The True Story of Harry Haft and HBO's 'The Survivor'

After premiering at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, The Survivor has finally arrived on HBO and HBO Max. The gripping film is based on the incredible true story of Harry Haft, a Polish Holocaust survivor forced to box against fellow prisoners to survive.

Hell or High Water's Ben Foster, takes on the role of Haft starring alongside Phantom Thread's Vicky Krieps, No Time to Die's Billy Magnussen, Jackie's Peter Sarsgaard, Latin History for Morons star John Leguizamo and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Danny DeVito.

The Survivor premieres at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, April 27 — Yom HaShoah, Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day — on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

Newsweek has everything you need to know about the real Harry Haft and the true story behind The Survivor. Warning: There are some spoilers below.

The True Story of Harry Haft and HBO's The Survivor

The Survivor on HBO and HBO Max, directed by Academy Award-winner Barry Levinson, is an entirely true story.

Based on the book "Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano" by, Alan Scott, the biopic tells the heartbreaking and inspiring true story of Haft.

Born in Bełchatów, Poland on 28 July 1925, Haft, who was Jewish, was just 14-years-old when he witnessed first-hand the German invasion and occupation of Poland in September 1939.

In 1943, during his time at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, he not only faced the unspeakable horrors of the holocaust, but he also caught the attention of an SS officer (played by Billy Magnussen) and was forced to fight against his fellow prisoners all for the amusement of his captors, or be killed on the spot.

Worse, if Haft won the fight, his opponent was killed, if he lost, he would be killed.

In January 1945 as the Soviet Red Army advanced on the Nazi concentration camps, thousands of their surviving inmates were sent West to Germany on the notorious death marches.

Remarkably, Haft managed to escape the death marches in April 1945 and went on the run.

As detailed in Der Spiegel, Haft killed a German soldier to wear his uniform to survive, moving from village to village. He even killed an elderly couple who let him stay on their farm, in fear they had discovered his true identity.

the survivor hbo max
Ben Foster as Harry Haft in The Survivor on HBO Max. Leo Pinter/HBO

As teased in The Survivor synopsis via HBO Max, Haft's "will to survive" was driven by his desire to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, Leah (Dar Zuzovsky).

Following the end of the war in September 1945, Haft sought refuge in a Displaced Person's Camp run by the U.S. Army in occupied Germany.

Heft later became a professional boxer in post-war Germany, winning the "Amateur Jewish Heavyweight Championship" in January 1947, an event organized by the U.S. Army.

At just 22-years-old, Haft emigrated to the U.S. where he competed as a light heavyweight boxer with the hope Leah would recognize his name. According to statistics by Box-Rec, his final fight was against Rocky Marciano in July 1949 but he was unfortunately defeated, suffering a knockout in the first half of the third round. Haft retired after that fight.

He married Miriam Wofsoniker (Vicky Krieps) in November 1949 and went on to have three children.

In April 2007, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Haft died of cancer in November 2007. He was 82-years-old at the time of his death.

His eldest son Alan Scott published his father's story in 2006 and was adapted by Reinhard Kleist into a graphic novel, which won the 2014 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel.

Then in 2018, Hollywood director Barry Levinson announced he would be adapting Scott and Haft's story, with Ben Foster playing the role of Haft.

The Survivor focuses mainly on Haft's struggle in the post-war world, as he attempts to battle his inner demons and his memories of the concentration camps which forever haunt him.

To prepare for the role of Haft, Foster lost over 60 pounds to portray Haft's time in Auschwitz and gained 50 to tell his post-war story.

He told TV Insider: "It's got such scope, we're following three decades of a man's life. Fortunately, we shot in order. I lost 62 pounds for the camps, took five weeks off, changed locations, put on 50 for the ring."

The Survivor premieres Wednesday, April 27 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.