Screening will be on Friday, July 11 from 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM at Bellmore Movies during the Long Island International Film Expo 2014.
Bellmore, NY - July 3, 2014 - Based on the book “Unbroken Will”, filmmakers Bernhard Rammerstorfer (Austria) and A. Ferenc Gutai (Puerto Rico) tell the amazing true story of Leopold Engleitner—an ordinary man who found the extraordinary courage to follow his conscience in “LADDER in the LIONS’ DEN: Freedom Is a Choice”. Driven by his convictions, Leopold Engleitner took a stand against the Nazis, refusing to serve in Hitler’s army.
International awards and notable events:
Winner: Best Documentary Short at the 2013 Fallbrook International Film Festival, Fallbrook, California, USA
Winner: Best Short Documentary at the 2013 Rincón International Film Festival, Rincón, Puerto Rico, USA
Winner: Audience Choice Award for a Documentary at the 2013 Marina del Rey Film Festival, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Winner: Best International Feature Documentary at the Laughlin International Film Festival 2013, Laughlin, Nevada, USA
Official Selection: Festival of Tolerance: 7th Zagreb International Jewish Film Festival 2013, Croatia,
Official Selection: Festival of Tolerance: 1st Rijeka International Jewish Film Festival 2013, Croatia. (The film was ranked 3rd place among all screened films and received an audience rating of 4.81 out of 5.)
Official Selection: Chagrin Documentary Film Festival 2013, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, USA
Official Selection: Life Fest Film Festival 2014, Hollywood, California, USA
English version of Ladder in the Lions’ Den premiered in 2012 at the Laemmle Theater in Encino, Los Angeles County, California, USA
About the film
Why would a man faced with death in three Nazi concentration camps not sign a document granting him his freedom?
This is the true story of Leopold Engleitner, who at 107 years old was the world’s oldest known male Nazi concentration camp survivor. As a seemingly ordinary man who was given the choice between life and death, he found the extraordinary courage to stand by his conscience. Refusing to take up arms in support of Nazi aggression and to salute “Heil Hitler,” his uncompromising stand put him and thousands of other Jehovah’s Witnesses directly in the crosshairs of the Third Reich. Hitler personally proclaimed: “This brood will be exterminated in Germany!” Like a “ladder” lowered into the “lions’ den” to which he was condemned, he was given a way out by the Nazis: in exchange for his freedom he was offered a document requiring him to renounce his faith and swear allegiance to Hitler. He refused. After surviving Buchenwald, Niederhagen, and Ravensbrück concentration camps, he weighed less than sixty-two pounds, but his will remained unbroken.
Spotlighted by the perspective of others who also suffered, such as Renée Firestone, a Jewish Auschwitz survivor, and Gottlieb Bernhardt (former SS bodyguard of Adolf Hitler), who himself faced a 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; instead an enduring friendship formed between two men separated by more than sixty years and two World Wars. Together, they travelled more than 95,000 miles around the world promoting peace and tolerance.
Producer: Bernhard Rammerstorfer
Co-Producer A. Ferenc Gutai
Directors: Bernhard Rammerstorfer and A. Ferenc Gutai
Script: Bernhard Rammerstorfer and A. Ferenc Gutai
Narrator: Frederic G. Fuss
Voice of Leopold Engleitner: Gordon Piedesack
Based on the book Unbroken Will by Bernhard Rammerstorfer
Total running time: 40 Minutes
Although Leopold Engleitner and Adolph Hitler, who was sixteen years his senior, grew up in the same province of Austria and shared the same cultural and educational experience growing up, they both developed vastly different views. Whereas Hitler caused untold suffering to millions, Leopold devoted his life to peace, a stand that was tested time and again, even in the face of death.
Guided by his convictions, he took a stand against the Nazis by refusing to serve in Hitler’s army. As a result, he was brutally mistreated by the SS, who imprisoned and tortured him in an attempt to break him. In spite of this, while in the concentration camps, he bought a suitcase for the journey home, which seemed impossible he would ever make. Weighing less than sixty-two pounds, he survived the camps only to be hunted down like an animal as he fled into the rugged Austrian Alps to escape a final attempt to force him to compromise.
Suffering through the First World War, the Spanish Flu and then the rise and fall of Nazism, he, with his story, seemed to be lost to the pages of history until a chance meeting over half a century later with author and filmmaker Bernhard Rammerstorfer. This marked the beginning of a remarkable and extraordinary friendship. Mr. Engleitner’s incredible life story in book form, entitled Unbroken Will, and the documentaries Unbroken Will, Unbroken Will Captivates the US, and Unbroken Will USA Tour written and produced by Bernhard Rammerstorfer, are available for purchase on the internet at: unbrokenwill.com.
Despite his exceptional age, Mr. Engleitner made a fourth speaking tour in the United States in November 2012 to attend the premiere of his film. Including distanced covered on his previous tours, he traveled more than 95,000 miles to schools, universities and memorial sites throughout Europe and the United States accompanied by Mr. Rammerstorfer, and he has been invited as a guest speaker to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, the Library of Congress, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and UCLA, Bern, Dresden, Vienna, Columbia, Georgetown, Harvard, and Stanford universities.
In 2007, Mr. Engleitner was awarded the Decoration of Merit in Gold by the President of Austria, Heinz Fischer, and the Merit Cross on Ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by the President of Germany, Horst Köhler, for his work in courageous stance during the National Socialist Regime and for his lecture activities at schools and universities promoting human rights and tolerance.
Date and Time: Friday, July 11, 2014, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Location: Bellmore Movies
222 Pettit Avenue, Bellmore, New York 11710