The champion of Auschwitz

Today is the 72nd anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz and a National Holocaust Remembrance Day for Greeks.

Today, I’m not posting pictures monuments or artifacts. I’m posting the photo of a man, who survived the man-made hell that was Auschwitz.


Solomon Aruch was born in 1923 in Thessaloniki, a bustling city in Northern Greece in whose busy port he, as all male members of his family, worked as stevedores.

Young Solomon joined the Thessalonica Maccabi boxing team and by age 16 he was one of the top boxers in Greece. His fancy footwork in the ring had earned him the nickname “ballerina,” while an impressive streak of victories made him a candidate for the 1940 Olympics boxing team.


War intervened and in 1943 the entire Arouch family was deported to Auschwitz. There, his entire family perished, but his boxing ability saved him. He was quickly spotted by the Germans who used him as they did other inmates, in boxing matches for their own entertainment. The fights were staged on Sundays and they lasted until one of the boxers was knocked out or until the Nazis got tired of the game. The winner would get a loaf of bread; the defeated was usually killed. Arouch won 206 of the 208 matches he gave there; the other two were ties. As a fighter, he was given a “cushy” job, in the camp’s kitchen, from which he stole food which he smuggled to other inmates.

After the war, Arouch married a compatriot of his, who had also survived the camps, and they emigrated to Palestine, where they had 4 children. He returned to Auschwitz only once, as an advisor to the team who turned his life into a movie. The movie, titled “Triumph of the Spirit” was released in 1989.

This post is dedicated to all the Greek Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and of whom so few survived.


Note: Arouch is pronounced like Loch (e.g. Loch Ness).

Image sources:

Solomon Arouch, after the war, posing in his camp uniform: Archive of the Jewish Museum of Greece.

Young Solomon Arouch, during a training session before the war: from here.


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