Boxing in the Holocaust

May 13, 2021
Opal Cohen

Fairfax, Virginia, United States

Class of 2023

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I started kickboxing two years ago, right after quitting ballet. The two sports could not be further from one another, but my dad made me do it so that I could learn how to defend myself. To motivate me to put my all into the sport, I decided to find a connection; the best way to do this is to find a role model. The first person who caught my attention was Victor Perez.

Known as Young Perez in the boxing world, this Tunisian-Jew died in the Holocaust. Before being shot, Perez was the youngest world champion. Aside from his boxing record, steeped with wins, my favorite fact about him is the honorable reason why he died; on the death march from Monowitz to Gleiwitz, Perez was shot to death when spotted attempting to distribute bread he had found to other starving prisoners.

There are rumors that his brother Benjamin Perez survived the Holocaust and became a boxing trainer in Tunis.
After reading about the Perez brothers and the Tunisian-Jewish culture, I continued to dive deeper. I started reading every article with the words “boxing” and “Holocaust.”

I learned that after being captured, Jewish boxers and wrestlers would fight for Nazi entertainment and often for their life. Also, Noah Klieger survived Auschwitz by telling Heinrich Schwartz that he was a boxer. Jewish boxers overseen by the commander of Auschwitz III received nourishing soup, as the commander and other boxing fanatics wanted to continue watching fights, at least for the few months prisoners had left.

“We fought until one went down or they got sick of watching. [Nazi commanders] wouldn’t leave until they saw blood.”—Salamo Arouch

“The loser would be badly weakened,” Arouch told People magazine in 1990, “and the Nazis shot the weak.”

Jacko Razon, Harry Haft, Salamo Arouch, and Noah Klieger are all Holocaust survivors I would like to shout out in this article. If you were interested in this article, research these boxers on your own, and follow your curiosity instincts for more!

Opal Cohen is a BBG from Northern Region East: Northern Virginia Council and enjoys swimming with sharks.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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