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Leopold Engleitner being interviewed during "Unbroken Will"
23 July 1905|
|Died||21 April 2013(aged 107)|
|Occupation||Farmhand, Roadman, Holocaust lecturer|
|Known for||Known for World's oldest known male concentration camp survivor, and survivor of the Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrück concentration camps|
Leopold Engleitner (July 23, 1905 – April 21, 2013) was a Holocaust survivor and conscientious objector who spoke publicly on his experiences with students. He is the subject of the documentary Unbroken Will. Before his death, Engleitner was the oldest survivor of the concentration camps Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrück. He was the world's oldest known male concentration camp survivor, and the oldest male Austrian.
Born in Aigen-Voglhub, Austria, Engleiter grew up in the Austrian imperial city of Bad Ischl. He studied the Bible intensively in the 1930s and became baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in 1932. During the period prior to World War II he faced religious intolerance, even persecution from his immediate surrounding and the Austrian authorities, first by the fascist regime of Dollfuss and then under Nazi Germany.
Time spent in prison from 1934 to 1938
- Spring of 1934 – 48 hours in Bad Ischl prison
- Winter of 1934/35 – 48 hours in Bad Ischl prison
- 5 January 1936 to 30 March 1936 – imprisonment in St. Gilgen and Salzburg
- 19 September 1937 to 14 October 1937 – detained in Bad Aussee prison
On the 4 April 1939 he was arrested in Bad Ischl by the Gestapo and taken to Linz and Wels for remand. From the 9 October 1939 till 15 July 1943 he was imprisoned in the concentration camps Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrueck. In Niederhagen he rejected a proposal to renounce his beliefs, even though that would have led to his release. Despite brutal and inhumane treatment his will – to stand for fair principles and to refuse the military service – was unbroken.
In July 1943 - weighing only 28 kilograms (62 lb) - he was released from the concentration camp under the condition that he would agree to be a lifelong slave laborer on a farm.
After his return home, he worked on a farm in St. Wolfgang. Three weeks before the war was over, on the 17 April 1945, he received his enlistment to the German army, whereupon he fled to the mountains of Salzkammergut. He hid there in an alpine cabin and in a cave and was hunted by the Nazis, but was never found.
On the 5 May 1945, Engleitner was finally able to return home, and he continued working on the farm in St. Wolfgang as a slave laborer. When in 1946 he tried to leave the farm, his request was rejected by the labor bureau of Bad Ischl with the argument his slave labor duty from the Nazi occupation was still valid. Only after an intervention of the US occupying power was he released from that duty in April 1946.
Time served in prisons, concentration camps and doing forced labor during Nazi persecution
- 4 April 1939 to 5 October 1939 – prisons in Bad Ischl, Linz and Wels
- 5 October 1939 to 9 October 1939 – deportation to concentration camp (prisons in Salzburg and Munich)
- 9 October 1939 to 7 March 1941 – Buchenwald concentration camp
- 7 March 1941 to April 1943 – Niederhagen concentration camp in Wewelsburg
- April 1943 to 15 July 1943 – Ravensbrück concentration camp
- 22 July 1943 to 10 April 1945 – forced labor on a farm
- 17 April 1945 to 5 May 1945 – flight to the mountains after being called up to the German army
In the years after the war, Leopold Engleitner continued to face isolation and intolerance, and only after the author and film producer Bernhard Rammerstorfer documented his life in 1999 in the book and documentary film Nein statt Ja und Amen, did the larger public become aware of him. Engleitner and Rammerstorfer held lectures at universities, schools and memorials in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and the U.S..
In 2004 the book and the film were translated into an English version, called Unbroken Will, and were presented in the US with a tour including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Columbia University in New York and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
In 2006, Engleitner and Rammerstorfer made a second tour through the United States. They gave lectures in Washington, D.C., (at Georgetown University and Library of Congress), New York (at Columbia University), Chicago (at Harold Washington College), Skokie (for the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois), Palo Alto, in the San Francisco Bay area (Stanford University) and Los Angeles (at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust).
The locations of their third 2009 U.S. speaking tour were the following: Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Florida Holocaust Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida; Palladium Theater at St. Petersburg College, Florida; Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, California; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Moorpark College, California; Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, California.
Though already far advanced in years, between 1999 and 2012 he travelled with his biographer and friend Bernhard 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.
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.
Books, films and documentaries
In 2012, Bernhard Rammerstorfer produced with A. Ferenc Gutai the documentary film "LADDER in the LIONS' DEN - Freedom Is a Choice, Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor Leopold Engleitner: A 107-Year-Old Eyewitness Tells His Story."
The U.S.premiere took place at Laemmle's Town Center 5 Theatre in Encino, Los Angeles County, in November 2012 with Leopold Engleitner present.
The German version "LEITER in der LÖWENGRUBE" was released in Austria in March 2013.
In April 2013, the film was awarded "Best Documentary Short" by the Fallbrook International Film Festival 2013, of Fallbrook, California, and "Best Short Documentary" by the Rincòn International Film Festival 2013, of Rincòn, Puerto Rico.
The English translation of the German book Nein statt Ja und Amen (1999) was published in 2004 in the USA, entitled Unbroken Will.
In 2005 Rammerstorfer released a new German biography and DVD Nein statt Ja und Amen – 100 Jahre ungebrochener Wille. The book also contains a short biography of the German conscientious objector Joachim Escher. Eschers was detained between 1937 and 1945 in several different prisons and in the concentration camps Sachsenhausen, Niederhagen and Buchenwald. In KZ Buchenwald he was servant to the former French government members Georges Mandel and Léon Blum, who the Germans kept as hostages.
Engleitner is also the subject of Rammerstorfer's educational DVD Unbroken Will which contains the full documentary plus films of special events relating to Engleitner's awareness-raising activities from 1999 to 2004 as well as material on the Holocaust for the use in schools in English, German, Italian, and Spanish.
In 2006, Rammerstorfer produced the documentary Unbroken Will Captivates the United States relating to the 2004 U.S. tour which was premiered at the Laemmle's Music Hall 3 Theatre in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.
Rammerstorfer produced also the documentary Unbroken Will USA Tour relating to the 2006 U.S. tour which was premiered in the U.S. at the Laemmle's Sunset 5 Theatre in West Hollywood, in 2009.
The French version of the book entitled Une volonté de fer was released in 2007.
In 2008 Rammerstorfer released a new version of the German book, entitled "Ungebrochener Wille", which Engleitner and Rammerstorfer presented at Frankfurt Book Fair 2008 in Germany, the world's largest book fair.
In 2009, the new English book Unbroken Will: The Extraordinary Courage of an Ordinary Man-The Story of Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor Leopold Engleitner, born 1905 based on the latest German version was released at Harvard University.
The Austrian president, Heinz Fischer, described in his foreword the book as "a milestone in the correspondence about the horror of Nazism." Brewster Chamberlin, director of archives at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC from 1986 to 1997, wrote a preface. Further prefaces were written by the founder of the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service Andreas Maislinger, Franz Jägerstätter and Leopold Engleitner, and Walter Manoschek, from the University of Vienna, "No more War!"
The Russian translation of the book Unbroken Will (Несломленная воля) was released in Russia in 2009. Engleitner and Rammerstorfer presented the book in Moscow at the Central Journalist House and at the book store "BIBLIO-GLOBUS" in September 2009.
In May 2009, the songwriters Mark David Smith and Rex Salas from California have written the song "Unbroken Will" for Leopold Engleitner. On May 22, 2009, Leopold Engleitner was presented the song during an event at Moorpark College. The singer Phillip Ingram interprets "Unbroken Will". The song is available for download on the website www.unbrokenwill.com as well as the lyrics.
Rehabilitation and recognition
Once a persecuted concentration camp laborer and outlawed conscientious objector he had been honored in May 2007 from the Republic of Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany for his courageous stand during the Nazi regime and for his tremendous awareness-raising activities with:
- The Golden Order of Merit of the Republic of Austria from Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer.
- The Cross of Merit on ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany (Knight's Cross) from German President Dr. Horst Köhler
In 2003, he was awarded the "Silver Order of Merit of the Province of Upper Austria" by the Upper Austrian governor Josef Pühringer.
In 2008, he was presented with the "Ring of Honor of the Town of Bad Ischl" by the municipal authorities in Bad Ischl, the town Engleitner grew up in.
In 2009, he received the "Badge of Honor of the Town of St. Wolfgang" by his home municipality St. Wolfgang.
- "Oldest surviving Nazi concentration camp survivor dead at 107". 2 May 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
- Valencia, Milton J. (5 May 2009). "Holocaust survivor, 103, tells students of resisting Nazis - The Boston Globe". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- Book Unbroken Will: The Extraordinary Courage of an Ordinary Man-The Story of Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor Leopold Engleitner, born 1905 (Austria, 2009)
- Educational DVD Unbroken Will (USA, 2004)
- DVD Unbroken Will Captivates the United States (USA, 2006)
- DVD Unbroken Will USA Tour (USA, 2009)
- "Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah's Witnesses During the Nazi Regime: 1933-1945" by Hans Hesse, Edition Temmen, 2003, ISBN 3-86108-750-2, ISBN 978-3-86108-750-2
- "Though Weak, I Am Powerful" as told by Leopold Engleitner, The Watchtower, May 1, 2005, page 23-28
- "For Jehovah in the concentration camp - Engleitner", DiePresse.com, May 8, 2010, online, in German
- "107-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Dies", Encino-Tarzana Patch, May 8, 2013,