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2020 Sports, Small/Medium Newsroom finalist

The Auschwitz boxers

"Either you know how to box or you go to the gas chamber"

Organization
MARCA

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Sports, Small/Medium Newsroom

Program
2020

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About the Project

The report ‘The Boxers of Auschwitz’ gathers the overwhelming testimonies of those prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp who saved their lives by boxing. Because there, in the largest slaughterhouse of innocents ever known, a Nazi once asked:

– “Who knows how to box?

And so begins this report, the story of Noah Klieger, but also Salamo Arouch, Tadeusz Pietrzykowski, Rablin, Stolecki, Przybyla, Olsz√≥wka, Woznica, Borowski, Sobolewicz… and many others. Because they are the ones who tell that there, on the other side, behind the wire, there was a ring, gloves and they were ordered to fight.

“Two SS came in and one of them asked, ‘Who can box? So I thought, ‘Maybe it’s sportsmen they want. And I raised my hand. I still don’t know why I did it. It’s been almost 75 years and I still don’t know what made me react like that. I had a feeling, it was something visceral. I didn’t think with my brain, I thought with my guts. I said to myself, “If they want fighters, it must be for something positive. And I raised my hand.” That’s how prisoner Noah Klieger, newly arrived in the concentration camp, remembers becoming a boxer in Auschwitz.

He had never worn gloves, he didn’t know how to box… But he had an inspiration. “Many things saved my life in Auschwitz. In order not to die there, some miracles had to happen. And one of them was boxing. And you may ask yourself… What does boxing have to do with a concentration camp? What does it have to do with a place where everything becomes nothing?” he remembers.

Boxing is how Noah and Tadeusz Pietrzykowski survived, who was given a typhus injection for winning a fight and was almost killed, or Antoni Czortek, a Pole who proved on the ring that you can beat the Germans… In Auschwitz there was even a world champion, Victor Young Perez, who died on the Death March…

These are just some of the ‘Auschwitz Boxers’… And this is their story.