Salamo Arouch

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Salamo Arouch
Real name Salamon Arouch
Nickname(s) The Ballet Dancer
Rated at Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Nationality GreeceIsrael Greek/Israeli
Born (1923-01-01)January 1, 1923
Thessalonica, Greece
Died April 26, 2009(2009-04-26) (aged 86)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Stance Southpaw
Boxing record
Wins 238
Wins by KO 238
Losses 1
Draws 2
No contests 0

Salamo Arouch (Greek: Σολομόν Αρούχ; January 1, 1923 – April 26, 2009) was a Jewish Greek boxer, the Middleweight Champion of Greece (1938) and the All-Balkans Middleweight Champion (1939), who survived the Holocaust by boxing (over 200 bouts) for the entertainment of Nazi officers in Auschwitz Concentration Camp.[1] His story was portrayed in the 1989 film Triumph of the Spirit, starring Willem Dafoe as Arouch.[2][3]


Salamo Arouch was born in 1923,[4] in Thessaloniki, Greece, one of two sons in a family that also included three daughters.[5] His father was a stevedore who nurtured his son's interest in boxing, teaching him when he was a child. He worked briefly with his father as a stevedore.[4] Arouch said that when he was 14, he fought and won his first amateur boxing match [6] in 1937 in Maccabi Thessaloniki, a Jewish youth center and gymnasium. He later won the Greek Middleweight Boxing Championship, and in 1939, won the All-Balkans Middleweight Championship, an achievement he was best known for. After compiling an undefeated record of 24 wins (24 knockouts),[7] Arouch joined the Greek Army. While in the military he raised his boxing record to 27 wins (27 knockouts).

Internment at Auschwitz-Birkenau[edit]

In 1943, Arouch and his family were transported by boxcar and interned in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in present day Poland.[4] They arrived on May 15, 1943. In Auschwitz, where Arouch was tagged prisoner 136954, he said the commander sought boxers among the newly interned and, once assured of Arouch's abilities, set him to twice- or thrice-weekly boxing matches against other prisoners.[6]

According to Arouch, he was undefeated at Auschwitz, though two matches he was forced to fight while recovering from dysentery ended in draws.[6] Lodged with the other fighters forced to participate in these matches and paid in extra food or lighter work, Salamo fought 208 matches in his estimation,[8] knowing that prisoners who lost would be sent to the gas chamber or shot.[5] Fights generally lasted until one fighter went down or the Nazis got tired of watching.[8] Arouch claimed he weighed about 135 pounds and often fought much larger men. Once, he finished off a 250-pound opponent in only 18 seconds.[8]

Release from the concentration camps[edit]

Though Arouch survived the war, being released from Aushwitz on January 17, 1945, his parents and siblings did not. In 1945, he was transferred to Bergen-Belson where he worked performing slave labor until the allies liberated the camp.[9][4][5] During a search for family at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April, 1945, he met Marta Yechiel, a 17-year-old survivor from his own hometown.[4] With Yechiel, he immigrated to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv, where he managed a shipping firm.[4][10] Arouch and Yechiel wed in November 1945 and raised a family of four.[4]

After the war he gave inspirational speeches. Arouch's undefeated boxing record (1937-1955) ended on June 8, 1955, when he was knocked out in 4 rounds by Italy's Amleto Falcinelli in Tel Aviv.[11]

Work on the biographical film, Triumph of the Spirit[edit]

Arouch was a consultant on the movie, Triumph of the Spirit, the 1989 dramatic reenactment of his early life.[10] He accompanied filmmakers several times on an emotional return to the concentration camp where large portions of the film were actually produced.[5] The film takes some artistic liberties with the biographical details of his life, including the renaming of his wife and placing her in his story prior to internment.[5]

After the movie came out, another Jewish boxer from Salonika, Jacques "Jacko" Razon sued Arouch and the filmmakers for more than $20 million claiming that they had stolen his story and that Arouch had exaggerated his exploits. The case was later settled for $30 thousand.[8]

Arouch died on April 26, 2009 in Israel. He had been weakened by a stroke he suffered around 1994 and had been in declining health for six months prior to his death.[12]

Professional Boxing Record (Career highlights)[edit]

Result Record Opponent Method Date Round Time Event Location Notes
Loss ItalyAmleto Falcinelli KO 1955 Jun 08 4 Tel Aviv, Israel
Win GermanyKlaus Silber [13] KO 1944 1 Auschwitz Concentration Camp, occupied Poland
Win PolandUnknown Gypsy KO 1943 Mar 1 Auschwitz Concentration Camp, occupied Poland
Win Unknown Czechoslovak KO 1943 Mar 1 0:18 Auschwitz Concentration Camp, occupied Poland
Win PolandChaim KO 1943 Mar 3 Auschwitz Concentration Camp, occupied Poland
Win GreeceArtino KO 1939 2 Thessalonica, Greece
Win GreecePapadopoulos KO 1939 1 Thessalonica, Greece
Win GreeceAnagnos KO 1937 1 Thessalonica, Greece
Win GreeceChristodoulou KO 1937 1 Thessalonica, Greece
Win GreeceThouvenin KO 1937 1 Thessalonica, Greece

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barak, Roy (2009-04-30). "Survived Auschwitz by boxing, Haaretz". Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  2. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (May 3, 2009). "Salamo Arouch, Who Boxed for His Life in Auschwitz, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2009. 
  3. ^ Atlas, Teddy; Peter Kaminsky; Peter Alson (2006). Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring : a Son's Struggle to Become a Man. HarperCollins. p. 141. ISBN 0-06-054240-3. The movie was based on the true story of Salamo Arouch, a Greek Jew who was sent to Auschwitz during World War II and literally had to fight for his life in boxing matches with other concentration camp inmates. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Schindehette, Susan; Jack Kelley; Mira Avrech (1990-02-19). "Boxer Salamo Arouch's Death Camp Bouts End in a Triumph of the Spirit". People Magazine. 33 (7). Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Taliabue, John (1989-05-14). "Fighting for life itself in a Nazi boxing ring". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  6. ^ a b c Berger, Phil (1989-12-18). "Prisoner in the ring". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  7. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2009-05-04). "Salamo Arouch, Who Boxed for His Life in Auschwitz, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b c d Schudel, Matt (May 1, 2009). "Boxer Fought for His Life at Auschwitz". Washington Post. p. B5. 
  9. ^ Transferred to Bergen Belson in "Salamo Arouch, 86; Survived Aushwitz by Boxing", The Arizona Republic, reprinted from the L.A. Times, Phoenix, Arizona, pg. 14, 5 May 2009
  10. ^ a b Travers, Peter (1989). "Triumph of the Spirit". Rolling Stone (570). Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  11. ^ Gave inspirational speeches in "Salamo Arouch, 86; Survived Aushwitz by Boxing", The Arizona Republic, reprinted from the L.A. Times, Phoenix, Arizona, pg. 14, 5 May 2009
  12. ^ "Salamo Arouch, 86; Survived Aushwitz by Boxing", The Arizona Republic, reprinted from the L.A. Times, Phoenix, Arizona, pg. 14, 5 May 2009
  13. ^ "Salamo Arouch Obituary". The Telegraph. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 

External links[edit]