The Boxer’s Story: Fighting for My Life in the Nazi Camps is a memoir of Nathan Shapow as told to Bob Harris. Bob Harris is a sports writer and sports editor, Nathan Shapow is a retired painter living in Los Angeles.
This is a powerful, easy to read book which tells of Mr. Shapow’s time as a slave/prisoner of Nazi Germany in Latvia. Mr. Shapow, an amateur boxer and avid sportsman, survived the war due to his strength, agility, wits and pure luck.
Mr. Shapow survived several labor camps and even Rikenau. His survival of the Nazi killing machine, especially due to his habit of stealing food (a crime punished by execution, even if it was moldy bread), is a testament to the human spirit.
When I got the book I thought it would be about inmates boxing in concentration camps for the enjoyment of their Nazi captors and avoiding death by pummeling each other. While there are several boxing matches in the book, Shapow uses his fists, skills as a fighter and friends he made in the gym to survive the war.
After surviving the war, Shapow went to Palestine (instead of going from being under “Hitler’s boot to Stalin’s heel”) and fought in Israel’s War of Independence and was reunited with his father who left a decade before.
I certainly see the benefit of being able to fight, I actually insisted that my kids will learn some sort of martial art (I always wished I did). Whether we like it or not, there is a benefit to knowing how to throw a well-placed punch or kick and be able to free yourself from a villain. Also, kids who know how to fight, usually don’t get into brawls.
Shapow is honest in the book, he talks about mistakes he made, things he regret, the sadness and guilt of watching friends being murdered without the ability to help and other difficult events.