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Oldest Male Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor in the Valley Friday for Premiere of 'Ladder in the Lion's Den'

107-year-old Leopold Engleitner will be at the Laemmle Town Center 5 to talk about his experiences.

The world's oldest known male Nazi concentration camp survivor, Leopold Engleitner, 107, will be in the Valley Friday to attend the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary Ladder in the Lions' Den.

The film charts Engleitner's journey as a conscientious objector and a Jehovah's Witness who was imprisoned by the Nazis for his beliefs. He is the survivor of three concentration camps: Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrueck.

Engleitner is flying in from Austria especially for the Valley screenings, and, with the help of an interpreter, will be talking to audience members and taking part in several Q&As at the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino.

The documentary's narrator and script-editor, Frederic Fuss, talked with Patch about the film and its subject.

How did you become involved in the project?

I have been a friend and supporter of Leopold and the writer, Bernhard Ramerstorfer, for many years, and I've also proofread two of [Ramerstoffer's] books and been a script-editor and proofreader of his book on Leopold, Unbroken Will, and the documentary DVD of the same name. Among the things that captivated me from the beginning is that the strength of Leopold's unbroken will and determination never diminished his positive outlook, and the intensity of his trial never made him bitter.

Can you talk a little about the subject matter of the documentary?

Ladder in the Lions' Den takes a slice of Leo's experiences and puts them into a more direct historical context. You get to the significance of the stand he took as a conscientious objector, not going along with Nazism and and its ideals. It also has outsider commentators, and they give their views, like Adolf Burger who appeared in the film The Counterfeiters—he's one of the original true life characters—he's briefly interviewed, also Renée Firestone [a Jewish Auschwitz survivor], and Gottlieb Bernhardt. He was a bodyguard of Hitler's, he briefly gives a statement in the film.

The name Ladder in the Lions' Den is about Leo's experience as a Jehovah's Witness in the camps. A document was regularly presented to the Jehovah's Witnesses, who were conscientious objectors and who objected to the principles of Nazism, and they did not subscribe to any of the racist ideas. To get out of the camp, they were told 'just sign this document where you renounce your beliefs, say you go along with Nazism and go along with Hitler'.

They [Jehovah's Witnesses] would also not say the 'Heil Hitler' greeting, and the film comments on that, that the words ascribe salvation to Hitler. They said, no, he's not God so we're not going to do that.

It's perhaps not commonly known that Jehovah's Witnesses were victims of the Nazi concentration camps.

It is a story that is often overlooked, and it's more than just a story. There are important messages in what Leopold did and he’s very active in going to schools in Austria, mainly because his message is pertinent: You don’t need to go along with peer pressure, you can stick by your conscience. You don't have to say 'we are ordinary people, what are we going to do?'

So Leopold teaches people to follow their conscience instead of say 'we were just following orders'?

Yes—that's the standard cop-out and the message of the Nuremberg Trials. There's a powerful message here.

***

Ladder in the Lions' Den, Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Boulevard, Encino. 818-981-9811. Opens Friday November 7. For showtimes, click here.

Leopold Engleitner is scheduled to attend all screenings, from 12:30 p.m. Nov. 9-Nov. 15, and 11:00 a.m. Sat Nov. 10 and Sun Nov. 11. Renée Firestone is scheduled to be at the two showings on Sunday Nov. 11.

And click on the YouTube video above to see a 2009 CBS2/KCAL9 news report on Engleitner.

Frank O'Loughlin November 14, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I appreciate the variety of comments and certainly admire all who refuse to murder their neighbour even under extreme bullying to do so. My viewpoint is not that any group "own" the slaughter committed by brutes who exercise their might by snuffing out the lives of others they deem unfit to live, for whatever invented reasonings .e.g. former Yugoslavia, among many modern era atrocities. My maternal Christian Grandfather( a devout Roman Catholic ) was killed in the Great War, fighting in the "War to end all wars", possibly killed by another devout Christian, who held an opposing view. My Dad (a devout Roman Catholic ) wanted to go to Spain to fight fellow religionists in the Franco era but his Dad found out and stopped him. Growing up in the Republic of Ireland, I have seen firsthand the "Troubles" where one Christian group tried to outdo another in the murder of their neighbours often bullying others to drive cars packed with explosives to kill or maim their neighbours. My respect goes to any and all who stand out and refuse to participate in such atrocities.
Thomas Munz November 17, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I can only confirm that the lessions of moral integrity and following ones Bible trained conscience is the best way of life because it leads to happiness now and in the real live for all ETERNITY. Of course this FACT can only be understood by SPIRITUAL persons, whereas fleshly oriented people can`t. For reference please read 1. Cor. 2:14,15 So this is the reason why a few coments here reflect the fleshly thinking of people who have no true vision of their future and cant understand why Jehovahs Witnesses really stand out by not being part of this satanic system of things Thomas Munz from Germany
Solomon Ruffo November 22, 2012 at 06:25 AM
"Leopold did a very significant thing: he just said no. When he was being bullied, browbeaten, threatened with his life to give up his principles, he didn't, because of his conscience. Isn't that the message we try to give ...?" Conscience! The Watchtower religion of today demands loyalty and if any Jehovah's Witness decides to leave because they disagree with doctrine,the remaining family members are commanded by the religion to shun those who have left. They will try to spin it so that it looks like some immorality was committed but most of the time that is not the case. Every member of your extended JW family and all your close friends will now shun you (basically treat you like you're dead) simply because you changed your mind on religion.
Vona Mae Scott November 24, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Solomon, this is just not true. I left for ten years, was never shunned by my family or friends. They did all they could to encourage me to come back and I did. If someone is involved in adultry, murder, drugs, smoking and fornication of all sorts, well you are encouraged to stop. They want you to turn around. If you prefer to do these things then yes, the congregation is kept clean. JW's are not like the religions of the world, anything goes as long as you go to church on sunday. God's laws never change. JW's don't change with the times. Whats written in the Bible is written for our instruction. Being loyal to Jehovah no matter what. Being loyal to our brothers in all nations of the earth. We don't kill our brothers. Jehovah demands loyalty.
Frank O'Loughlin November 25, 2012 at 10:07 AM
My final contribution, hoping that faithful God fearing persons such as Leopold are not used in a disingenuous cause, as there are many sterling examples to show whether in Northern Ireland; Rwanda; Bosnia; Malawi and countless other locations, there are those who apply Scriptural principles in their dealings with their neighbour no matter what nationalistic bitterness they meet in life. From my experience with family members who abandon the religion of parents and siblings, the love shown to them in the past and the affection and time rearing them from infancy does not dissipate because they now choose an independent course. Implying that we are somehow forced to act hatefully toward them is close to being inappropriate, by suggestion. Do not make light of the fact that even our grown up children make choices, some wise , some harmful and we are all accountable to Him that sees all. Men in positions of authority can't read the heart but the True God can. He will act righteously, we try to as best as we can.

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