Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leopold Engleitner - part 2

This was the political & religious climate in Austria during that time: (taken from the 1989 Yearbook)

"The differences between the various political parties escalated dramatically. The Social Democratic Schutzbund (armed forces of the Socialist Party) went into resistance. The opposition by the working class was brutally smashed in February 1934. The Social Democratic Party was prohibited. Further restrictions of personal freedom followed.
As if affirming that a new era had begun, Austria got a new constitution in May 1934. The introductory words of it sounded like a religious creed: “In the name of God, the Almighty, from whom all the law goes forth, the Austrian people herewith receives this constitution for their permanent Christian German Federal State.” But in neighboring Germany, Hitler, another Catholic but one who espoused a different political ideology, was already firmly in power. And in July a supporter of Hitler’s National Socialist Party assassinated Dr. Dollfuss, Austria’s chancellor.
The months that followed, under the government headed by Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg, brought no relief for those who truly sought to serve “God, the Almighty.” Bible literature was still seized from them, and they continued to be haled before the courts. In many cases public Bible meetings were also forbidden."

So now back to Leopold's story after entering the ministry work...

"My parents were horrified when I quit the church, and the priest was quick to spread the news from the pulpit. Neighbors would spit on the ground in front of me to show their contempt. Nevertheless, I was determined to join the ranks of full-time ministers, and I started pioneering in January 1934.
The political situation became increasingly tense because of the strong influence the Nazi party was gaining in our province. During my pioneer days in the Styrian Valley of Enns, the police were hot on my heels, and I had to be ‘cautious as a serpent.’ (Matthew 10:16) From 1934 to 1938, persecution was an inseparable part of my daily life. Though I was unemployed, I was denied unemployment compensation, and I was sentenced to several short and four longer prison terms because of my preaching activity."
(In January 1934 he moved to the territory assigned to him in Upper Styria, where hardly any witnessing had been done up to that time.)
"National socialism was already exercising a powerful influence there. As a result, in some places martial law had been declared. This was true at Schladming, which had been occupied by a civic militia as a result of Nazi disturbances. In view of the seriousness of the situation, Brother Engleitner kept only a small amount of literature in the pockets of his jacket so as not to attract attention. Working the very outskirts of a town first, he offered literature only to those whom he felt that he could trust.
One day he was arrested and because of the prevailing political situation was asked at the constabulary office whether he carried any weapons on him. Our brother replied that he did, reached into his pocket and pulled out a Bible and put it on the table in front of them. (Eph. 6:17) When the officers had recovered from their laughter, they dismissed him.
Whenever he started his preaching work in one of the larger villages, the clergy saw to it that all the inhabitants were informed, including the constabulary. There was one arrest after another for Brother Engleitner. Jail sentences soon followed. At first it was for only 48 hours at a time, but the sentences became longer and longer. Finally, he had to transfer his activities to another place.

In March 1938, Hitler’s troops marched into Austria. Within a few days, over 90,000 people—about 2 percent of the adult population—were arrested and sent to prisons and concentration camps, accused of opposing the Nazi regime. Jehovah’s Witnesses were somewhat prepared for what was in store. In the summer of 1937, several members of my home congregation made the 220-mile [350 km] trip to Prague by bicycle to attend an international convention. There they heard of the atrocities perpetrated against our fellow believers in Germany. Clearly, now it was our turn."

I'll stop there, so I don't spoil the story for anyone reading the book...
(except I wanna give the brief version of his 'happy ending')

"...Jehovah’s spirit had strengthened me to endure an unbelievable ordeal. I had experienced the truth of the words recorded at Psalm 55:22, which had comforted me so much at the outset of my trials. I had ‘thrown my burden upon Jehovah,’ and though I was physically weak, he had sustained me as I walked through “the valley of deep shadow.”—Psalm 23:4.
At the end of the war, Christian brothers in Bad Ischl and the surrounding district started holding meetings regularly. They began preaching with renewed vigor. I was offered employment as a night watchman in a factory and was thus able to continue pioneering. Eventually, I settled down in the St. Wolfgang area, and in 1949, I married Theresia Kurz, who had a daughter by a former marriage. We were together for 32 years until my dear wife died in 1981. I had cared for her for over seven years.
After Theresia’s death, I resumed the pioneer service, which helped me get over the great sense of loss. I am presently serving as a pioneer and an elder in my congregation in Bad Ischl. Since I am confined to a wheelchair, I offer Bible literature and talk to people about the Kingdom hope in the Bad Ischl park or in front of my own home. The fine Bible discussions I have are a source of great joy to me." (WA 05/01/05)