The Boxer's Story: Fighting for My Life in the Nazi Camps
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Once in a while there comes along a story so powerful and so emotive that it makes you rethink your own values. This is the story of Nathan Shapow, a young Latvian, born in Riga, with nothing more on his mind than becoming a world-renowned boxer. However, the sound of jackboots marching across Europe and the systematic extermination of the Jews put an end to his boxing dreams. He was to fight a different sort of fight: one for survival. The prize? His life. Seeing his youth disappear in the squalor of the ghettos and the horror of the concentration camps, Nathan fell back on his previous existence to sustain him. The years of training, the running, the speed of work, the three-round amateur fights in the gym, the street fights in Riga, and the sheer competitive nature he developed saved him on more than one occasion, especially when he was forced to box for his life against a top German fighter in a concentration camp. The Boxer's Story is an extraordinary and powerful true story that reads like a thriller. It will deeply affect everyone who reads it.
Nathan Shapow was born in Riga, Latvia, and survived various camps including Birkenau and Stutthoff. After the war he went to Palestine, where he fought for the creation of Israel. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and family.
Hoffman’s belief that Jews were spineless vermin, unable to resist the ‘Master Race’, prevented him from bringing guards or Kapos with him for security. It was to be one on one, though not exactly a fair fight. Only one of us, after all, was armed: my empty, Jewish hands against an SS Luger. ‘Raus,’ he snapped, ‘Du Juden Schwein.’ (‘Hurry, you Jewish pig.’) Hoffman was dressed immaculately in his officer’s uniform, the SS insignia affixed to his shoulder, while I wore the paper-thin striped
him his countrymen had already killed everyone I held dear and he didn’t frighten me. He stalked off, furious. It was clear now that their time was coming, and I suspect he didn’t shoot me because he realised I had told him the truth. Yet while we all knew now that Germany would lose the war, we were in no way safer than before. The Russians and British bombed the city day and night. I was run down by the years of hard work, inadequate food and torture. My knees hurt badly and I was constantly
el-Sheikh and we had to pull them out with tractors ‘borrowed’ from locals. We were fortunate to suffer only minor casualties at Sharm el-Sheikh where 1,500 men were garrisoned. In just six days we had fought our war and overran Sinai with a final dash of 155 miles along the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba while we came in via the Wadi Zaala where the sand took its toll on our vehicles. But we had stirred up a hornets’ nest and the Russians told the Americans that if they didn’t compel the Jews to
and alcohol. I faced up to them and pretty soon word got around not to mess with this particular shopkeeper. Business was good and we were so busy I even got Mike to come in at weekends to work the scales in the fruit and vegetable section, his first experience of real work. But one day in 1966 there was an electrical short and my business was burned to the ground. Unfortunately one of the companies I was insured with went bankrupt, which meant that I received only half the money. We reached a
followers. As an American diplomat reported to the State Department: The application of anti-Semitism in Latvia is made very easy by the administrative technique of the country. Nearly everything is permitted but only on the basis of a special permit. If a Jew wishes to establish a business, dismiss or engage employees, move his residence, transfer his business premises, or perform any of the other innumerable functions of life or business, such a permit is usually withheld without explanation.