Media Response

February 18, 2003

Salzburger Nachrichten (Daily Newspaper, Salzburg, Austria)

Refusal to serve Hitler

Leopold Engleitner refused to go to war for Hitler Like others, he has been waiting for 58 years since the end of the war for his formal rehabilitation.

ST. WOLFGANG. The beatings and thrashings during the imprisonments in concentration camps have left marks. Mr. Engleitner's hearing was permanently damaged. A sadistic guard has kicked him in he groin; for this reason reason Mr. Engleitner could never father a child. Notwithstanding, Mr. Engleitner remained steadfast in the years between 1938 - 1945. He greeted people with "Guten Tag" ("Good Day") when the others shouted "Heil Hitler" and he refused to go to war for "the Fuehrer". "I was determined to uphold the principle 'thou shallst not kill', the 97-year old emphasizes.

However, the loyal Jehovah's Witness from Aigen-Voglhub (Gemeinde St. Wolfgang) did not receive any gratitude. [...]

"A contradiction" criticizes Helga Embacher, historian from Salzburg, "On the one hand, it was the official notion after 1945 that Austria was the first Nazi victim country, on the other hand, deserters were not recognized as victims."

For Engleitner, his faith has always been sacred. In 1932 he resigned from the Catholic Church and joined Jehovah's Witnesses. The catholic priest of the Strobl parish scolded the "pack of Weinbach". Locals spit in front of him, he was arrested repeatedly. The National Socialists incarcerated the unbending man of faith in the Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrueck concentration camps. He was released in 1943, weighing 63 pounds when he returned to his home.

Totally unexpectedly he was drafted again a few weeks before the end of the war. Engleitner escaped into the mountains, where he weathered snow and rains until the Allied Forces freed Austria. "I was not considered a sensible person, but this did not matter to me", says Leopold Engleitner. "I knew that what I was doing was the right thing. Ridicule and contempt did not harm me."

While Engleitner's role as a an opponent of the Nazi regime did not attract attention in St. Wolfgang and the neighboring community of Strobl, national and international interest in his case have risen. The Upper Austrian author and movie producer, Bernhard Rammerstorfer, has recorded Mr. Engleitner's martyrdom and his escape in a video and a biography. In January Mr. Engleitner traveled to Milan to present the Italian version of the video. The English version was premiered in Great Britain in January. Now an American publishing house (Grammaton Press, New Orleans) is publishing the biography in the English language.


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