Nazis Forced Westport Man’s Grandfather to Fight for His Life
Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson's HBO Original film The Survivor tells the unmatched, bloodcurdling story of Harry Haft, Auschwitz concentration camp survivor, who was given a choice: annihilate your boxing opponent, or else be heaved into the gas chamber. It also has a SouthCoast connection, too.
This blood-and-guts Herculean boxing spectacle was comparable to a gladiator's lethal, final blow and death sentence on his challenger. These regularly scheduled battles were for the entertainment of the Nazi soldiers, while fellow starving prisoners looked on in horror – and it was the only way Harry Haft was allowed to stay alive.
But that's only part of the narrative.
Then you have an impassioned story of Westport's Jared Marcus, who was adopted as a baby and had no idea of who his biological family was.
"I had no knowledge of my birth family until I was 40 years old. I'm 42 now," he said. "One day I get a message saying there could be a blood relation in my genealogy, and it turned out to be my first cousin. She contacted my birth family, and they said they never heard of such a thing. No one knew about me because I was definitely an overnight lovers' accident on my paternal side."
When everyone found out through DNA testing, there was shock and astonishment. As Marcus began to learn the history of his family, he learned all about his grandfather, Haft.
"When I was told my grandfather's amazing story of survival, I couldn't believe it!" he said. "I'm still processing everything. I not only learned about my grandfather's inconceivable biography, but I found my biological family that I never knew I had, and gained this family I never knew existed."
Haft's beloved Leah was a big part of his inspiration.
"My grandfather's will to live was driven by a pursuit to find the woman he fell in love with," Marcus said. "That's why, when he came to the United States, he wanted to become famous, and appear in newspapers across the country, in hopes that his love would see it and know that he was still alive. That's why he fought Rocky Marciano, knowing every paper in the country would carry his photo in the ring."
Based on the book Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano by Alan Scott Haft, this excellent film reminds the world about the unspeakable horrors so that we are not doomed to see them repeated.
"We're living in a troubled and pivotal time, and we have to never forget because we don't want this kind of history, or the atrocities inflicted on my grandfather and so many others, to ever repeat itself again," Marcus said.
The podcast details much more of this incredible true story of Harry Haft, a Polish Holocaust survivor required to box against fellow prisoners to survive.