George Landecker was born on October 1, 1918 in Nordenberg, Germany. In May 1936, when George was 17, he began agricultural training at Gross Breesen. He left in October 1937 to work on a sheep farm in southern Germany. On November 9, 1938, while visiting Frankfurt, George was arrested and sent to Buchenwald. Because of his connections to Gross Breesen, George gained his freedom on January 1939 along with other Gross Breesen students and staff who had been sent to Buchenwald. In 1940 George obtained a visa to migrate to the United States to work on Hyde Farmlands. He worked there from February 1940 through August 1941.
In 1942 George joined the U.S. Army and returned to Europe with his unit. He remained there after the end of the war working to help set up a new government in Bad Mergentheim, Germany. He was discharged in 1946, returning to the States and his wife Jessie McPeters, who he had married in 1943. Soon after, George took up work as a dairy farmer in Remsen, New York, working there for 34 years.
Holocaust Survivors Oral History Project
Each spring, St. Michael’s Episcopal School seventh graders engage in an inquiry-based humanities project. Student groups create podcast episodes exploring a theme from Holocaust literature within the historical context of World War Two. In 2020, the nature of that project shifted to accommodate virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than working in groups to explore thematic connections between literature and history, students created original texts of their own that memorialize the experiences of Virginia Holocaust survivors.
Using the Virginia Holocaust Museum’s extensive collection of survivor testimonies, each student chose a survivor, watched and listened to their story, and took copious notes on what they heard. Then, students synthesized the survivor’s experience, putting it in their own words, adding in historical context when necessary, and recorded themselves retelling their survivor’s story as a podcast episode for the podcast, Use Your Words. Without ever stepping foot in the classroom, seventh graders created oral histories that honor the stories of Virginia Holocaust survivors and are now accessible to anyone around the world through iTunes or Spotify. And, just as importantly, St. Michael’s seventh graders said that the project made them feel bonded to their survivor and gave them a deeper, emotional and historical understanding of the Holocaust.
George Landecker is a happy, kind, bald, slow speaking, gentle 84 year old man wearing a white and blue striped shirt. Prior to WW2, George had a pretty good life living with a middle class family in a decent sized home. Despite his father thinking “he was more of a German than a Jew,” this all changed in 1939 at the onset of the war. In this episode, our seventh grade student, Sam, reveals how George’s life was thrown into chaos.