The story of HARRY HAFT chronicles his experiences growing up as the youngest of ten children in a poor Jewish family in a small town in Poland in the 1920's and 30's, and charts his hellish journey through 5 different Nazi slave labor and extermination camps.
Harry was 16, about to be married when he was first captured by the Germans. He would not find his first love again until twenty years later.
Harry has been shot, bayoneted, starved and beaten - working as a teenager loading the dead into the crematoriums, and selected because of his size and strength to become a human killing machine at the coal mines of Jaworzno. Harry fought a total of 76 matches to the death with his fellow prisoners for the inhuman and perverse entertainment of the Jaworzno guards.
After his miraculous escape from a death march, he steals a dead German soldier's uniform and weapon and proceeds to kill everyone in his path, in order to protect his identity as a Jew. He is then rescued by American soldiers who use him for their own purposes.
At a Displaced Persons Camp he calls on his fighting experience and signs up for a boxing tournament in Munich, where he wins the Heavyweight Championship and is named the outstanding boxer of the tournament and is awarded a Statue of Apollo and a Cup by General Lucius Clay.
Sponsored by an uncle in America, he arrives in New York City and uses the only job skills he has to become a prize fighter. Boxing turned into a career. His ring record was 13-8, winning his first 12 bouts.
He fought the Irish light-heavyweight champion, Pat O'Connor, Roland LaStarza, who twice fought for the heavyweight title, and Rocky Marciano, the future Heavyweight Champion of the World. As before, Harry finds a new roadblock standing in his way as the New York City mafia threaten him and force him to throw the Marciano fight.
Haunted by his memories of the camps and the loss of his family, Harry tries to piece together a life. He marries, has a family, and grows old facing the mental, physical and emotional challenges arising from his traumatic and violent past. He wears the same 3 Jewish stars around his neck throughout his life, but rejects Judaism, except on the eve of Yom Kippur when he sits in synagogue and wipes away tears hearing the sound of the Kol Nidre that he heard as a boy in the camps.
Recording my Dad's memories of his harrowing life started out as a family history project assigned to me as the oldest son. The powerful story of a young Polish Jewish teen imprisoned in five different concentration camps, a young man's escape, and first taste of freedom made possible through sheer wits, fists and violence, to the ultimate story of a man, an illiterate immigrant who became a professional prize fighter facing Rocky Marciano in the ring, while a husband, and difficult father. The family project became my book, HARRY HAFT SURVIVOR OF AUSCHWITZ , CHALLENGER OF ROCKY MARCIANO, an International graphic novel, and now a major Hollywood motion picture.