Surviving Buchenwald: The Story of a Jehovah's Witness
Co-Sponsored by the Austrian Consulate General, Los Angeles
Leopold Engleitner of Austria is one of the oldest living Holocaust survivors. Born in 1905 in Salzburg, Mr. Engleitner became a Jehovah's Witness in his late twenties. In 1938 when the Anshluss (the inclusion of Austria into "Greater Germany" by the Nazi regime) occurred in Austria, Mr. Engleitner found himself imprisoned a number of times for what the Nazis claimed was a promotion of an unacceptable religious faction. Rather than being released from prison he was placed into Nazi "protective custody" and sent to a concentration camp. Mr. Engleitner spent the next five years in three different concentration camps. He was subjected to severe physical labor and demeaning treatment from both the Schutzstaffel (the Nazi defense squadron) and fellow prisoners. Throughout his internment, Mr. Engleitner was offered freedom in return for signing a declaration renouncing his beliefs. Time and time again, he refused. Finally, in June 1943, he was offered his freedom in exchange for working solely in agriculture for the remainder of his life. On July 15, 1943, he was released from the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
Bernhard Rammerstorfer, also of Austria, is an author and film producer. Mr. Rammerstorfer met Leopold Engleitner in 1994 and consequently wrote his biography, Unbroken Will: The Extraordinary Courage of an Ordinary Man. Mr. Rammerstorfer also produced an accompanying film documentary. In 2006, he produced another documentary entitled, "Unbroken Will Captivates the United States".
In recent years, Mr. Rammerstorfer and Mr. Engleitner have traveled the world, holding lectures at various universities, schools and memorial sites in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and the United States. In 2004, they made presentations at Columbia University, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.