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Landau, Leib

(1879–1943), lawyer, community leader, and Bundist. Leib Landau was born in Kirov, Russia, to a traditional Yiddish-speaking Jewish family. As a child, he moved to Przemyśl, the city in which he spent most of his life. Upon graduation from gymnasium, Landau studied law and became a celebrated attorney who defended Jewish civil rights. Between 1905 and 1914, Landau was a leading member of Galicia’s Żydowska Partia Socjalno-Demokratyczna (Jewish Social Democratic Party; ŻPS).

Throughout independent Poland, Landau was renowned for his role in defending high-profile legal cases. These cases included the 1924 trial of Szlomo Steiger, a young Jewish university student falsely accused of attempting to assassinate the Polish president, who was acquitted, and a well-known incident in Przytyk in 1936, when a Jew defending the community against a pogrom was put on trial for the death of a Pole.

Landau was also a communal activist and advocate of popular Jewish culture. In the first communal elections in 1924, he was voted head of the Jewish community council of Przemyśl. He was a member of Yuval, the Jewish Society of Music and Theater Lovers in Przemyśl, and he directed and acted in several performances for the local Yiddish stage. In addition, he was active in the music section of the Jewish Society of Literature and Art in Lwów.

With the outbreak of World War II, Landau and his family fled to Lwów. In 1939–1941, he directed the East Galician branch of the Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna (Jewish Mutual Aid Organization; ŻSS). For a brief period in the fall of 1942, he served on the Judenrat in the Lwów ghetto. Upon realizing the genocidal aims of the Nazis, he escaped to the Aryan side with his family. Denunciation led to the murder of Landau and his family by the Nazis in 1943.

Suggested Reading

Di geshikhte fun Bund, vol. 3 (New York, 1966); Arye Ments’er, ed., Sefer Pshemishel (Tel Aviv, 1964); Rafał Żebrowski, “Landau, Lejb,” “Polski słownik judaistyczny: Dzieje—kultura—religia—ludzie, ed. Zofia Borzymińska and Rafał Żebrowski, vol. 2, p. 13 (Warsaw, 2003).