'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, the Dutch champion boxer, Leen Sanders, was sent to Auschwitz. His wife and children were put to death while he was sent 'to the left' with the others who were fit enough for labour. 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 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.
Erik Brouwer is a Dutch sports journalist and the author of eight historical non-fiction titles on topics as diverse as Argentine football and the actress Jetta Goudal. Spartacus, his book about Jewish Olympic athletes at the start of the Second World War, won the Nico Scheepmaker award for sports books in 2009.