From Survivor to the Sports Pages

Stand for Israel  |  December 12, 2022

Born into a Jewish home in France, Noah Klieger moved to Belgium with his family as a young teenager. It was right around this time that the Nazis invaded Belgium and the 13-year-old boy joined an underground Zionist youth organization to combat the Germans and save fellow Jews. The group passed secret messages, procured hard-to-come-by ration stamps, and smuggled Jews to safety in neutral Switzerland — 270 in all before it was Noah’s turn to escape. But when he got to the border, Noah was arrested by the Nazis.

Sent to Auscwhitz, Noah caught pneumonia and was slated for execution in the gas chambers. However, he was able to persuade the evil Dr. Josef Mengele (known as the “Angel of Death”) that he could still perform slave labor for the Nazis, thus sparing his life.

Noah was set to be murdered a second time at Auschwitz, but his life was miraculously saved once again. One of the SS men in charge of the death camp was a boxing fan and decided to force prisoners to box. Noah had never boxed before, but quickly volunteered for the Nazis’ twisted team. The rest of the team members were boxers, but instead of calling out the boy’s inexperience, they let Noah hit them and did not knock the lesser fighter out. The boxing team was fed better than other prisoners and did not have to perform slave labor in the afternoons so that they could practice.

As the Russians closed in on Auschwitz at the beginning of 1945, the Nazis marched Noah and the other surviving prisoners to Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. Noah not only survived the march, but once at the camp convinced the Nazis that he was an expert in mechanics, thus earning a safe job in the Nazis’ underground missile plant. A few months later, Noah survived yet another death march to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where he was finally liberated on April 29.

Returning to Europe after the war, Noah began a career in journalism, covering the trials of the Nazis who had held him prisoner for much of his youth. Noah was also reunited with his parents, who had also survived Auschwitz. Noah learned of an illegal organization that was smuggling Holocaust survivors like them to what was then still British-mandate Palestine and joined up, as both a crew member and a passenger aboard a ship bound for the Holy Land.

Once he had made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land), Noah joined the Haganah, the precursor to the IDF, and helped fight for Israel’s independence, both around Tel Aviv and in the Negev desert.

After Israel won her independence, Noah returned to his career as a journalist, covering the trials of Adolf Eichmann and John (Ivan the Terrible) Demjanjuk, founding the first Israeli newspaper sports section, and writing for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper from 1957 until just two days before his death at the age of 93. Learn more about this extraordinary Israeli you should know in his own words in the video above.