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article imageJehovah's Witness Leopold Engleitner Holocaust survivor dies, 107

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 5, 2013 in World
According to the Mauthausen Committee, an Austrian organization that tracks Nazi concentration camp inmates, the oldest known male Holocaust survivor, Leopold Engleitner, a Jehovah's Witness, died on April 21.
Engleitner refused to renounce his faith as a Jehovah's Witness during the German Nazi persecution of dissenters and survived three Nazi concentration camps and forced labor between 1939 and 1945.
He was born in Aigen-voglhub, Austria, in 1905, but was raised in the city of Bad Ischl, a spa town in Austria. He became a Jehovah's Witness in 1932, after studying the Bible with members of the group for many years.
Nazi authorities arrested him in April 1939, after the invasion of Austria in 1938. He was arrested with other Jehovah's Witnesses during a religious meeting, and held at Buchenwald concentration camp.
He was moved to Niederhagen concentration camp in Wewelsburg, Germany, two years later.
His captors offered to release him if he agreed to renounce his faith, but like many Jehovah's Witnesses known at the time as Bibelforscher, that is, "Bible Students," he refused. He was then transferred to Ravenbruek.
He was released from Ravensbruek camp in 1943 after he agreed to serve as a farm slave laborer. AP reports he was extremely emaciated at the time of his release from Ravensbruek, weighing only 28 kilograms (about 60 pounds).
He was allowed to return home on May 5, 1945, but continued to work as a slave laborer on a farm in St Wolfgang.
When he was ordered to report for frontline service in the Nazi army just before the end of the war, he hid in a Meistereben Alpine hut in the Tyrolean countryside until after the war ended, according to AP.
Even after the end of the war, the German authorities refused to release him from doing forced labor. The labor bureau told him that his duty was still valid. He was released from duty in April 1946 after the US army intervened.
His life was documented in two films, "Unbroken Will" by Austrian author and film-maker Bernhard Rammerstorfer, and a documentary film "Ladder in the Lion's Den," which depicts the hardships of life in Nazi concentration camps.
He toured Europe and North America sharing his war-time experiences. The Daily Mail reports he was awarded the "Silver Order of Merit of the Province of Upper Austria" by the Upper Austrian governor Josef Puhringer, in 2003. He also received a Ring of Honor of the town of Bad Ischl and a Badge of Honour from the town of St Wolfgang, according to the Daily Mail.
According to AP, the oldest known survivor of the Nazi concentration camps is Alice Herz-Sommer, 109. She was held in Theresienstadt.
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