HENRY: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America

HENRY: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America

by Katrina Shawver

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Overview

HENRY: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America by Katrina Shawver

When Katrina Shawver met the eighty-five year old Henry Zguda, he possessed an exceptional memory, a surprising cache of original documents and photos, and a knack for meeting the right people at the right time. Couched in the interview style of Tuesdays with Morrie, Henry relates in his own voice a life as a champion swimmer, interrupted by three years imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a Polish political prisoner. With a pragmatic gallows humor, and sense of hope, he showed the author how to truly live for today, preferably with a shot of good Polish vodka. Henry’s path of resiliency and power of connection are as relevant today, as they were in World War II.

Henry reminds us that no single class of people was safe from Hitler's reach or imprisonment, and no country suffered more under Hitler and Stalin than Poland. This bridge to history and view of the Holocaust through Polish eyes is supported by extensive research, and features more than 70 original photos and rare German documents. Ultimately, Henry is the story a strong young man, who survives by his wits, humor, friends, and a healthy dose of luck. This book is for the discerning adult looking for an intelligent read that examines World War II, the Holocaust, and the true meaning of friendship then and now.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633935204
Publisher: Koehler Books
Publication date: 10/15/2017
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 552,708
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Katrina Shawver wrote hundreds of newspaper columns over eleven years for The Arizona Republic, holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona in English/Political Science and has excelled at the School of Trial and Error. In addition to a variety of previous careers in software support, the paralegal profession, tax preparation, and answering phones for a forensic psychiatrist, she has presented at the community college level on Poland Under Hitler and Stalin. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and still wishes sweet potato fries counted as a vegetable. Visit her website katrinashawver.com where she blogs regularly. This is her first book.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

HENRY AND I BEGIN

A week after our first meeting, I arrived at nine in the morning and rang the doorbell. Nancy again opened the door wide and ushered me in. I had to smile back at this friendly woman who gushed hospitality.

"Hi, doll. Come in. Come in. I'm so glad you came back. I've been after Henry for years to write his stories, and he never did. We tried, but it's very hard. There are just so many stories, where do you start? Now you're here. Thank goodness."

I followed Nancy out to the same patio where Henry and I held our first interview. Before we even passed through the same efficient kitchen, I recognized the smell of fresh brewed coffee and, that time, a cinnamon-apple scented candle. As I passed by the fridge, I noticed my newspaper column about Henry posted prominently on the refrigerator.

Henry rose to greet me. I, again, extended my right hand to shake as the usual American sign of greeting and also as agreement on our new joint project. Again, he lifted my hand and kissed the back of it.

Nancy still hovered behind us.

"Doll, I have fresh coffee. Can I get you some? I can make you tea, too."

"No thanks, Nancy. I'm good."

"Well then, can I get you some cake? Let me get you a slice."

"No, really Nancy, thanks. I'm still good." I would soon learn that Nancy offered food and drink to anyone who came through the front door. She seldom accepted no for an answer. It was characteristic of growing up in a large Italian family in the Bronx, which she said she always missed.

We both smiled, and she again slid the glass door shut and went on her way. I was instantly glad I suggested this project. Even if the story didn't pan out, I'd met two very welcoming, nice people.

Henry and I took a seat at the patio table.

This time, a bowl of chocolates and nuts sat nearby. The same thick, brown photo album he'd shown me on our first visit rested on the table next to a few well-worn and yellowed paperbacks. I quickly scanned titles such as The Case Against Adolf Eichmann by Henry A. Zeiger, Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer, and a few volumes in Polish. Henry turned and slid his chair closer to me until we were almost side by side, and opened the photo album. Forget any thought of archival quality photo storage. The aging photos were all glued on those sticky pages with a peel-back plastic film, already yellowed, the pages barely held together with brown duct tape.

I pulled out a folder with my business card, resume, and writing samples to ask Henry's permission to write his story. He asked me what he should pay me. We discussed drafting a formal agreement, and I took notes to draft one for our next visit. As to money, I said we would settle that later, as we worked on the project together. Money never was the goal of this project.

I set up my tape recorder, plugged in the microphone, slid it toward Henry and pressed Record. I pulled out my notepad and pen, ready to take notes as he talked.

Henry gave me a big smile. "Very nice article you wrote. I send it to my friends in Sweden, Poland, and Belgium. You're international now."

I accepted the comment as a form of congratulations, and a sign of more international connections in this story.

He lifted up a framed photo of a young boy in a white suit.

"See, wasn't I a nice boy?"

Henry grinned at his own joke as he pointed to his first communion photo. He turned to the album and flipped the first few pages. There were exactly four photos of him before about age sixteen and they were all school photos. Henry then pointed to a small, very old, sepia-toned photo. There were two young women who looked no older than eighteen or nineteen years old, standing on either side of a seated, very stern older woman. I doubt a smile had ever graced the woman's face. One of the young women held a young toddler up by his arms.

This is my mother, me, my Aunt Antonia, and my great grandmother. When my great grandmother was younger, she was a maid in the czar's palace in Leningrad. I always thought of her as being a hundred years old. For a while, she lived with us. I didn't like her at all. She was always after me, "Henyu don't do this. Henyu don't do that. Henyu clean this." My family all called me Henyu [Hen-you]. My whole life I've never done well with someone giving me orders.

And when she died, at the moment, she had a big coffer, a big trunk, and the black iron bands across it, very heavy. It was the secret of our family. Everyone waited years to see what she has got in there. Maybe money, maybe something. My mother has four sisters, and four brothers — eight together. After the funeral, all the relatives came with the ax and tried to open this trunk. I remember I was sitting in the corner of the room on a stool.

Finally, one of the uncles swing the ax and break the lock. First, out comes the dress from when she was a maid. Then, the dress when she was dancing as a young girl. Funny, Russian style.

Next, the relatives found some jewelry, but just some cheap, costume stuff. Finally, there on the bottom of the trunk lay a thick envelope. Ah, so there was the money everyone counted on. Sure enough, the envelope was full of money. Inside, the uncles found 100,000 Russian rubles from 1917 when the czar was still in power. For 100,000 rubles you could have bought two or three villages with all the peasants in them.

Henry had been laughing since he started the story. Now, he chuckled as he recalled the look on his relatives' faces.

Except now the czar was dead and the money was worthless. Everyone was laughing like hell except for my Uncle John. Uncle John was the richest one in the family.

Curious, I had to ask something. "Why was he the richest?"

Uncle John was a barber. He was so tough. He owned a barbershop, money coming in every day. You buy a pot, you buy it once. But, when you cut hair, people always come back when their hair grows. It was a good barbershop. I remember he would look at my hair, at the thickness and flexibility, and make predictions. A good barber knows his customers.

He tells me, "Henry, you are very timid. You don't go too far in life. But, you're going to go far away from here."

After that, Uncle John was very, very upset and talked to no one for a week.

Henry kept grinning, then turned his attention back to the photo album and continued on.

I did not know my father, Wincenty Zguda, at all. He was made to join the Galician Austrian Army in World War I. They were in the trenches near the Po River in Italy, in plenty of mud, water, and rain, with mosquitos big as birds flying around. So, he got the malaria disease.

I wasn't sure I'd heard Henry correctly.

"Wait. Henry, don't you mean the Polish Army?"

No, No. There was no Poland then.

At that moment, I truly began to realize how little I knew about Poland, and just how much I'd have to learn. I was not even sure if it was Cracow or Kraków, and Henry just said there was no Poland? Right there in the first interview, the scope of the project doubled. As I mulled the idea of no Poland, Henry continued his story:

He came home from the war when I was about one and a half years old. One day, he's jumping off the bed, you know, like a shake, a seizure. He land on the floor. My mother, Karolina, have to pick him up. She called for help, and orderlies finally come and take him to some hospital in Berlin. She didn't know which one, and we never heard anything again. So, we don't know where he is.

Henry stops, smiles, and points his finger to the ceiling as if to heaven. Well, now we know where he is, but not at that time.

"Do you have a photo of your father?" I asked.

No. No photo. My mother was a very tough lady from the mountains. She came from the Górale people, a peasant people from the southern mountains of Poland. Górale are poor, but tough. Independent. She survived. I survive. I have her facial features, sort of dark with a big nose. She was very short, not like me. Henry is my American spelling. In Poland my name was Henryk. My mother and friends called me Henyu. Until I was about seven, we lived with my two aunts, uncle, and four cousins in a two-room apartment.

Though Henry had many cousins, the only two he ever spoke of by name were Wladyslaw and Stanislaus, who were like brothers to him. In the album, photos of him with these two cousins scatter across multiple pages in later years.

We live on the nice street in Kraków, Stefan Batory, who was a king of Poland, in sixteenth century, 1533–1585. He was famous for saving Europe from Turks taking over. Eventually, my mother get a job in the state tobacco factory and we moved into a small apartment on Panska Street.

Breakfast is a piece of bread, you wet it a little, and a small sprinkle of sugar on it. You know we have a specialty in Poland I love: kasza. It's a grain. You go to the store and buy the kasza grain, put it on to steam, and it grows big and tasty. Then, you top it with real sour milk, not the buttermilk we have here. Mmm good.

In Poland, sour milk was made from full milk. On the border of the city, when the peasants carried the milk to town, the inspector would test the milk for fat. If there was not too much fat, he turned them away and wouldn't let them sell it. Why? The fat was for the children; they needed it to grow.

At this point Henry chuckled again, shrugged his shoulders and lifted both his palms up in semi-frustration.

You know, I can't recognize skim milk in this country; it's like water and you pay double. In Poland, if you sold skim milk you went to jail. No one there was allowed to skim the fat for themselves. Children need the fat to grow. Here, people actually give their children skim milk.

I'll tell you what else makes no sense to me at all in this country. You watch television and there are all kinds of ads for weight-loss programs. I don't understand why people pay to lose weight. Losing weight is so simple — stop eating. Then, you save money. Let me tell you, under communism you stand in lines forever just to get food. Why pay more money to eat less food? That makes no sense to me at all.

Henry just held up his hands and shook his head at the twisted logic of paying to not eat, as I subconsciously reached for another piece of chocolate, ignoring that inch I could pinch.

AN OVERVIEW OF POLAND

The evolution of Poland that led to Henry's statement, "No, no, there was no Poland at that time," deserves a brief discussion. Poland's world position in the twentieth century and many of the biases and cultural divides in place during Henry's life resulted from centuries of conflict.

Poland lies squarely positioned in central Europe, between her two historical enemies, Germany and Russia. Poles have always had to defend themselves against outside powers wishing to annex or destroy their lands. From the Polish Golden Age in the sixteenth century, through 1989, the country experienced dozens of border changes in four hundred years. Like several other countries in Europe, there are no natural geographic boundaries that help define Poland's eastern and western borders, or make them easy to defend. Outside powers have always wanted the benefits of Poland's strategic location along trade routes, rich farmlands, coal, and other natural resources. For centuries, the pattern of all invaders was to commit wholesale slaughter against the Poles and destroy villages, farms, and whatever else they could after they stole anything of value.

Most historians agree that Poland's true golden age stretched from the end of the fifteenth century up until it began to decline in the early seventeenth century, ending in 1648 with the Swedish invasion. Kraków University, which was soon renamed to Jagiellonian University, was founded in 1364 as the second university in all of Europe. Though it struggled for a while, by the fifteenth century it flourished, attracting students from all of Europe, and firmly established the city of Kraków as a center of learning. In 1491, Nicolaus Copernicus enrolled in Jagiellonian University to study astronomy, later joining the priesthood. He is known for postulating the heliocentric philosophy that the planets revolve around the sun, and not the Earth. The results were quietly published in 1543 after his death, twenty years before the Italian astronomer Galileo was born. Galileo would later champion the same heliocentric philosophy of Copernicus, only to face persecution and condemnation from the Catholic Church.

By 1600, the Polish Commonwealth was the largest state in Europe, occupying a geographic area nearly three times the size of Texas. The population of approximately ten million was twice that of England, or equal to that of Italy, Spain, and Portugal combined. Poland differed in philosophy from other European countries led by dynasties, such as the Hapsburgs of Austria and the Tudors of England. Where the royal leaders sought to increase control of the individual and maintain their centralized power, Poles took the opposite approach with the conviction that no man had the right to tell another what to do. Noblewomen enjoyed the same property and inheritance rights as noblemen. The disdain for authority and respect for the dignity of the individual were evident from the Middle Ages, and would eventually lead to a short-lived democracy in the eighteenth century. The ideal of individual freedom, at least for the nobility, fed a strong desire and belief in an independent Poland that has existed for centuries.

Unfortunately, an inefficient government structure, and a lover's triangle would set the stage for Poland's eventual demise. The Polish nobility considered themselves the highest authority in the land. Membership in the nobility was inherited, peasants had few rights, and kings were elected by the nobility. Any Catholic nobleman — citizen or foreigner — could run for the position. In the vein of independent spirit, or perhaps a stratagem by the nobility to ensure no one acted against them, they eventually instituted the flawed concept of Liberum Veto, or rule by unanimous vote. In the Polish assembly, or Sejm, no proposal could become law and no decision was binding, if even one person voted in opposition. The vote for royal elections had to be unanimous. Imagine any government trying to function with unanimity — nothing would get done. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising that, despite a population of more than eleven million people and a large geographic territory, Poland never developed a strong central government, central treasury, or substantial standing army. In the early eighteenth century, ninety percent of Poles lived in poverty or service to nobles. Despite a proud heritage, the country fell victim to stronger powers, though not without a valiant fight.

Catherine the Great ruled Russia from 1762 until her death in 1796 at the age of sixty-seven. She came from a ruling family in Germany, and had strong ties there. She ascended to power after she had her husband arrested, forced him to abdicate, and subsequently had him murdered by the brother of her current lover. She took many paramours throughout her reign. One of her earliest lovers before she took the throne was Stanisław Poniatowski, a member of Polish nobility. He fathered one of her children, then she subsequently forced him out of the Russian court. Sensing he would be an ineffective leader, Catherine maneuvered politically to help get Poniatowski elected king of Poland in 1763, and placed Russian armies in Poland "to help protect" the country.

When Poland enacted a constitution in 1791, it was the first-ever such document in Europe, and only the second in the world, after the young United States ratified its constitution in 1788. Prussia, Russia, and Austria strongly opposed an independent country, especially so close to their borders, lest the spirit of independence spread and incite their own citizens to rise up against their respective monarchies. To divide and divvy up Poland, Catherine the Great used her connections to lead a three-way coalition of Russia to the east, the Prussian empire to the west — the precursor to modern day Germany — and the Austrian empire to the south. Russia, by far, gained the greatest amount of territory in the move. By 1795, Poland disappeared from the map of Europe.

When Poland was partitioned, Warsaw and eastern Poland fell under Russian oversight; Kraków came under Austrian rule, and the western areas came under German dominance. The Austrians treated Kraków far better than the Russians did Warsaw. The Austrians gained land, but were predominantly Catholic — like most of the Poles in their newly acquired territory — and hated the Germans and Russians despite their strategic alliance.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Henry"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Katrina Shawver.
Excerpted by permission of Koehler Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

An Unusual Offer 6

Arrest: Kraków 1942 11

Part 1: The Second Polish Republic: 1918–1939 17

Henry and I Begin 19

An Overview of Poland 25

Growing up in Krakow 28

St. Mary’s Church and Altarpiece 33

Happy Birthday, Henry 36

A Beautiful View 37

Cowboys and Indians 38

Karol May 40

Swimming Makes You Dumb 47

A Dinner Worth Ten Zlotys 52

The Beginning of the YMCA 55

Blind Marie 56

Helena Weiss 57

Freege Seed Company 58

The Jew Beaters at Park Jordana 60

Why Did People Hate the Jews? 62

Part 2: Poland at War: 1939–1942 70

September 1, 1939: Shock and Awe 71

Karol Wotyla 75

Of Sugar and Mouse Droppings 79

Part 3: KL Auschwitz, Oświęcim, Poland: June 1942–March 1943 81

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here 83

The Beginning of Auschwitz 86

Prisoner 39551 90

Building Roads 94

Typhus 97

Collecting Rinde 99

Stay in the Middle 101

A Growing Friendship 103

Auschwitz in October 2013 106

Hunger 109

Kazio 111

The Frauenlager 114

Music in the Camp 116

Prisoner Mail, Packages and Money in Auschwitz 118

Letters from Auschwitz 128

The Camp Hospital 134

Promotion to Cook 136

Poland Will Never Die 141

The Beginning of Birkenau, or Auschwitz II 142

An Incoming Train of Jews 145

Death by Gunshot 148

Teddy Pietrzykowski 151

Boxing Matches 152

A Secret Murder Plot 154

The Stehebunker in Block 11 156

A Night of Swimming 158

Part 4: KL Buchenwald, Weimar, Germany: March 1943–August 1944 161

Görlitz Train Station 162

Prisoner 10948 167

An Overview of Buchenwald 170

Henry’s Arrival at Buchenwald 186

Buchenwald Today 187

From the Stone Quarry to the

Stonemason Kommando 191

The Goethe Oak Tree 193

Prisoner Movies, Theater, and Concerts 194

Prisoner Diversions 196

Prisoner Mail, Packages and Money

in Buchenwald 200

The Puffhaus 204

The Americans Bomb Buchenwald 208

Bombing Aftermath 211

Part 5: KL Buchenwald, Weimar, Germany: January 1945–May 1945 212

The Buchenwald Crematorium 214

Provenance of Henry’s Grisly Photo 227

Evacuation of Buchenwald

and the Dead March 229

Beloved Mother, I Am Alive 236

Two Near Misses 238

Part 6:Poland Under Communism:

1946–1956 240

Part 7: The United States:

Land of the Free and Home of

the Rich: 1958–1968 253

The S. S. America 254

“Now I Am a Therapist” 260

St. Barnabas Hospital for Chronic Diseases 264

Tremors and Brain Surgery 267

Henry Meets Nancy 269

Jerzy Kosinski 274

A Rich Life 277

Epilogue 280

Acknowledgments 288

Appendix A: Additional Camp

Correspondence of

Henry Zguda 290

Appendix B: Poland After

World War II 293

Bibliography 295

additional reading 301

author bio 303

Topics for Discussion 305

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HENRY: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
ReadingwithErin More than 1 year ago
My Rating: 4.5 stars Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher/author for an e-arc in exchange for my honest review. I read this book over a few months because it is a heavy thing to deal with. The stories that Henry told of what happened to him and so many others in Auschwitz and the other camps are heartbreaking. This isn't a book for the faint of heart. Henry's story touches on a very little talked about portion of the holocaust. The Polish people who were arrested as well as the political prisoners, etc who were also arrested from 1993 to the end of the war. Reading about the ways he survived so many camps, and sicknesses all because of who he knew, and how he was able to make friends throughout his life is truly amazing. Henry's life was one full of happiness, sadness and random acts that changed multiple peoples lives. How he continued on with his life after the war I found amazing as well, learning how much of a struggle it was in occupied Poland after the Germans had been defeated, and the Soviets had taken over was something I had no idea about. I did really like the formatting of this book of going back and forth between Henry's stories and the author giving us context about what was happening and stats about the camps etc. I learned so so much throughout this whole book, and I feel like I need to re-read it in the near future to learn even more from it. So much happened throughout this whole book and I am sure I missed a lot of the details about his life, but I am so so glad I read this one. I can't wait to see if the author does more biography types of things like this one or not. I also loved learning about her life and how writing this book was a struggle at times.
Reader_Views More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Josh Cramer for Reader Views (1/18) “Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America” is incredible. Katrina Shawver tells a beautiful story of friendship and survival, while mixing in an unforgettable history lesson. This is a book that you will not soon forget. In fact, Jack Mayer (another author who writes about the Holocaust), said that “Everyone who reads Henry becomes a witness.” I have to agree with him—now that I’ve read “Henry,” I am a witness to his life and torture, and the love and friendship that he gained as well. Throughout this book, the author explores how she came to meet and interview Henry Zguda, a Holocaust survivor, becoming a part of his and his wife’s lives. Shawver, and I for that matter, learn that there were many, many more people in concentration camps who weren’t Jews, and what life was like for them. We see Henry’s life growing up in Poland as well as learn about Poland’s history. We learn about the social environment that led to Auschwitz and other camps. And we learn that the prisoners did things other than just work or die. This book was eye-opening to me in that way. Henry describes how the Germans allowed their relatives to put money in an account for them (that they would be charged from regularly) and that he and a fellow prisoner turned a giant barrel into a swimming pool one night. He describes the death around him as well as the lengths that he and his fellow prisoners went through to survive. All the while, Shawver interlaces history lessons and her own search for the truth of Henry’s claims once he passed away. The story of their friendship is one of the most beautiful things about this book. We eventually see Henry’s attempted escape, (which caused me to laugh out loud – you’ll laugh too – I can’t believe he and others could find humor in what was going on), and eventual rescue by the United States. It’s exciting to see his escape, but frustrating when you realize he trades one prison for another because Russia now controls Poland. He has to escape from the Communists who had taken over Poland. It is amazing the thin threads that allowed him to survive and thrive in his life—to see where he was before the war and after the war. The most spectacular part of Henry’s journey is the lesson that he did not allow the war or the abuse he received to define him. He did what he could to help others to live a life of meaning. In fact, in the end, Henry has this to say about his life: “Thank you America, for being such a wonderful country and for being so good to me. Thank you, New York, for giving me your wonderful girl, Nancy, as my wife. For 40 years she has survived my broken English, and is always there when I need her. I am truly blessed. Life can be beautiful!” Interlaced throughout the narrative are pictures, cards, and other documents that Shawver collected during her research. Seeing these pictures makes what Henry had to go through feel all the more real. I have to admit, no other book that I’ve read on the Holocaust has made the heartache feel so real and as heart-breaking as this one. I highly recommend you read “Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America” by Katrina Shawver. Take your time and absorb the stories Henry tells about his experiences. Some are incredibly shocking, and not even for the brutality. Some are shocking just because of the little ways that people fought for survival. So go on. Read it.
Jaruwa More than 1 year ago
This is the fascinating story of an extraordinary Polish man, Henry Zguda, who experienced horrific cruelty and miraculous rescues while at Auschwitz and other concentration camps during WWII. After the war, he eventually made his way to the US and survived to find happiness for the remainder of his life. He claimed to have survived due to two things: luck and meeting people who were able to help him. I would add two more reasons: he was a serious athlete, a large man in top physical condition before being sent to the camps, and he was an outgoing, personable man who made good friends wherever he went and tried to help others whenever he could. This is not just an account of his wartime experiences. It is more a portrait of a remarkable man who lived through unimaginable circumstances. The author, Shawver, a journalist, got a tip that she should meet this amazing man, with the possibility of writing an article about his life. Once she met him, she realized that she would need to write a book to describe all the important events of his life adequately. He and his wife enthusiastically agreed, and the lengthy process of writing this book began. As they continued meeting, they became dear friends. The author was able to convey a sense of Zguda’s unique attributes and personality so well that I felt as if I knew him and cared deeply about him I appreciated that the author provided corroborating evidence to back up Zguda’s version of events, including documents, letters and photos. There were many surprising aspects of life in the camps that I’ve never read in any other books. An example: He mentioned casually that he used to swim at Auschwitz. Shawver was quite surprised, but after some searching was able to find a book about some women at Auschwitz that also described the swimming “pool”, though it was really more of a trough. Shawver was also surprised to learn that prisoners were able to send letters, and provides photos of some of these post cards. Since the Nazis were such meticulous record keepers, there are a considerable number of documents she provides to verify Zguda’s account of his experiences. If you’re interested in this book, you are probably prepared for some grisly descriptions. There were a few places that made me cringe and wonder about how humanity could have produced these human monsters, but for the most part, his descriptions were understated and told matter of factly, as if these things were not unusual. At one point he pulled out a photo of a Nazi officer directing prisoners to load an emaciated body into one of the crematorium ovens. (Be forewarned that this photo is included in the book.)Shawver was shocked as she’d never seen anything like it during her extensive research travels. She knew it was a treasure, irreplaceable, and belonged in a museum. Asked where he got it, he said he’d taken it off a dead Nazi near the time the camp was emancipated. The way he said such things casually, as if it was nothing special, made these gruesome events even more chilling. It was fortuitous that this journalist happened upon this story at just the right time, since she convinced them to preserve these memories and the photos, letters, and other mementos. I am very glad I read this, and urge you to read it as well. It is hard to put down, and will make you think. Highly recommended. Note: I received an advance copy of the ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Debbie Thayer More than 1 year ago
A great historical read! I learned so much about Polish history because of the detailed research done by the author, Katrina Shawver. I also fell in love with Henry through his first person account of being arrested and detained in a German concentration camp. An extremely well written account that pulls at your heartstrings and opens your eyes to the plight of the Polish people during WWII.
Advicesbooks More than 1 year ago
Everyone who reads Henry becomes a witness. This sentence is written on the cover of the book. Well, I read it and I also became a witness. Yes, a witness about the true friendship between the author and the main character of the book Henry Zguda, a former Polish prisoner of the concentration camps. Henry was one of the latest survivors of the Holocaust, an unforgettable voice about what happened in the concentration camps during the Second World War. I appreciated the sensitivity of the author, who, intentionally, omitted the cruelest details relating to the concentration camps, such as experiments and things that would be impossible to imagine even in the worst nightmares. However, Henry and other prisoners endured these nightmares, endured starvation, torture, humiliation, forced labor in the concentration camp in Buchenwald, where people died every day from fatigue. I have been very touched and impressed by this true story, because, through the words of the main character and the pictures printed in the book, I know I have read an unforgettable biography on the Holocaust.
Amys_Bookshelf_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Inspiring! Getting to know Henry is absolutely inspiring. Henry spells out and reconstructions his life for the author, bringing his story of survival from one of the darkest and horrific times in history. It was created by the author's interviews with Henry Zguda, and it was remarkable. "Henry was a Catholic Pole who had been arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for three years in concentration camps for one reason only: he was Polish, and Germany had sworn to destroy all of Poland. He’d been a respected survivor in Poland, or “Auschwitzer." The photos of Henry and his family, were wonderful and ageless. It's a heartfelt, heart warming and heart breaking story. History comes alive, with all its darkness, secrets, terrors and life-filled events. This reader read every single word, and even went back. It's one you won't want to miss, and you shouldn't miss. Highly Recommended story.