A new book from Syracuse University Press is due to be released today entitled Harry Haft, Auschwitz, and Rocky Marciano. Haft recounts both his fight with the legendary Marciano and the time he spent in Auschwitz.
Because of Haft’s brute strength, street savvy, and his relationship with a somewhat sympathetic guard, he was able to get work assignments where he could steal food. However, the relationship with the guard came with a big price tag when he volunteered Haft to become a fighter.
Every Sunday Haft would square off in bare-knuckle brawls against other detainees for the perverse pleasure of the SS guards. The battles were literally fights to the finish because the losers would be hauled off and executed.
Because Haft never once lost a fight, his German tormentors began referring to him as the “Jew Animal.” Described as a “flat-footed, toe-to-toe puncher,” he even beat a slick moving Frenchman who was imported by the Nazis to test his mettle like it had never been tested before.
After toppling the Frenchman like a giant tree, Haft saw him being dragged out of the ring. Although the Frenchman had been a favorite fighter of the Germans, he was never seen or heard from again.
Haft eventually escaped Auschwitz and wound up being discovered by American liberators. From there, he went from a displaced person’s camp to Jewish boxing champ to a career in boxing.