On the 8th of April 1917 was born Tadeusz Pietrzykowski a.k.a. “Teddy” – Polish boxer, trainer, physical education teacher, one of the first prisoners of the Auschwitz German concentration camp, and since 1943 also of Neuengamme concentration camp and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He went down in history not only as a famous boxer fighting for his life in Auschwitz. A true Polish patriot, who cherished the motto “God, Honor, Homeland”, Teddy was not only courageous but also caring towards anyone in need of help.
He began his boxing career in middle school, training under the supervision of, among others, the famous Felix Stamm, who was recognized as the founder of the so-called Polish school of boxing. At that time, Tadeusz became the runner-up in the Polish Boxing Championships and won the title of the bantamweight champion in the Warsaw Boxing Championships.
Before the war, while training at the Cavalry Training Center in Grudziądz, he was granted the officer cadet rank. After some effort, he managed to enlist in the Polish army and on 8 September 1939 he was sent to the 1st Battery of Defense of Warsaw, where he fought in Ochota, defending the district until capitulation. In the spring of 1940 he tried to get through to France and join the Polish Army which was being formed there. Near Pécs, close to the Hungaro-Yugoslav border, he was arrested in a Roma camp, where he was staying for the night. Then he was imprisoned in Muszyna, Nowy Sącz and Tarnów.
On 14 June 1940, Tadeusz Pietrzykowski was deported along with the first transport of political prisoners from Tarnów prison to Auschwitz, where he was given camp prisoner number 77. According to various estimates, he fought over 40 fights during his stay in the camp. In 1941-42 the fights took place in the bathhouse next to block 2 and on the square next to the camp kitchen, and after 1942, almost every Sunday in various camp blocks. He fought the German prewar middleweight champion Walter Düning, who was the prisoner supervisor, and the Dutch national middleweight champion Leu Sanders, among others.
According to a number of prisoners who watched Tadeusz Pietrzykowski fight, he was considered to be the one true champion in all weight classes at the Auschwitz concentration camp. He became involved in the underground activity of the camp resistance movement — the Military Organization Union (ZOW) established in the camp by Witold Pilecki. During his time in Auschwitz, he also came into contact with St. Maximilian Kolbe. In 1943 he was sent out to Neuengamme concentration camp in a transport of a thousand prisoners, where he was given prisoner camp number 17955. He fought about 20 consecutive boxing matches there, and was evacuated to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 24 March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British army on 15 April 1945. After regaining his freedom, Tadeusz Pietrzykowski joined the 1st Armored Division commanded by General Stanisław Maczek, where he organized sports activities for fellow soldiers as well as fought boxing matches in the rings around liberated Europe – in Belgium, Germany and France, among others.
After the war, he returned to Poland, graduated from the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw and became a sports coach and physical education teacher.
Tadeusz Pietrzykowski died on 18 April 1991 in Bielsko-Biała.
A Polish hero will be commemorated during "Rocky Boxing Night" Tadeusz Pietrzykowski gala. The event under the patronage of Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk will be held on April 23, 2021 in the Olivia Star building at the Olivia Business Centre in Gdańsk. The gala will be broadcast on Polsat sports channels.
Also, on September 3rd, 2021 the movie "Champion", inspired by "Teddy's" concentration camp experiences, will hit theaters. The motion picture, starring Piotr Głowacki, will also be screened at our Museum Cinema.