dedicated and again in 1998 when my father gave the 60th Anniversary speech for the Kristallnacht program. Finally, I was there again for the unveiling of the Jewish Augsburger victims of the Holocaust. When you put all these things together you get me.


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