Victor Young" "Perez", Tunisian-Jewish Boxing Champion, is Killed, 1945
On This Day in Jewish History: January 21, 1945
Tunisian-Jewish boxing champion Victor “Young” Perez is killed on the death marches by the Nazis leaving Monowitz, a subcamp of Auschwitz concentration camp. Victor Perez grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Tunis. At that time, Tunisia was still a French protectorate. He began training at the age of 14 with his older brother, “Kid” Perez, at a Maccabi boxing club in Tunisia.
Perez moved to Paris to advance his boxing career. In 1930, he managed to win the French championship in the flyweight class. Shortly thereafter, he defeated the American competitor to win the flyweight world championship and became the youngest world champion in boxing history at the time.
Shortly after this success, his results began to decline, and his weight class changed. After the German invasion of Paris in 1940, Perez attempted to escape but was unsuccessful. It's important to note, when the Nazis gained control of France, they also gained control of his birthplace, Tunisia, through France’s Vichy government. About 5,000 Tunisian Jews were rounded up and placed in at least 32 labor camps around Tunisia.
Three years later in 1943, the Nazis Gestapo arrested Perez and sent him Drancy concentration camp. From there, he was sent to Monowitz, a subcamp within the Auschwitz concentration camp system. The camp made up of slave labor from mostly imprisoned Jews where the life expectancy of Jewish workers was a mere 3 to 4 months upon arrival. In Monowitz, the Nazis forced Perez to box for their entertainment.
In January of 1945, the Nazis initiated the death marches (see previous post on @onthisdayinjewishistory). Perez was forced out of Monowitz and was murdered before reaching Loslau; it is understood that he was shot by Nazi guards.
The story of Perez’s life continues to be honored. In 1986, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. In 2013, his life was featured in the French biographical film “Victor Young Perez”. His life serves as a symbol of achievement and perseverance. At the same time, his story reminds us that the Nazi persecution of the Jewish People was not limited to Jews from European countries, but any Jew who came under Nazi control.
Anatomy of the Auschwitz death camp by Yisrael Gutman, Michael Berenbaum. Indiana University Press (1998). ISBN 025320884X, ISBN 978-0253208842.