Like the special children Give Kids The World serves, its founder, Henri Landwirth, knows all too well what it is like to give up his childhood. Born in Antwerp, Belgium, on March 7, 1927, Henri and his family were separated and became prisoners in the Nazi death and labor camps during WWII. Henri spent the years between the ages of 13 and 18 in camps, including Auschwitz and Mauthausen. By war’s end, both of his parents had been killed, but iraculously 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; soon after he was drafted to serve in the Army.
Henri used his GI benefits to learn hotel management and landed a position in a hotel, taking every opportunity to learn each job in the industry. This first job became a lifelong career.
Landwirth moved to Florida in 1954 and began to manage the 100-room Starlight Motel in Cocoa Beach, near Cape Canaveral. Space exploration was in its early days and the original Mercury 7 astronauts and newsmen covering their adventures made the Starlight their temporary residence. It was during this time that Henri forged lasting friendships with the astronauts and newsmen, including Senator John Glenn and the late Walter Cronkite.
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