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

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 Ausch...

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Title:Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America
Author:Katrina Shawver
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Edition Language:English

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

  • Amy Shannon

    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 re

    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.

  • Amy

    Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America by Katrina Shawver is a fabulous read. I highly recommend it!

  • James Martin

    HENRY is an extraordinary addition to the body of WWII literature. It is the harrowing personal experiences of this Catholic Pole as a prisoner in the German concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau that yield information found nowhere else and keep the reader riveted to the page. Shawver has captured the essence of Henry as he weathered unbelievable hard times and yet retained his human dignity and hope in spite of everything. A life well-lived. A swimming star to cheer for!"

    Ja

    HENRY is an extraordinary addition to the body of WWII literature. It is the harrowing personal experiences of this Catholic Pole as a prisoner in the German concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau that yield information found nowhere else and keep the reader riveted to the page. Shawver has captured the essence of Henry as he weathered unbelievable hard times and yet retained his human dignity and hope in spite of everything. A life well-lived. A swimming star to cheer for!"

    James Conroyd Martin, Author of "The Boy Who Wanted Wings."

  • *Avonna

    Check out all of my reviews at

    HENRY: A POLISH SWIMMER’S TRUE STORY OF FRIENDSHIP FROM AUSCHWITZ TO AMERICA by Katrina Shawver is a memoir/biography that had me turning the pages and finishing this memorable read in just two sittings.

    Katrina Shawver was trying to come up with a new story for her column in ‘The Arizona Republic’ when she heard about a former Polish swimming star who survived the death camps of WWII Germany. After her column ran, she knew she had to

    Check out all of my reviews at

    HENRY: A POLISH SWIMMER’S TRUE STORY OF FRIENDSHIP FROM AUSCHWITZ TO AMERICA by Katrina Shawver is a memoir/biography that had me turning the pages and finishing this memorable read in just two sittings.

    Katrina Shawver was trying to come up with a new story for her column in ‘The Arizona Republic’ when she heard about a former Polish swimming star who survived the death camps of WWII Germany. After her column ran, she knew she had to continue meeting with Henry and tell his entire story. He had an amazing cache of original documents and pictures with stories for them all. This book documents Henry’s story in his own words and the author interjects her own research that verifies Henry’s stories.

    Henry tells his story to Ms. Shawver over many taped meetings. With gallows humor and always a sense of hope, Henry recalls his youth and capture by the Germans as they rounded up all Polish young men after their invasion. Henry was a strong young man who was a champion swimmer and water polo player for the Krakow YMCA team at the time of his arrest. Catholic and a proud Pole, Henry was sent to Auschwitz 1 as a political prisoner.

    There are several instances when Henry should have died, but he always seemed to know someone who would find him at just the right time to help him survive. Henry knows he was incredibly lucky. From Auschwitz to Buchenwald, Henry details camp life. Even with all the killing and death, there are stories that sound absurd to the situation, but were small moments to forget where and what they were living through so that they could hope and survive for another day.

    I have read many stories of the camps from Jewish survivor stories, but this book is through the eyes of a Polish political prisoner. I learned that they could and did send and receive mail, that there were underground activities ongoing in the camps and that the prisoners were segregated from the Jewish prisoners. Buchenwald held mainly German communists, criminals, Jehovah Witnesses, gypsies and the 1000 political prisoner Poles sent from Auschwitz until almost the end of the war.

    Henry survives to live under communist rule in Poland because he returns home to his mother. After she is gone, he and a friend have the chance to escape to freedom in the west and they take it.

    You will not be able to resist Henry. He is an ordinary young man who survived and lived an extraordinary life. If you are like me and devour books about WWII, this one should definitely be on your list.

    Thanks very much to Koehler Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I could not have enjoyed it more.

  • Hobart

    ---

    Looking for something for her

    column, Katrina Shawver found and interviewed Henry Zguda, a octogenarian, who'd been a competitive swimmer in Poland who'd spent three years in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The interview struck a chord with her and she soon returned to his home to propose they write a book about his experiences.

    This book is the result of a series of interviews Shawver conducted with Henry, her own research (incl

    ---

    Looking for something for her

    column, Katrina Shawver found and interviewed Henry Zguda, a octogenarian, who'd been a competitive swimmer in Poland who'd spent three years in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The interview struck a chord with her and she soon returned to his home to propose they write a book about his experiences.

    This book is the result of a series of interviews Shawver conducted with Henry, her own research (including trips to the original sites), and some letters, photographs, etc. that Henry provided (some of which Henry pilfered from Auscwitz' records some time after the war!). We get an idea what life was like in Poland before Hitler invaded and began to destroy the nation and its citizens -- then we get several chapters detailing his life in the camps. Following that, we get a brief look at his life in Poland after the war and when the Communists took over, followed by his life in America after that -- meeting his wife and living a life that many of us would envy. The bulk of the book is told using transcripts (with a little editing) of interview tapes with Henry, so the reader can "hear" his voice telling his stories. Shawver will stitch together the memories with details and pictures, as well as with bits of her trip to Poland and the camps there. We are also treated to a glance at the friendship that develops between Henry, Shawver and Henry's wife through the production of the book.

    More than once while reading it, I thought about how much I was enjoying the read -- and then I felt guilty and wrong for doing so. This was a book about someone who lived through Auschwitz and Buchenwald, how dare I find it charming and want to read more (not for information, or to have a better idea what atrocities were committed). I've watched (and read the transcript) Claude Lanzmann's

    (for one example), and never once thought about cracking a smile. I certainly never

    to spend more time with the subjects. This is all because of the way that Shawver told Henry's story, and Henry's own voice. I did learn a lot -- I should stress. For example, there was mail back and forth between the prisoners and family (for those that were willing to give the Nazis an address for their family), Henry at one point looks at some letters from prisoners online, checking not for names, but numbers he recognizes. Or the idea that there were light periods in the labor duty -- not out of mercy, compassion or anything, but because the guards got time off, and there was no one to make the prisoner's work.

    The subtitle does tell us that it's a story of friendship -- several friendships, actually. Without his friends, Henry's story would have likely been much shorter, with very different ending. It's easy to assume that others could say that because of Henry, as well. There's also the story of the brief friendship of Henry and Shawvver, without her, we wouldn't have this book. There were some moments early on that I thought that Shawvver might be giving us too much about her in the book, but I got used to it and understood why she chose that. In the end her "presence" in the book's unfolding helps the reader learn to appreciate Henry the man,not just Henry the historical figure.

    This is a deceptively easy read, the conversational tone of Henry's segments, particularly, are engaging and you're hearing someone tell you great stories of his youth. Until you stop and listen to what he's talking about, then you're horrified (and relieved, sickened, inspired, and more). Shawver should be commended for the way she kept the disparate elements in this book balanced while never undercutting the horrible reality that Henry survived.

    This is something that everyone should read -- it's too easy to hear about the Holocaust, about the concentration camps, and everything else and think of them as historical events, statistics. But reading this (or books like it), helps you to see that this happened to people -- not just people who suffered there -- but people who had lives before and after this horror. If we can remember that it was about people hurting people, nothing more abstract, maybe there's hope we won't repeat this kind of thing.

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