David Ben Artzi was born Dawid Duziu Landman, on August 25, 1932 in Jucica, a suburb of Czernowitz, Romania. His father Ben Zion Landman was a partner in a wood distribution business and his mother, Dwora Heisner Landman, took care of their three sons: Dawid, Abram and Velvel. Their household was a traditional Jewish home, with both Yiddish and German spoken at home. The Landman family lived next door to David’s paternal grandparents. Many other family members lived nearby or in Czernowitz.
In June 1940 the Bessarabia and northern Bukowina regions were transferred by Romania to the Soviet Union. The communist authorities confiscated the family business. David attended elementary school, but this time in Russian. In June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union. On September 15, 1941 Antonescu ordered approximately 150,000 Jews to be expelled to Transnistria, the area between the Bug and the Dniester Rivers. The extended Landman and Heisner families were forced to march for weeks, under the Romanian Army guards, until they reached Mogilev. During the march, the guards mistreated the Jews, beat them and shot many of them. The Jews crossed the Dniester River by barge and then walked to the Shipotovka kolkhoz (a Soviet agricultural commune). The Landman and the Heisner families slept in a barn. Velvel Landman, who was three years old, contracted dysentery and died. His father, Ben Zion Landman, buried him in the local cemetery. One of David’s uncles, Lejb Heisner, bribed a local peasant with a pair of boots and the peasant took them to the nearby town of Bershad. The Jews of Bershad had already been deported or killed by the Germans and the incoming Jews of Bukowina and Bessarabia settled in the Dolina part of town. David remembers discovering Jewish holy books in the abandoned house that the family took over.
The cold weather, the lack of food, and the crowding brought in a typhus epidemic. Dwora Landman and many other Jews in the Bershad ghetto contracted the disease and died in the winter of 1941. David remembers that his younger brother didn’t want to let go of his mother and the grandmother cried: “Take the child away so her soul can go.” Dwora’s body was put on a wagon, which collected the corpses, and buried in a mass grave. Thousands of Jews died of hunger, disease and exposure during the winter of 1941-1942 in the Bershad ghetto. In the spring of 1942 the conditions improved. Other Landman and Heisner family members from Czernowitz were deported to Bershad as well and they were able to bring some valuables with them, which they exchanged for food. David started to sell matches and flint-stones for lighters at the local market. In the ghetto the Jews established a synagogue, where David went to say Kaddish for his mother. In addition the Jews produced scarves and wraps from the talithot of Jews who had perished. David’s paternal grandmother, Malcie Malka Landman sold links of her gold chain in order to purchase food for the family. In general the family shared all the available means of support.
In the fall of 1943 the Romanian Jews in Bucharest became aware of the plight of Jewish orphans in Transnistria. They arranged a transfer of almost 2,000 children from the ghettos in Transnistria to Bucharest. The lists were assembled in the Bershad ghetto as well. David persuaded his family to let him and his younger brother Abram to join the transport of orphans. The boys were sworn never to separate. First the children were taken to Balti and later by train to Iasi. They were given rolls with sausage supplied by the Jewish community. The children were placed in an old people’s home in Iasi and for the first time in years slept in real beds with sheets and blankets. They were disinfected and David remembers how worried he was about his clothing from the Bershad ghetto. After a few months, as the front got closer to Iasi, the children were transferred to Fokshany (Focsani). David was placed with the Mendel family and Abram stayed with the Butnaru family. The Soviet Army liberated the area and the children were divided by the current geographical borders. The children, who lived in the areas, which belonged to Romania were transferred into the hands of the Jewish community and subsequently went to Palestine. The children who came from the territory administered by the Soviets were taken by them first to Bucharest and were supposed to be transferred to the Donbas region in USSR. David remembers well that his group of “Soviet children” was taken to a fancy store in Bucharest and each child was given brand new clothes. As the group was passing through Iasi, David’s and Abram’s aunt, Anna Sheiner, took them away from the group without notifying the Soviet authorities. She made sure to hide the children and took away their new clothes. Ben Zion Landman, David’s father, was liberated by the Red Army in Bershad and immediately drafted into their army. He was subsequently imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp, but managed to escape and came to Iasi, where he was reunited with his two surviving sons. Iasi was again included in the new borders of Romania. The children went to school; Abram to first grade and David to third grade. David joined the Bnei Akiva, Zionist youth movement. In March 1948 the two brothers and their paternal grandmother traveled to Palestine on board of SS Transylvania. They lived with Shlomo Landman, their uncle, in Tel Aviv. After a few weeks David entered a boarding school of Youth Aliyah near Kfar Hassidim, where he stayed till 1951. Abram was in a boarding school as well. In 1951 David Landman was drafted to the Israeli Army. His father, now re-married to Sally Shefler, arrived in Israel as well and settled in Haifa. In 1958 David was injured during his military service and lost his left arm. He became a vocational teacher. He married Ziva (Sylvia David), a fellow survivor from Romania. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. They currently reside in Nesher, Israel.