Leopold Engleitner, the oldest known survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, died last month, almost 75 years after he was imprisoned for refusing to denounce his Jehovah's Witness faith, Reuters reported. He was 107.
Engleitner died peacefully April 21 in his native Austria, according to his biographer and best friend Bernhard Rammerstorfer, who was with Engleitner when he passed.
"It's very hard for me to announce the painful news of the passing away of my best friend," Rammerstorfer wrote on his website.
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Engleitner, a conscientious objector whose life was documented in the book and film "Unbroken Will," was imprisoned in the Buchenwald, Niederhagen, and Ravensbrueck camps between 1939 and 1943, according to Reuters.
He refused to renounce his Jehovah's Witness faith to win his freedom but was eventually released, weighing just 28 kilograms (62 pounds), on condition that he agree to spend the rest of his life working as a slave agricultural laborer.
He returned to work on a farm near his hometown of Bad Ischl in Austria and was released from forced labor by U.S. troops in 1946 after a period in hiding in the mountains to escape a call-up to the German army.
Engleitner carried on his missionary work after the war while working jobs including a spell as a night watchman in a soap factory.
He became a public figure when Austrian author and film producer Bernhard Rammerstorfer published his biography and a documentary film about his life in 1999, which were translated into English in 2004.
He went on speaking tours in Europe and the United States and talked to students about his experiences through his last years, attending the U.S. premiere of a new Rammerstorfer documentary film about his life in November 2012.
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Engleitner has been honored numerous times for his courageous stand during the Nazi regime. In 2007, he received the Golden Order of Merit of the Republic of Austria from Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer.
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