Franz was raised in a village in Carinthia, Austria, as the eldest of six children born to Catholic parents. His father worked as a quarryman and a farmer. His parents became Jehovah's Witnesses during Franz's childhood after being disillusioned with Catholicism and raising their children in their new religion. Franz was a painter and a skier when he was a teenager.
Franz began his career as a house painter and decorator as an apprentice. Like other Jehovah's Witnesses, he declined to swear an oath to Hitler or give the Hitler salute after Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938. Neighbors reported him to the cops, but his employer shielded him from prosecution by claiming that his services were needed. Franz's father was imprisoned for refusing military service when the war broke out in September 1939. In December, he was put to death.
Franz declined to be drafted into the German army after his twentieth birthday. He refused to salute the Nazi flag in front of hundreds of recruits and officers. On March 14, 1940, he was arrested and imprisoned. Franz was sent to a German prison camp later that year. Between 1943 and 1945, a new commander felt sorry for Franz and saved him three times from execution. Franz's willingness to die rather than disobey God's order to love and not destroy his neighbor impressed him.
Franz stayed at Camp Rollwald Rodgau 2 until March 24, 1945. He was freed by American forces and returned to his native Austria.
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