Tuesday 9 July 2024

The Fighter of Auschwitz by Erik Brouwer

The Fighter of Auschwitz: The incredible true story of Leen Sanders who boxed to help others surviveThe Fighter of Auschwitz: The incredible true story of Leen Sanders who boxed to help others survive by Erik Brouwer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 2 days

Pages - 336

Publisher - Cassell

Source - Bought

Blurb from Goodreads

The story of Dutch boxer Leen Sanders who was spared to entertain the Nazi guards and helped others survive Auschwitz.

'He had the dream again last night... He taps the gloves of his unbeaten Polish opponent. There are rumours that the loser will be sent to the gas chamber.'

In 1943 Leen Sanders, Dutch champion boxer, was sent to Auschwitz. His wife and children were put to death while he was sent 'to the left' with the others fit enough for labor. Recognised by an SS officer, he was earmarked for a 'privileged' post in the kitchens in exchange for weekly boxing matches for the entertainment of the Nazi guards. From there, he enacted his resistance to their limitless cruelty.

With great risk and danger to his own life, Leen Sanders stole, concealed and smuggled food and clothing from SS nursing units for years to alleviate the unbearable suffering of the prisoners in need. He also regularly supplied extra food to the Dutch women in Dr. Mengele's experiment Block 10. To his fellow Jews in the camp, he acted as a rescuer, leader and role model, defending them even on their bitter death march to Dachau towards the end of the war.

A story of astonishing resilience and compassion, The Fighter of Auschwitz is a testament to the endurance of humanity in the face of extraordinary evil.

My Review

I had never heard of Leen Saunders, a famous Jewish boxer who ended up in Auschwitz, this is his story. The first 100 pages of the book is all about Leen, his family, upbringing, career and then how things slowly change as the ward takes hold. As with many of these books prepare for emotive responses, anger, heartache, absolutely jaw dropping that these things happened, were allowed to happen and how so many innocent people were tortured/abused/murdered by Nazi's.

Leen's boxing career is interesting and for the first quarter plus you could actually forget what is coming as you absorb in his achievements/career. Then we meet Leen the survivor, how he gets through his time in Auschwitz but the absolute acts of bravery/heroism using the small "privileges" he had to ease the suffering of his fellow men and women. There is brief mention of "Doctor" Mengele in this one and some of what he did, I have read a fair few of these types of books but none had mentioned him, absolutely horrified. I think it is the absolute barbaric hate/abuse that people inflicted upon others, some because they were ordered, some because the believed the hate rhetoric spewed by Hitler and some purely because they enjoyed it.

We hear a little about Leen after the war, the impact and cost it was to him and even when he should have been cared for yet more failures from people who should have known better. This man deserved praise, comfort - someone even said about a statue, something, anything - it is horrible that when humanity has the chance for good, often they fail. A lot of emotions from this one and I think another that stays with you long after you put the book down 4.5/5 from us.

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