Victor “Young” Perez was born in the Jewish quarter of Tunis, Tunisia in 1911. A talented boxer, Perez travelled to Paris at age 17 to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion. He became the World Flyweight Champion in both 1931 and 1932, making him the youngest world champion in boxing history. When the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940, Perez was unable to escape. He was arrested in September 1943 and detained in the Drancy interment camp before being deported to Auschwitz. Upon his arrival, Perez was sent to the Buna/Monowitz subcamp to perform slave labor for the I.G. Farben factory. While there, he was forced to participate in boxing matches against other prisoners as a form of entertainment for the SS officers. Perez was killed in January 1945 while on a death march. He was shot to death while attempting to distribute bread he had found to his fellow starving prisoners. He was 33 years old.
Perez is one of at least 30 Jewish Olympians known to have been murdered in the Holocaust. Today, as we mark #OlympicDay, we remember these athletes whose lives were cut short, and we celebrate the presence and success of Jewish athletes in the Olympic Games over the years.
Source: American Society for Yad Vashem