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 German 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
Real nameSalamon Arouch
Nickname(s)The Ballet Dancer
Weight(s)Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight
Height5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
NationalityGreeceIsrael Greek/Israeli
Born(1923-01-01)January 1, 1923
Thessalonica, Greece
DiedApril 26, 2009(2009-04-26) (aged 86)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Boxing record
Wins by KO238
No contests0


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 also fought with the colors of Aris Thessaloniki. He 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).

Entertainment at Auschwitz-BirkenauEdit

In 1943, Arouch and his family were transported by boxcar and interned in German Nazi 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 campsEdit

Though Arouch survived the war, being released from Auschwitz on January 17, 1945, his parents and siblings did not. In 1945, he was transferred to Bergen-Belsen, 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] One of his sons, Lelos Arouch, was a prominent member of Aris Thessaloniki.

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.[9]

Work on the biographical film, Triumph of the SpiritEdit

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 lived in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam and Rishon LeZion and died on April 26, 2009. He had been weakened by a stroke he suffered around 1994 and had been in declining health for six months prior to his death.[9]

Professional Boxing Record (Career highlights)Edit

Result Record Opponent Method Date Round Time Event Location Notes
Loss  Amleto Falcinelli KO 1955 Jun 08 4 Tel Aviv, Israel
Win  Klaus Silber [11] KO 1944 1 Auschwitz Concentration Camp, occupied Poland
Win  Unknown 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  Chaim KO 1943 Mar 3 Auschwitz Concentration Camp, occupied Poland
Win  Artino KO 1939 2 Thessalonica, Greece
Win  Papadopoulos KO 1939 1 Thessalonica, Greece
Win  Anagnos KO 1937 1 Thessalonica, Greece
Win  Christodoulou KO 1937 1 Thessalonica, Greece
Win  Thouvenin KO 1937 1 Thessalonica, Greece

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Barak, Roy (2009-04-30). "Auschwitz Inmate Who Survived by Boxing Dies Aged 86". 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". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-22.
  6. ^ a b c Berger, Phil (1989-12-18). "Prisoner in the ring". The 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". The Washington Post. p. B5.
  9. ^ a b c Transferred to Bergen Belson in "Salamo Arouch, 86; Survived Auschwitz by Boxing", The Arizona Republic, reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, Phoenix, Arizona, p. 14, May 5, 2009
  10. ^ a b Travers, Peter (1989). "Triumph of the Spirit". Rolling Stone (570). Retrieved 2008-11-22.
  11. ^ "Salamo Arouch Obituary". The Telegraph. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2015.

External linksEdit