(Long Island, NY) Mr. Engleitner was often asked, “Why would a man faced with death in three Nazi concentration camps not sign a document granting him his freedom?” Given the choice between life and death, he found the courage to stand by his conscience. His refusal to join Hitler’s army and to give the “Heil Hitler” salute put him and thousands of other Jehovah’s Witnesses in the crosshairs of the Third Reich. Hitler personally proclaimed: “This brood will be exterminated in Germany!”
As if receiving a “Ladder in the Lions’ Den,” he was given a way out. In exchange for his freedom, he was handed a document renouncing his faith and swearing allegiance to Hitler. He refused. After surviving Buchenwald, Niederhagen, and Ravensbrueck concentration camps, he weighed less than sixty-two pounds, but his will remained unbroken.
Spotlighted by the perspective of others, such as Renée Firestone, a Jewish Auschwitz survivor, and Gottlieb Bernhardt (former SS bodyguard of Hitler), who himself faced a pivotal crisis of conscience, Leopold’s story resonates with the power of conviction and hope. If not for a chance meeting with Bernhard Rammerstorfer, Leopold would have disappeared into the shadowed subtext of history.
Together, they traveled around the world promoting peace and tolerance. Their lectures took them to Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, UCLA and Georgetown Universities, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, as well as other noted universities throughout Europe and Russia.
To find further information about Leopold Engleitner’s life story, visit: www.unbrokenwill.com.
In addition to the Long Island International Film Expo, this film has received Best Short Documentary awards from the Fallbrook International Film Festival (California) and the Rincón International Film Festival (Puerto Rico), Audience Choice Award for a Documentary from the Marina del Rey Film Festival (Los Angeles County, California), Best International Feature Documentary award from the Laughlin International Film Festival (Nevada) and has been officially selected by the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival (Ohio), Life Fest Film Festival (Hollywood, California), and the Zagreb Jewish Film Festival and Rijeka Jewish Film Festival (both Croatia).