The Amazing Jewish Boxer Of Auschwitz

“The loser would be badly weakened, and the Nazis shot the weak.” —Salamo Arouch, boxer

In A Nutshell

Salamo Arouch was a young Jewish boxer who was sent to Auschwitz after the Nazis invaded Greece. However, his skill in the ring saved him from the gas chambers. Arouch fought other prisoners in life-or-death boxing matches for the entertainment of their captors. Two years and over 200 matches later, Arouch was undefeated and still alive.

The Whole Bushel

If you saw Salamo Arouch, you might not peg him for a boxer. In his prime, he only stood 165 centimeters (5’5″) and weighed a puny 61 kilograms (135 lbs), not a big guy by any stretch of the imagination, but the man could move. He was light on his feet, and it was his dazzling footwork that won him his nickname, “The Ballet Dancer,” as well as the middleweight championship of Greece. Not only was Arouch fast, he was also built. When he wasn’t boxing, this young Jewish man spent his time working as a stevedore, hauling freight on the docks. However, Arouch’s life fell apart when the Nazis invaded Greece in 1941. His family was rounded up and sent to the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz where his mother and sisters were promptly murdered in the gas chambers. However, Arouch was spared thanks to a strange twist of fate.

After they were shaved and tattooed, the prisoners were introduced to the commandant who happened to be looking for boxers to entertain his men. After asking for volunteers, Arouch stepped forward, but the commandant was skeptical. Arouch was far too small to be a fighter, but just to make sure, the commander gave Salamo a pair of gloves and matched him up with another Jewish prisoner. Arouch dispatched him three rounds into the fight, and moments later gave a repeat performance, beating down a 1.8 meter (6 ft) tall Czechoslovakian inmate.

The commandant was duly impressed, and while most men were forced into hard labor, Arouch was assigned relatively easy duties and was given more food than most of the other prisoners in the camp. After all, he had to stay fit and healthy since he had to fight at least twice a week. The matches were held in a warehouse and were eerily similar to gladiator battles. As Arouch fought his opponent, the SS men drank and placed bets on who would win. The Ballet Dancer was no doubt a favorite as he won almost every fight of his career. According to Arouch, he won a grand total of 200 matches and tied twice thanks to a bad case of dysentery. After knocking out his opponents, Arouch was given a loaf of bread which he shared with the men in his barracks, but most importantly, he was allowed to live. His competitors weren’t so lucky. Like the bloodthirsty Romans of old, the Nazis didn’t care for losers, and everyone Arouch knocked out was shot or gassed to death.

Arouch’s Auschwitz career lasted two long years before he was finally transferred to Bergen-Belsen in 1945. The Nazis at Belsen weren’t sports fans, and Arouch was forced into hard labor, but he only worked a few months before the Allies liberated the camp. Finally free, the weary boxer married another Holocaust survivor and eventually returned to the world of fisticuffs where he lost the first and only fight of his career. He would later go on to meet boxing legends like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, and even returned to Auschwitz in 1989 to consult on Triumph of the Spirit, a film based on his life. Arouch passed away in 2009, leaving behind a complicated legacy. With each victory, he lived a little longer, but for every win, he sent a man to the crematorium. Arouch was a man in hell, forced to make decisions that most will never face. Like the man himself said, “If I didn’t win, I didn’t survive.”

Show Me The Proof

NY Times: Salamo Arouch, Who Boxed for His Life in Auschwitz, Is Dead at 86
Haaretz: Auschwitz inmate who survived by boxing dies aged 86

  • Sender

    He was probably beating up mostly untrained more malnourished than him fighters.

    • Alun Daniel

      You are the turd in humanity’s punchbowl

    • Nathaniel A.

      That makes no sense because then there would be no challenge, hence no entertainment.

      • Sender

        “Arouch was assigned relatively easy duties and was given more food than most of the other prisoners in the camp.”
        Yeah, he surely didn’t have any advantage at all. My bad.

        • Mikey Godsey

          I’m sure the other fighters had similar living conditions. You have absolutely no reason to assume otherwise.

          • Andy West

            True, but mere assumption can lead you into a quagmire of supposition. It might be better to suppose that they all lived in a horrific place, but maybe by degrees. Psychologically it’s a given, with all it’s prevailing atrocities, though I for one believe that certain fleeting luxuries were bestowed upon a few, regardless of eventualities. There was some heart to be found somewhere within those brutal bastards, whether we like to acknowledge it or not. It’s the thing that gives us a glimmer of hope against acts of hatred that proliferate inexorably and without rationality a planes throw from where we reside.

        • Nathaniel A.

          Perhaps he faced people who had just recently been captured and were still in relative good shape?

          • inconspicuous detective

            can’t believe i just read through people arguing which jews had it better in concentration camps to “win” a discussion online. wow.

          • Nathaniel A.

            Only on Listverse.

  • A description of this slaughterhouse ballet from Arouch’s obituary in the Guardian:

    “So began twice-weekly warehouse bouts, often preceded by Gypsy juggling
    and dancing dogs, while officers staked their bets. Arouch faced up to
    prisoners who were often bigger than him, knowing that he had to keep on
    going.”

  • TheLesserWeevil

    People may say he’s a terrible person for not just giving in and ‘saving the lives'(albeit temporarily) of those he fought. Most of us would like to think that we’d give in if we were presented the same opportunity but that simply isn’t true. Humans are humans, it’s kill or be killed and we can only know what we’d do if we were under those same circumstances.

    It’s horrible thing to happen to a person and i’m sure this man never went a day without thinking about those other poor victims in the fight. Rest in peace.

  • SensiblePerson

    This is amazing

    • Andy West

      Sounds like you’ve just found the porn button..

      • SensiblePerson

        No, not really, I don’t watch that stuff anyway, i’m talking about the the Jewish Boxer (I know i’m captain obvious)

        • Andy West

          HappyTalikng to you.

  • NatalieWashington

    I think that it is in nice action by the Boxer to show his Talent against enemy boxer.
    http://sissmag.livejournal.com/552.html

  • Kaname Fujiwara

    I know what the Jews are and I know what they did. It’s sad that their words are not as valued today because they choose to devalue it. Honor matters…