It is with great sadness that the family of Henri Landwirth announces his passing from natural causes, on April 16, 2018 at the age of 91, in Jacksonville, FL. He had devoted himself to improving the lives of those in need through numerous foundations and non-profit organizations he has founded. The Fanny Landwirth Foundation, named for his mother, was created in 1982 to help ensure that the pain and agony of the innocent victims of the Holocaust is never forgotten.
Henri Landwirth was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1927. Henri and his family were separated and became prisoners in the Nazi death and labor camps during WWII. From the ages between 13 and 18, his life was spent in Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz and Matthausen. By war’s end, both of his parents had been killed, but miraculously Henri and his twin sister, Margot, survived and were reunited. Henri worked his way to America on a freight ship, arriving in New York City with $20 in his pocket and little knowledge of the English language. He began his quest for the American Dream through a successful hotel industry career that spanned more than 50 years.
One of Henri’s proudest achievements has been the creation of the Give Kids The World Village which opened in 1989 and provides memorable, magical, cost-free experiences to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Today the Village is a 84-acre resort complete with 164 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs.
In 2000, Henri founded another nationally recognized nonprofit organization named Dignity U Wear. The mission was to positively impact the lives of children and their families in need by providing brand new clothing. Since 2000, Dignity U Wear has provided clothing worth about $160 million to at least 1 million people. In 2017, Dignity U Wear merged with Soles 4 Souls to better serve recipients needing clothing and shoes.
Henri has earned numerous honors, including being named in 1988 as one of the 12 Most Caring Individuals in America by the Caring Institute and the Parent’s Magazine Humanitarian of the Year and the OrlandoSentinel’s Floridian of the Year in 1994. In 1997, Henri received an honorary doctorate in of Humane Letters from the University of Cincinnati. He has twice been invited to carry the Olympic Torch.
“I have known Henri as one of my closest friends for almost 50 years. I hope Henri’s journey inspires each person …to see how they can make a difference in the life of someone less fortunate.” …SENATOR JOHN GLENN
“Henri has a huge heart. He is one of the few human beings who lives up to the best we can imagine.” …WALTER CRONKITE
“What is so amazing about Henri is that all the bitterness that he brought with him when he came to the United States as a young man has been transformed into compassion and love.” …JANE GOODALL
“Henri Landwirth might ask for the shirt off your back. You give it to him because he would never in a million years ask for anything for himself. It is always for the children.” …ADMIRAL ALAN SHEPARD, FIRST MAN IN SPACE
“The person Henri Landwirth most reminds me of is Walt Disney. They share far-reaching vision and the unfailing belief that a single idea can change the world. Each has made the world a better place through their unselfish love of children.” …PAST CHAIRMAN, DISNEY ATTRACTIONS
“In this world of cynicism and intolerance, Henri Landwirth is a beacon of hope for humanity.” …PRESIDENT, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
Henri’s life and story of are chronicled in his books, "Gift of Life," published in 1996, and “Love & Hate” published in 2007.