Triumph of the Spirit (1989)

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Fact based story about a former Greek Olympic boxer who was taken as a prisoner during World war II and placed in the Auschwitz prison camp. There he was permitted to survive as long as he ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Father Arouch
Wendy Gazelle ...
Avram Arouch
Kario Salem ...
Edward Zentara ...
Maj. Rauscher
Burkhard Heyl ...
Aide to Rauscher
Zofia Saretok ...
Grazyna Krukówna ...
Sister Julie
Karolina Twardowska ...
Juranda Krol ...
Wiktor Mlynarczyk ...


Fact based story about a former Greek Olympic boxer who was taken as a prisoner during World war II and placed in the Auschwitz prison camp. There he was permitted to survive as long as he fought for the amusement of his captors. His father and brother were also held as insurance that he would continue to fight. Written by John Sacksteder <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

prisoner | fight | prison | boxer | greek | See All (138) »


R | See all certifications »





Release Date:

23 December 1989 (South Korea)  »

Also Known As:

A pokol bajnoka  »

Box Office


$408,839 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


| (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Shot on location at the actual Auschwitz death camp. This was first film production that was permitted to shoot at the actual camp. Some of the existing structures were utilized in the production, however, the camp's crematorium had to be recreated since the actual crematorium condition had greatly deteriorated over the years. See more »


The movie shows the end phase of life in Auschwitz and the forced death march as the camp is evacuated. Salamo Arouch is sent to work in the Sonderkomando in the crematorium where suddenly he witnesses the uprising and destruction of what is clearly crematorium II or III. In reality, the uprising occurred in October 1944, months before the evacuation. The SS dismantled the crematoriums over the preceding months and the forced death march evacuations occurred in late January. (In addition, the evacuation occurred in the middle of winter, the movie shows a nice sunny day, where in reality there would have been snow on the ground.) See more »


Gypsy: Listen, I'm only going to say this once. For those who can hear me tell the rest. First come the SS, our lord and masters. Then comes our block health manager, Kyr. Then come the assistants, Otto and me. Then come the rats. Then come the lice... and then come you.
See more »


Featured in The Making of 'Triumph of the Spirit' (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Boxing for life in a death camp
24 September 2008 | by (India) – See all my reviews

This is an exceptional tale of an extremely talented and gifted sportsman surviving an immoral, insane, racist, despotic ideology through the one thing he knows best, boxing. It's an ode to a man refusing to accept the obvious fate and fighting to stay alive in spite of the total degeneration and breakdown of all humanity around him. In a way I compare this movie to 'The Pianist' and unlike many other holocaust movies, this movie depicts the protagonist fighting back his tormentors and even bettering them as they hate him for winning every time. All this time he is like a Gladiator, fighting other men who are in same position as his, just to entertain ruthless Nazi officials while he is constantly aware that if he loose he would surely die. The movie is aptly named after Salamo's undying perseverance for life where his soul was been trampled. The death camp scenes sure hint that movies like Schindler's list and life is beautiful borrow heavily in visual style from this movie. Though the violence in the movie is more of suggestive and less graphic than its successors yet it proves quite moving due to a very convincing performance of William Dafoe (I am sure he did work hard to get in shape and develop such agility for a boxer), and to the fact that all this happened in reality. Also the soundtrack was successful in carrying the heaviness of the movie. Sure it is a seriously made movie on one of the most shameful happenings of modern human history. But at one point it can also be seen as a great boxing movie. It is like capturing the psychology of a tormented and tortured warrior, and the movie does that well.

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