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Leopold Engleitner
Leopold Engleitner
Birth: 23 July 1905
Aigen-Voglhub, Austria-Hungary (now Austria)
Death: 21 April 2013
St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut, Austria
Age: 107 years, 272 days
Country: AustriaAUT

Leopold Engleitner (23 July 1905 – 21 April 2013) was an Austrian centenarian, conscientious objector, as a Jehovah's Witnesses, and Holocaust survivor who spoke publicly and with students about his experiences. He was the subject of the documentary Unbroken Will. Before his death, he was the world's oldest known male concentration camp survivor (held in Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrück), and the oldest known living man in Austria.


Leopold Engleitner was born in Aigen-Voglhub, Austria-Hungary (now Austria) and grew up in the imperial city of Bad Ischl. He studied the Bible intensively in the 1930s and was baptised as a Jehovah's Witness in 1932. In the period up to World War II he faced religious intolerance, even persecution, from his immediate neighbourhood and the Austrian authorities, first by the fascist regime of Dollfuss and then under Nazi Germany.


When Adolf Hitler occupied Austria in 1938, Leopold Engleitner's religion, ideologies and conscientious objection to serving in the Army brought him into conflict with the Nazis.

On 4 April 1939 he was arrested in Bad Ischl by the Gestapo and detained in Linz and Wels. From 9 October 1939 to 15 July 1943 he was held in the concentration camps Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrueck. In Niederhagen he rejected a proposal to renounce his beliefs in return for his release. Despite brutal and inhumane treatment, his will – to stand for fair principles and to refuse military service – was unbroken.

In July 1943 - weighing only 28 kilograms (62 lb) - he was released on condition of his acceptance of lifelong slave labour on a farm.

After returning home he worked on a farm in St. Wolfgang. On 17 April 1945, three weeks before the war ended, he received notice to enlist in the German army. He fled to the mountains of Salzkammergut, and hid in an alpine cabin and a cave, hunted by the Nazis but never found.

On 5 May 1945 Engleitner was able to return home and resume work on the farm as a slave labourer. When in 1946 he tried to leave the farm, his request was rejected by the labour bureau of Bad Ischl, on the argument that the slave labour duty imposed by the Nazi occupation was still valid. Only after intervention of the US occupying power was he released from the duty in April 1946.

Rehabilitation and recognition

In the years after the war Engleitner continued facing 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 United States.

Though already far advanced in years, between 1999 and 2012 Engleitner 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 was not forgotten, and he became a model of tolerance and peace.

Once a persecuted concentration camp labourer and outlawed conscientious objector, he was honoured in May 2007 by 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.

In 2003, he was awarded the "Silver Order of Merit of the Province of Upper Austria" by the Upper Austrian governor, Josef Pühringer.

In 2006, he was awarded the Elfriede Grünberg Prize by Antifa, an anti-Fascist initiative in Austria.

In 2008, Engleitner was presented with the "Ring of Honour of the Town of Bad Ischl" by the municipal authorities in Bad Ischl, the town where he grew up.

In 2009, he received the "Badge of Honour of the Town of St. Wolfgang" from his home municipality, St. Wolfgang.

He became the oldest known living man in Austria upon the death of 108-year-old Josef Kastenhuber on 24 February 2013.

Leopold Engleitner died in St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut, Austria on 21 April 2013 at the age of 107 years, 272 days. Following his death, then-106-year-old Albin Pichler became the oldest known living man in Austria.


External links

Austria's Oldest Living Man Titleholders (VE)

Leopold VietorisSamuel Botscher • Unknown • Anton Bohdal • Johann Bogl • Wilhelm Mahler • Franz Harrer • Josef Kastenhuber • Leopold Engleitner • Albin Pichler • Gunter Fronius • Felix Madl • Franz Peter Winkler • Theodor Zafred • Johann Diesenhofer • Josef Pux • Julius Frauerwieser • Leopold Kriegbaum • Johann Simair • Otto Filipsky • Josef SchadlerMarko FeingoldAlois MayrhoferAnton KronbergerFranz Wielander