Léon Landau was born in Antwerp on 19 June 1910. He was well known in Belgium and worked as a set designer for the Théâtre Royal Néerlandais in Antwerp. From 1941 he lived in Brussels - until January 1943 when he was interned in Malines camp. While in this camp he worked in the Mahlerstube (art workshop) producing graphics at the order of the Germans. Other artists were employed there, including Irène Awret. In addition to his required work, Landau produced many of his own drawings, including a self-portrait.
According to Irène Awret, Landau also made a dozen marionettes of characters taken from the folk tale Til Eulenspiegel: a princess, a prince and Til Eulenspiegel. Somehow, Landau managed to find the materials, built a set, learn to operate the marionettes and put on shows which gave pleasure to the interned children - some of whom were sent on to the death camps. After his own deportation to Bergen Belsen (Transport number XXIV on 4 April 1944), Landau's marionettes were confiscated by a Flemish collaborator nicknamed Pferdekopf ("horse's head" - see a caricature by Ochs). Only the Til Eulenspiegel puppet remained, safe in the possession of Awret.
During the liberation of Bergen Belsen, Landau volunteered to help the units who were treating typhoid patients. He caught the disease himself and died in the camp.
The Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (Ghetto Fighters' House Museum) art collection contains a number of Landau's works from Malines. These were donated by Irène Awret.
(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)
Irène Awret's Testimony, Ghetto Fighters' House, no date.
The Museum of Deportation and Resistance, Malin (Mechlen) archive, Belgium
Janet Blater and Sybil Milton. Art of the Holocaust. Pan Books, London, 1982.
Miriam Novitch. Spiritual Resistance: Art from Concentration Camps 1940-1945 - A selection of drawings and paintings from the collection of Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981.