Dignity U Wear Founder Henri Landwirth was born March 7, 1927 in Antwerp, Belgium.
Between the ages of 13 to 18, Henri was shuffled among five Nazi death and labor camps; from Auschwitz to Matthausen, Gusen I and Gusen II and Ostrowitz. “You cannot imagine how it was,” Henri says of the camps. “Auschwitz was my first realization that the camps were there for our extermination. I never expected to get out of there. I knew it would be a matter of time and I would be murdered like the rest.”
At the end of the war, he and four other prisoners were marched into the woods to be shot, but at the last minute a Nazi soldier decided to spare their lives and told them to run into the woods when the shots were heard. “It is only a miracle that I am alive today,” says Landwirth.
But, Henri says, “From the darkness of the concentration camps, grew many compassionate, courageous and generous souls.” One such soul, it turned out, was Henri Landwirth.
When the war ended, Henri left his native Belgium. “With the Torah, and a $20 bill, I boarded this old run down ship and worked my way to America as a deck laborer.” Soon after he settled in New York, he received a letter from the President of the United States. At first, Henri believed the President was welcoming him to America; it was actually a draft notice. After serving in the United States Army and learning English, Landwirth used his G.I. benefits to take a course in Hotel Management and landed a position in a New York City hotel, taking the opportunity to be taught every job in the hotel industry.
Henri Landwirth moved to Florida in 1954, and soon managed the 100-room Starlight Motel in Cocoa Beach. Landwirth, now retired, had an innovating and tremendous career in the hotel industry for over 50 years. His career spanned the wide spectrum of positions from bellboy to management to ownership of many successful Central Florida hotels. For the last 20 years, he has devoted himself to improving the lives of those in need.
Landwirth’s philanthropic career has been facilitated by his own family foundation named in honor of his mother, Fanny Landwirth. This foundation was started to encourage and promote philanthropy for future generations of the Landwirth family. To date, the foundation has provided the seed money for many successful and currently active charitable organizations, such as Give Kids The World, Memories of Love, A Gift for Teaching, Art with a Heart for Children, and, of course, Dignity U Wear.
“I started Dignity U Wear because I was in the concentration camps for five years with no clothes,” says Landwirth. “After I left the camps, I was 18 years old and I was homeless. And I promised myself that one day, God willing, I would be able to help other people not to suffer as much as I did.” To date, Dignity U Wear has distributed over 50 million units of clothing to nearly two million people in need.
In honor of his 90th birthday, Mayor Lenny Curry, of Jacksonville, Florida proclaimed March 7th as Henri Landwirth Day. This day is special, but only one of 365 days that Henri’s legacy can be honored, by people everywhere giving their time or money to support those in need.