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107-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Dies

Leopold Engleitner recently attended the Los Angeles premiere of a documentary about his life at Encino's Laemmle Town Center 5.

The following press release/obituary was sent to Encino Patch about the death of Leopold Engleitner, a 107-year-old Nazi concentration camp survivor who travelled in 2012 from Austria to be at Encino's Laemmle Town Center 5 for the Los Angeles premiere showings of the . 

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Leopold Engleitner, world's oldest known male holocaust survivor, and the oldest male Austrian died on April 21, 2013, at the age of 107.  Leopold Engleitner had remained an active public figure through books, films and lectures about his experiences as a victim of persecution for his neutral stand as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi era. He passed away quietly of natural causes in Austria, in the company of the family of Bernhard Rammerstorfer who was his close friend and is the biographer and the producer of several documentary films about Mr. Engleitner.

News of his passing was delayed in accord with Mr. Engleitner’s personal wish that no fanfare surround his death, so that, instead, his life and the lessons that his experiences taught would be remembered. In harmony with Mr. Engleitner’s long standing written request, a private memorial service and the interment of his remains was attended by an intimate circle of family and close friends.

Leopold Engleitner had resided at the Rammerstorfer home where he received care from Rammerstorfer and his family for more than the last two years. Prior to that, he lived in his own home, which he had built with his own hands during the 1930s, in St. Wolfgang, Austria.

Through his biography entitled “Unbroken Will” by Bernhard Rammerstorfer and a documentary film of the same title, Mr. Engleitner’s unique story came to the attention of the public.  He was interned in three concentration camps and was targeted by the Nazi regime because he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who as a group rejected Nazi racist and military policies.  Moreover, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he was offered the chance to go free from the camps provided he sign a document renouncing his religious beliefs–an offer he resolutely refused.

A few months prior to his death, between November 9 and 15, 2012, Leopold Engleitner travelled from Austria to Los Angeles, California, USA, and attended the world premiere of a further documentary film “Ladder in the Lions’ Den: Freedom Is a Choice”, which placed his courageous stance during the Nazi era in historical context.  Showings of the film were attended by enthusiastic crowds, and media from around the world covered this event. Students who attended were impressed with the unique opportunity to meet Mr. Engleitner in person.

Mr. Engleitner had up until July 2012 regularly visited schools throughout Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and the United States, with a total of more than 50,000 students attending his lectures.

For many years both prior to and subsequent to his experiences during the Nazi era, his life was marked by great suffering, hardships, injustice and humiliation.  Nevertheless, always following his conscience, he courageously forged his way with an unwavering trust in God. 

The most recent film about his life, which has recently been honoured by awards and screenings at several film festivals and continues to attract attention at showings and through DVD sales, ends with an epilogue in which Leopold, rather than concluding with his captivating smile and customary, “I’ll be back,” says simply, “Thank you for your interest in my life story.  Auf wiedersehen.”

Further information about Leopold Engleitner can be learned at the websites www.rammerstorfer.cc  or  www.unbrokenwill.com

Press contact:  Frederic Fuss, 818-383-4783, Engleitnews@gmail.com           

SHORT BIOGRAPHY OF LEOPOLD ENGLEITNER

Leopold Engleitner was born on July 23, 1905, in Aigen-Voglhub, Austria. He grew up in the so-called “Emperor’s town” of Bad Ischl, and encountered the Austro-Hungarian monarch Emperor Franz Joseph on several occasions (Franz Joseph was a contemporary world ruler with Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, and Queen Victoria).  Physically infirm and shy from an early age, he suffered ostracism and lived in a world dominated by poverty. As a young boy he experienced the devastating effects of World War I, and the Spanish Flu made his situation even worse.

At the beginning of the 1930s he began an intensive study of the Bible and courageously changed his religion when in 1932 he was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a result, he suffered from the religious intolerance of his neighbors and of the authorities during the Austrian Fascism period from1934 to 1938.

When Adolf Hitler occupied Austria in 1938, Leopold’s steadfast refusal to abandon his beliefs and to perform military service in Hitler’s army led to conflict with the Nazi regime. On April 4, 1939, he was arrested in Bad Ischl by the Gestapo and held in custody in Linz and Wels. From October 9, 1939, to July 15, 1943, he was interned in the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrück. In Niederhagen concentration camp he refused to sign the “Declaration” renouncing his faith, even though doing so would have meant he could go free. Despite the appalling treatment he was subjected to in the concentration camps, his iron will–his determination to stand up for just principles and his refusal to take up arms in support of Nazi aggression–could not be broken. Moreover Leopold never lost his optimism. In one of the concentration camps he even bought a suitcase for the journey home, which seemed impossible he would ever make.

In July 1943, weighing less than 62 pounds, he was released from Ravensbrück concentration camp on the condition that he spend the rest of his life performing forced labor in agriculture. After returning home he worked on a farm in St. Wolfgang. Three weeks before the end of the war, on April 17, 1945, he received his call-up papers ordering him to join the German Wehrmacht, effective immediately.  He refused to comply with the call-up and decided to risk fleeing into the mountains of the Salzkammergut. There he hid in the Meistereben alpine hut and a cave. He was hunted like an animal by the Nazis for weeks, but they could not find him.  On May 5, 1945, he was able to return home.

Leopold Engleitner’s life proves that it was possible for an ordinary man to reject Hitler’s regime of terror. 

After World War II Leopold Engleitner, as a former concentration camp internee, was shunned by society and placed in the same category as asocial elements, criminals, and those considered lazy. Some of his contemporaries even denied that concentration camps had ever existed. Although he felt he was being misunderstood and unfairly treated, the iron will and inner strength that came from his religious convictions helped him withstand this difficult period as well.

When a chance meeting with Bernhard Rammerstorfer occurred in Bad Ischl in 1994, the tide began to turn. Rammerstorfer ended up writing Leopold’s biography and producing a documentary of his life story.  Engleitner had to wait until he was almost one hundred years old to receive the recognition and social rehabilitation he deserved.

Engleitner’s biography entitled “Ungebrochener Wille”, appeared in English as “Unbroken Will” with translations following in Italian, Spanish, French and Russian. “Unbroken Will” is also the title of a documentary film based on the book, and lecture tours spawned films documenting the presentations and related events.

Though already far advanced in years, between 1999 and 2012 he traveled with Rammerstorfer more than 95,000 miles across Europe and the USA to schools, memorial sites, and universities as a witness of history to ensure the past is not forgotten, and he has become a model of tolerance and peace. He gave lectures at Bern, Columbia, Dresden, Georgetown, UCLA, Harvard, Stanford, and Vienna Universities, as well as at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Library of Congress, the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. In 2008, 2009, and 2011, he introduced his biography at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book fair. In 2009, he presented the Russian translation of his biography in Moscow.

In his 102nd year, Leopold Engleitner was honored for his courageous stance during the National Socialist Regime and received the following awards:

– “Golden Order of Merit of the Republic of Austria,” awarded by the Austrian president Heinz Fischer

– “Cross of the Order of Merit on ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany” from the German president Horst Köhler

Mr. Engleitner had up until July 2012 regularly visited schools throughout Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and the United States, with a total of more than 50,000 students attending his lectures.

A few months prior to his death, between November 9 and 15, 2012, Leopold Engleitner travelled from Austria to Los Angeles, California, USA, and attended the world premiere of a further documentary film “Ladder in the Lions’ Den: Freedom Is a Choice”, which placed his courageous stance during the Nazi era in historical context.  The film subsequently was awarded Best Documentary Short Film by the Fallbrook International Film Festival, of Fallbrook, California, and the Rincon International Film Festival of Rincon, Puerto Rico.

Melanie Gomania May 03, 2013 at 02:13 PM
Jehovahs Witnesses were persecuted during the Holocaust due to their faith in the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Society's president Judge Rutherford gave them instructions that saluting Hitler would be like Idol worship. He also told them to preach that the Governments were the tools of Satan and that God was soon going to destroy the Governments. Hitler viewed that as a threat and decided to take action. I am not excusing Hitler for what he did. However, the decision made by Hitler was provoked by the beliefs of Judge Rutherford. At that time all those people believed that the end of the world was just around the corner. The Jehovah's Witnesses of that time died for their faith in a man who misguided them. During the Great Depression of the US, Judge Rutherford had 2 Cadillacs and was enjoying travelling the world with a Mistress who he had since she was 16. Meanwhile, the Witnesses were dying in Germany. He should've went there to help them.
Arturo May 03, 2013 at 06:21 PM
Poor Leopold is still being attacked even after his death. Melanie, that comment had nothing positive to say. You should be ashamed of yourself using a courageous man's obituary as a platform for your message of hate.
Melanie Gomania May 04, 2013 at 03:42 AM
That was not a message of hate, it was a message of truth. Unfortunately, Mr. Engleitner and many other Jehovah's Witness like him have suffered because of the radical stand made by their leaders. They were persecuted unnecessarily. Can you imagine losing all your family member because of their sacrificing themselves due to religion? The nearly 8 million Jehovah's witnesses today are too at risk of suffering similar atrocities at the hands of any Government, or people who are willing to put their loyalty to the test. It's easy for a few people sitting in Brooklyn, Patterson and Walkill, NY, to pass rules that condemn the rest of their people. People in several countries have suffered, especially in Rwanda. They have been robbed, beaten, raped, and even killed. All in the name of loyalty to a religious belief. Since when has loyalty to religion been more important than life itself? People should open their eyes and realize that their life is more important than their religious beliefs.
Mark May 04, 2013 at 09:38 AM
Melanie, Hitler wanted Jehovahs Witnesses destroyed and vowed that he would eradicate "This Brood". However, due to the faith and courage of many thousands of witnesses including Mr. Engleitner, now there are 165,000 Witnesses enjoying freedom of worship, now tell me in the long run , who was right??
Melanie Gomania May 04, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Mark, the only way Hitler would've been able to eradicate "this brood" would've been by conquering the world and killing all of them. Thank God he never got to that. It's not about who's right and who has the freedom of religion. It's about survival. The Awake magazine of July, 2009 says "No one should... be made to choose between his beliefs and his family." What about beliefs and life itself? Life is by fragile and can be easily lost. It's very sad how Jehovah's witnesses are simply willing to sacrifice themselves based on what is told to them by their branch. In Rwanda, based on information received from the Brooklyn headquarters, the Branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses told their members that they couldn't buy a political party card for 25 cents, as it would constitute participating in politics. Due to lack of that card, the Witnesses there were persecuted in the worst way's possible. The Government of Rwanda at that time had only one party. But to stay neutral, the witnesses there had to pay dearly with their lives. Meanwhile in Mexico, boys who just turned 18 were required to enter military service. Jehovah's witnesses boys were given permission by their Brooklyn Headquarters to bribe military generals so they could get a false proof that they already served in the military, to avoid mandatory military service. So, who was right? The Jehovah's Witness boys of Mexico, or the Jehovah's Witnesses of Rwanda who sacrificed their lives for a 25 cents political party card?
Melanie Gomania May 04, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Blood is another issue in which Jehovah's Witnesses are sacrificing themselves. Either you take whole blood or you don't. Blood components are derived from blood that other people donated. Blood components don't magically fall out of the air. So you can take blood components but not the main components? The Bible is very specific when it says "abstain from blood". Imagine if the Bible said eating a banana is a sin. But the Watchtower tells you that eating the banana peel is ok. They can even go into details saying that you are not eating the main component of the Banana. Does that make it ok yo eat the peel? You either take blood transfusions, or you don't. There's no middle ground. But, so many have dies for refusing blood transfusions. They claim that the adverse reactions from blood transfusions are too many. If that was the case, too many people receiving blood transfusions on a daily basis would've already been dead. Imagine a scale, into which you put beliefs on one side, and life on the other side. Which side do you think weighs heavier? There were so many times when people wanted to kill Jesus. But, he always escaped from them, until it was time for him to sacrifice himself for the entire human race. Whom are the Jehovah's witnesses sacrificing themselves for? Survival should be more important than beliefs. Beliefs without life is dead. Life without belief is better than no life at all.
thomas y May 06, 2013 at 10:50 PM
some of these comments are very up building and some are not ; in the final out come all said and done , Jehovah GOD by his son christ jesus will by means of his kingdom will set all matters stright.
Melanie Gomania May 07, 2013 at 03:23 AM
Thomas, a lot of witnesses say the same thing. To them, the kingdom is the answer to every problem one could imagine. However, think about it, what if you were the faithful and discreet slave, what are some of the things you'd like to see fixed? Wouldn't you want to see those pedophile elders removed from their privileges, or wouldn't you want to see people live instead of just sacrificing their lives in the name of Christian Neutrality? Wouldn't you want to see the day when a disfellowshipped mother could talk to her son or daughter without the risk of losing everything? Wouldn't you want to have true friends in your congregation? Instead of gossipers and hypocrites? You maybe in the truth now, but the moment you make a mistake, your eyes will open and you will see who your true friends are. Wouldn't you want to see the day when you can have a stable faith? Imagine right now, new light is coming out once again in the new watchtower magazines. Why can't the society just say that black is black and white is white? Why can't they just say that they made a mistake? Instead, they always say that they have new light. If they were directed by Holy Spirit like they say, they would't have to keep changing the light. In John 8:12 Jesus said “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.” Read Revelation 19:1 to see where the Great crowd is supposed to be. Do some research in the Bible and open your eyes.
Danny Haszard May 07, 2013 at 08:44 AM
Bravo to Leopold Engleitner we salute you! 6 Million Jews 3 Million Poles 400,000 Gypsies 50,000-100,000 Homosexuals 150,000 Disabled Germans Rarely does anyone ever mention that Hitler rounded up all the Masons many of them Catholics and had them killed.The only Masons who survived didn't have their name on the rolls at the Grand lodge in Berlin. I think it was over 30,000 Masons that were murdered- they never got imprisoned, but killed outright, as Hitler feared them. Many leaders of various resistance groups compromised,individuals maintained integrity. The Jehovah's Witnesses leader Joseph Rutherford also initially sought favor with Hitler,but when Hitler double-crossed him he drove his own followers to be martyrs. Millions of Slavs, Russians, Socialist, Catholics, Protestants perished. ---Danny Haszard More Facts http://www.dannyhaszard.com/newsframe.htm

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