Harry Haft

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Harry Haft
Real nameHerschel (Hertzko) Haft
Height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Born(1925-07-28)July 28, 1925
Bełchatów, Poland
DiedNovember 3, 2007(2007-11-03) (aged 82)
Pembroke Pines, Florida
Boxing record
Total fights21
Wins by KO8
No contests0

Harry Haft (also known as Herschel Haft; born Hertzko or Hertzka Haft on 28 July 1925 in Bełchatów, Poland;[1][2] died 3 November 2007) was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp where he boxed fellow inmates to survive. He was later a professional boxer in post-war Germany, and the United States during 1948–1949.

Early life[edit]

Haft was born in Belchatow, Poland on 28 July 1925. Haft's father died when he was three years old. In 1939, when he was 14 years old, Haft witnessed the invasion and German occupation of Poland. Under Nazi occupation, Haft together with his older brother ran a smuggling business.

Deportation to Auschwitz[edit]

In 1941, Haft was deported to Auschwitz because he was Jewish. Because of his strong physical stature, an SS overseer trained him to be a boxer, and had him compete at fights to the death in front of the military personnel. The fights took place at the concentration camp Jaworzno, which was situated at a coal mine north of Auschwitz. Haft fought 76 fights at this concentration camp. When the camp in Jaworzno was dissolved because of the advancing Soviet Red Army, the inmates were sent on death marches. Haft managed to escape from one such march in April 1945. On the run he killed a bathing German soldier and donned his uniform. During the remaining weeks until the end of the war, he moved from village to village. At one point he killed two elderly people who harbored him on their farm because he feared they had discovered he was not a German soldier.[1]

Winning Jewish Heavyweight Championship, January 1946[edit]

In January 1946, Haft won an "Amateur Jewish Heavyweight Championship" organized by the US army in post-war Munich, receiving a trophy by General Lucius Clay. [3]

Emigration to the U.S. and brief boxing career in America[edit]

In 1948, aged 22, he emigrated to the US with the help of an uncle in New Jersey. There he made his living by competing as a heavyweight prizefighter during 1948 to 1949. Haft's professional record comprises 21 fights, of a total of 104 rounds, with 13 wins (8 by KO) and 8 losses (5 by KO). His height was recorded as 5′ 9″ (175 cm), his weight as between 168 and 180 lb.[4]

He won his first twelve fights, but lost against a more experienced boxer in Westchester County Center on 5 January 1949. After this loss, his career never recovered. His final fight was against Rocky Marciano, on 18 July 1949 in Rhode Island Auditorium, in what was Marciano's 18th professional fight. Haft was knocked out by Marciano at the beginning of the third round. In his biography, Haft claimed that he was threatened by the Mafia and forced to throw the fight against Marciano.

Marriage and retirement from boxing[edit]

After his loss to Marciano, Haft retired. He married Miriam Wofsoniker in November 1949 and opened a fruit and vegetable store in Brooklyn. His eldest son Alan Scott was born in 1950, followed by a daughter and third son.

Haft told his life's story to his son Alan Scott in 2003, who edited and published it in 2006 (with the contribution of historians John Radzilowski and Mike Silver). In April 2007, Haft was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.[5] He died in November of the same year, aged 82.

On the basis of the published biography, Reinhard Kleist created a graphic novel, which was published sequentially in the German periodical Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung during 2011.[6] This novel was nominated for a 2014 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b (in German)Benjamin Knaack: Boxen auf Leben und Tod. Der Spiegel 9 June 2009
  2. ^ Harry Haft. Boxrec Boxing Encyclopaedia, retrieved on 27 November 2009.
  3. ^ Steinberg, David, "Survivor Recounts a Boxer's Life", Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, New Mexico, pg. 52, 3 September 2006
  4. ^ Boxing Record. Boxrec Boxing Encyclopaedia, retrieved on 27 November 2009.
  5. ^ Inductee Details, Harry Haft, retrieved on 27 November 2009.
  6. ^ (in German) Graphic novel Der Boxer
  7. ^ Canva, Michael (August 18, 2014). "SMALL PRESS EXPO: Here are your nominees for the 2014 SPX Ignatz Awards…". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 August 2014.

Further reading[edit]

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