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During the Holocaust, Jewish boxer Salamo Arouch was imprisoned at Auschwitz. He was forced to fight fellow prisoners; the losers were sent to the gas chambers or shot. He survived over 2 years and 200 fights until the camp was liberated.

Is this story accurate?

  • 3
    For notability, this story is on Wikipedia and apparently a movie was made about it.
    – Brythan
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 17:10
  • 2
    I can't upvote this, as it's trivially googleable, but when I read this I thought "It has to be an urban legend", but turned out not to be the case.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 12:46
  • @AndrewGrimm considering that Arouch paid Jacques Razon to settle a lawsuit where Razon claimed that Arouch stole his identity to make the movie, and claiming that the events really occurred with respect to Razon not Arouch, it seems like a very legitimate question, even if only accidently.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


The graphic is mostly true.

Arouch arrived at Auschwitz in the summer of 1943 and fought about 200 times (usually 3-round fights) between then and 17 January 1945 when the camp was evacuated.

Not all the fights were against other prisoners, some were against German soldiers.

A 19 February 1990 People magazine interview quotes Arouch as saying:

“The loser would be badly weakened,” he says. “And the Nazis shot the weak.”

The fights were not 100% forced on Arouch's part, as Arouch is quoted in a 18 December 1989 New York Times article:

"...commander - I remember his name as Hans ... I tell the commander's interpreter - I am arrogant now - 'If you have a good boxer, bring him to me and I can show my stuff.' "

upon which they brought him a prisoner from Czechoslovakia to fight.

The Nazis used a combination of rewards and threat of death to force the prisoners to fight.

Additionally, there is some dispute whether or not the boxer was in fact Jacques Razon rather than Arouch. See footnote 33 of page 251 in Greece--a Jewish History

  • 2
    So I suppose, the story is true, but the title of the question is false: he survived despite the boxing (which arguably put him at higher risk of being killed), not because of it; he survived merely because the camp he was at was liberated. Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 15:15
  • 1
    @user568458 Even if selected for slave labor instead of murder by gas, most people only survived a few weeks or months, not years (extermination through labor was the desired outcome at concentration camps - in contrast to direct extermination at death camps; Auschwitz was a combination of camps using both methods). "What would have been" is always difficult to answer, but it does not seem likely that he would have survived two years without the improved treatment he received for fighting.
    – tim
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 16:42
  • "and the Nazis shot the weak" - assuming this did not apply when it was soldiers fighting him. :D Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 16:45
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    @user568458 Note also that some sources say that he was moved to Bergen-Belsen before Auschwitz was liberated and only freed later. Regarding "He only survived because the camp was liberated": That is of course technically true for all survivers; It's not as if the Nazis would let a Jew leave (because he is a good fighter or for any other reason). The point is that he survived until the liberation by fighting.
    – tim
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 16:50
  • @tim yes, he left in the 17 January 1945 evacuation of the camp. ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1942-1945/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 13:13

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