Tomi Goforth

Written by Tomi Goforth

Published: 04 Jun 2024


Harry Haft's life is a story of resilience, courage, and survival. Born in Poland, he endured the horrors of the Holocaust, using his boxing skills to stay alive in concentration camps. But who exactly was Harry Haft? Harry Haft was a Holocaust survivor and professional boxer who fought in concentration camps to survive. After the war, he emigrated to the United States, where he continued his boxing career, even facing legends like Rocky Marciano. Haft's life wasn't just about boxing; it was about overcoming unimaginable odds and finding a way to live despite the darkest circumstances. His story is a powerful reminder of human endurance and the will to survive.

Table of Contents

Who Was Harry Haft?

Harry Haft, a name that resonates with resilience and survival, was a Holocaust survivor and professional boxer. His life story is a testament to the human spirit's ability to endure and overcome unimaginable hardships. Here are some fascinating facts about this extraordinary individual.

  1. Harry Haft was born on July 28, 1925, in Be?chatów, Poland. He grew up in a Jewish family, facing the harsh realities of anti-Semitism from a young age.

  2. At just 16, Haft was captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. His journey through various concentration camps began, marking the start of his harrowing ordeal.

  3. Haft survived by participating in brutal boxing matches organized by the Nazis. These fights were often to the death, with the promise of extra food and slightly better treatment for the winners.

The Boxer in the Concentration Camps

Harry's time in the concentration camps was marked by extreme brutality. Yet, his boxing skills became a means of survival in the most literal sense.

  1. He fought over 75 boxing matches in the concentration camps. Each fight was a battle for his life, with the stakes being nothing less than survival.

  2. Haft's boxing prowess caught the attention of the camp guards. They saw him as a source of entertainment and a way to place bets, which ironically kept him alive.

  3. He was known for his incredible strength and determination. These qualities not only helped him survive the fights but also the grueling conditions of the camps.

Escape and Survival

Harry Haft's escape from the concentration camps is a story of sheer willpower and courage.

  1. In 1945, Haft managed to escape during a death march. He took advantage of the chaos as the Allies advanced, fleeing into the woods.

  2. He survived in hiding by killing a German soldier and stealing his uniform. This disguise allowed him to move more freely and avoid capture.

  3. Haft eventually made his way to the United States. He arrived in New York in 1948, seeking a new life far from the horrors he had endured.

A New Beginning in America

Starting over in a new country, Harry Haft continued to rely on his boxing skills to carve out a new life.

  1. Haft began his professional boxing career in the United States. He fought under the name "Herschel Haft" and quickly gained a reputation for his toughness.

  2. He competed in 21 professional fights. His record included 13 wins, 8 losses, and 7 knockouts, showcasing his formidable skills in the ring.

  3. Haft's most famous fight was against Rocky Marciano in 1949. Although he lost, this bout remains a significant part of his boxing legacy.

Life After Boxing

After retiring from boxing, Harry Haft's life took on a different trajectory, but his past continued to shape his future.

  1. Haft opened a fruit and vegetable store in Brooklyn. This business provided a stable income and a sense of normalcy after years of turmoil.

  2. He married Miriam Wofsoniker, a fellow Holocaust survivor. Their shared experiences created a deep bond, and they had three children together.

  3. Haft struggled with the trauma of his past throughout his life. He often found it difficult to talk about his experiences, which haunted him for many years.

Legacy and Recognition

Harry Haft's story has been recognized and remembered in various ways, ensuring that his legacy endures.

  1. His son, Alan Scott Haft, wrote a book about his father's life. Titled "Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano," it brought Harry's story to a wider audience.

  2. Haft's life was also the subject of a film adaptation. The movie "The Survivor," directed by Barry Levinson, further immortalized his incredible journey.

Harry Haft's life is a powerful reminder of the strength of the human spirit. His story continues to inspire and educate, ensuring that the horrors of the past are never forgotten.

Harry Haft's Legacy Lives On

Harry Haft's story is a testament to human resilience and courage. From surviving Auschwitz to becoming a professional boxer, his life was anything but ordinary. His incredible journey highlights the power of determination and the will to survive against all odds. Haft's legacy continues to inspire many, reminding us of the strength of the human spirit.

His life wasn't just about boxing; it was about overcoming unimaginable hardships and still finding a way to fight back. Harry's story has been immortalized in books and films, ensuring that his experiences and lessons will never be forgotten. As we reflect on his life, we're reminded of the importance of perseverance and hope. Harry Haft's legacy is a powerful reminder that even in the darkest times, there's always a reason to keep fighting.

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