Death in the gas chamber was the consequence of defeat in the ring

Piotr Glowacki, The Champion of Auschwitz stars in this tense trailer

Boxing fanatics would be amazed at Tadeusz Pietrzykowski’s punches and the precision of his movements. It seemed like every punch landed perfectly for the Polish fighter. Teddy, a Auschwitz prisoner, was dependent on his victory. He could lose, and the gas chambers would be waiting.

His opponents, kapos (or supervisor prisoners), were fighting for entertainment. They were given the responsibility of keeping the inmates under control by using any violent means.

The majority of Teddy’s enemies were Germans, as the fight organizers believed would make it more vicious and interesting to bet.

He refused to take the bait, and instead fought skillfully in each of the 40 fights he participated in during his three-year stint in Nazi-run death camps in German-occupied Poland.

Today, after 81 years, the film “The Champion Of Auschwitz” tells his story.

Piotr Glowacki (Polish actor) plays the role of Teddy. He says that Teddy is a man with a will to live and boxing passion who has proven even the most unimaginable evils can be overcome.

“This is a picture which, by showing closely the fate of Tadeusz Pietrzykowski, can give hope that if we strongly believe in something, if we work hard for something, we are able to overcome all the adversities, including our fears and anxieties.

The film, starring Piotr Glowacki, left, as Teddy depicts the brutality of the camp fights (Image: Getty)

I consider the film’s title, “The Champion”, a word with many meanings. We’re saying goodbye to those who were there during the Second World War. This story is a tale of mythology, particularly for young people. This story is meant to inspire confidence and self-worth in people, no matter what their abilities or goals are.

Teddy was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1917. He grew up in Catholic homes and discovered a passion for boxing when he turned 11 years old. The Scouts were the “most important school in life”.

He joined the CWKS Legia club to sharpen his skills in honor of his idol Teddy Yarosz. Feliks Stamm was a legendary coach who helped him perfect his techniques.

Teddy was a bantamweight, or 53kg. He won several championships in Warsaw. However, he lost his promising career to the Second World War.

He joined the underground French military units to fight for Poland’s freedom, but was captured crossing illegally and taken to Auschwitz.

TOUGH ROLE: Glowacki lost 20 percent of his body weight to play Teddy (Image: Getty)

Teddy, a 748-strongly Catholic Pole, was transported to Auschwitz as part of the initial transport on June 14th 1940. He was inked with the number77. After that, he was permitted to practice boxing, even though it was difficult for him to do so due to the limited rations and forced labor.

There was usually an additional food supply if prisoner athletes did well at contests. Teddy sent a secret message to his mom: “Today, I am the allweight champion of KL Auschwitz.” “I’ll be okay even in hell,”

He became the first prisoner fighter to beat the German kapo Walter Dunning in March 1941. Dunning had previously been the vicechampion for middleweight Germany.

Dunning, who weighed 70kg (11 stone), was said to have ended the fight after realizing that he had no chance against 40-kg (4 stone 4 pounds) man.

Tadeusz Sobolewicz, an Auschwitz survivor, said that “He was smaller than the other but was agile and quick.” He was a powerful puncher who aimed straight for the stomach, and knew how to dodge his opponents’ blows.

Teddy suffered from fatigue, hunger and brutality throughout his three-year stay at camp.

Piotr, who lost 16kg – 20% of his bodyweight – in preparation for his film roles, also worked out with professional boxing coaches. Piotr says that he also went to Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. I spent several days there and had access to archives, warehouses, and the vast knowledge of all the staff. This was Tadeusz Pietrzykowski’s prison. It also happened to be the location where his greatest boxing successes were achieved.

Every moment of his existence on screen tells a story about him.

Each victory of Teddy in the Ring was an emblem of hope for the camp’s prisoners – both hope that the Nazis weren’t invincible and pride in Polish talent even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Teddy was just as strong away from the ring as his punches. His compassion for other prisoners was almost as impressive as his fighting skills. His bout win of margarine, a loaf bread and his winnings would be given to malnourished inmates.

He stood for Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic priest who had been cruelly treated in Auschwitz. His number was 16670. Kolbe refused to be submissive to the guards and continued preaching to others despite beatings and lashings. Father Kolbe, a Polish prisoner who had been forced to die in a bunker because he was trying to escape from the jail, is still revered. Kolbe was put to death after being starved for 2 weeks.

Teddy used skills he learned from the underground to work in a camp resistance group, which was organized by Captain Witold Piecki. He participated in an unsuccessful assassination plot against Rudolf Hoss, camp commander.

Hoss was trying to fall from Hoss’s horse saddle, so it was altered. But the beast escaped with only a fractured leg. Hoss was not aware that he had been assassinated and the Nazis dismissed this as an accident.

Later, Teddy was deported to Neuengamme in northern Germany. He fought as well. This was a fortunate turn of events. His successes were causing Auschwitz guards to become annoyed and ordered him to be sent to gas chambers.

FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL: Teddy knew the only way to avoid death was to win every bout (Image: Getty)

He was released in 1945 after five years of imprisonment and was evacuated to Bergen-Belsen as the war came to an end. He was subsequently enlisted in General Stanislaw Maczek’s 1st Armoured Division and became a teacher in Poland. His final death came in 1991 at the age of 74.

He wrote later that he chose school sports to repay the debt owed to his role models, professors and educators who were continuing to educate the youth. His grave is located in Bielsko Biala, Poland. Many of his former students paid respectable visits.

Eleonora, his daughter, stated that he needed to show himself to be able to survive in the camp. He could only do box.

Maciej Barczewski, film director, says that Pietrzykowski was like David in the Bible and fought Goliath at the camp arena. The strength of Teddy was not his muscle mass, but his skillful technique and determination. To create Teddy’s convincing character, I needed an actor that was the exact opposite of the boxer archetype.

“A person who appears inconspicuous or even harmless but can be seen in their eyes with two fists clenched.”

It would also be an actor willing to go through radical body transformations to play the Auschwitz prisoner. He should also master boxing techniques to allow him to fight without cutting. Piotr was my only and best choice, and he exceeded all of these expectations.

Barczewski got the inspiration to make this film from Tadeusz Borowski, a Polish writer. Borowski said in one of his stories: “There’s still the memory of number 77 who used to box Germans as he desired, taking revenge on the ring for the losses of others in the field.”

Barczewski says: “This sentence fascinated me so much, that I began investigating the fate of Tadeusz Pietrzykowski and other prisoners from the first transport to Auschwitz camp. It was fascinating to me that he represented hope and victory against Nazi terror for his fellow prisoners. He was an icon for his fellow prisoners.

Teddy’s courage will now have the widest audience that it needs.

  • The Champion Of Auschwitz will be released in UK cinemas September 3.

Publited Sat, 21 August 2021 at 15:53:00 +0000

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