Fran Sonshine, National Chair

George Landesman

Sleeping Miracle

Everyone who survived the Holocaust has his or her miracle story... Rabbi George Landesman has two to tell.

By the time George Landesman came into the world, on September 17, 1944, in Budapest, his father, Laszlo, had already been murdered in Buchenwald. Once a tall, robust man at 186 cm, Laszlo Landesman departed from this world an emaciated skeleton, weighing a mere 35 kg.

George’s mother, Ilona, was left with three children to care for: George, an infant, and his two older brothers, 1 ½ and 3 ½.

There are two miracles, says George, that resulted in his life being spared. On one occasion, all the Jews were ordered to go to the main floor of what was formerly a safe house, which, under the Arrow Cross government, no longer offered protection. Ilona, however, remained in her apartment, hiding with her three boys. A Hungarian collaborator, armed with a gun, went door to door looking for Jews. When he entered the Landesmans’ apartment, he looked at Ilona and the three children, shut the door, and left. The rest of the Jews in the building were shot at the Danube River.

The second miracle occurred when Budapest was being liberated. An air raid siren went off, and everyone went down to the bunker. Not being able to gather all of her children at once, George’s mother ran downstairs with her two oldest sons, intending to go back for George. But she was unable to get back in time. When the air raids were over, George’s mother returned to the apartment, anxiously hoping to find George alive. She opened the door and saw half of the room missing, destroyed in the bombing. There was George, sleeping peacefully, completely unaware of the tragic events that had just transpired.

After the war, George’s mother was unable to raise her three children on her own, especially given the extreme poverty. As a result, from the age of six, George lived in a Jewish orphanage, along with his two brothers. After graduating from a Jewish high school, George received his rabbinical diploma from the Hungarian Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest. Initially working as a rabbi, George eventually became the chief rabbi of Budapest in 1990. In 1969, he founded the Hungarian Jewish Archives, acting as its director until 1993. In August 1993, George came to Canada with his wife and daughter after receiving an invitation from the Toronto Beth Hazikaron - Martirok Temploma Hungarian Congregation, now known as SIMCHA, to serve as its rabbi. In addition to his duties as a rabbi, George worked for a property management company as the operations manager, a job he still retains to this day.

Rabbi George Landesman continues to contribute his talents and energy while inspiring others with his positive attitude and miraculous tales of survival.