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

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...

Title:Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America
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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."

  • Jack Mayer

    Elie Wiesel said “'When you listen to a witness, you become a witness.” Katrina Shawver’s luminous non-fiction, Henry:A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America is a beautifully rendered act of witness and love about an extraordinary Pole, Henry Zguda, a Christian, a political prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Shawver’s compelling narrative illuminates Henry’s memories as well as his heart and his enduring humor. She has rescued Henry’s vital piece of Holocaust his

    Elie Wiesel said “'When you listen to a witness, you become a witness.” Katrina Shawver’s luminous non-fiction, Henry:
A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America is a beautifully rendered act of witness and love about an extraordinary Pole, Henry Zguda, a Christian, a political prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Shawver’s compelling narrative illuminates Henry’s memories as well as his heart and his enduring humor. She has rescued Henry’s vital piece of Holocaust history so that we don’t forget, and as an immunization against recurrence. Everyone who reads Henry becomes a witness.

    – Jack Mayer, Vermont writer and pediatrician, author of LIFE IN A JAR: THE IRENA SENDLER PROJECT, non-fiction about the Warsaw ghetto and a new historical fiction about the rise of the Third Reich, BEFORE THE COURT OF HEAVEN.

  • 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.

    .

  • Maria Ryan

    A Gift

    I will admit that I am drawn to stories of the holocaust and the trials suffered in the Second World War. I have read a number of books both fiction and non-fiction regarding this topic. I have a great admiration and respect for anyone who has suffered through that time and I feel that their stories must continue to be heard as often and by as many of us as possible.

    Shawver had the privilege of meeting Henry Zguda, a Polish survivor of Aushwitz and Buchenwald, via an article she was writin

    A Gift

    I will admit that I am drawn to stories of the holocaust and the trials suffered in the Second World War. I have read a number of books both fiction and non-fiction regarding this topic. I have a great admiration and respect for anyone who has suffered through that time and I feel that their stories must continue to be heard as often and by as many of us as possible.

    Shawver had the privilege of meeting Henry Zguda, a Polish survivor of Aushwitz and Buchenwald, via an article she was writing for The Arizona Republic and recognized the opportunity at hand to tell his story. This book is, as I see it, a labor of love and a project that Shawver willingly agreed to undertake without compensation and without a solid plan as to how she would pull it off. I mention this because as I read the book, I was overcome with the sense that this book not only needed to be written but also navigated itself as Henry’s story unfolded.

    The book is written interview style with Shawver’s presence an active character as she not only interviews Henry over a course of time but also includes her daily challenges in getting his story down while tending to her daily responsibilities as a wife, mother, and parental caretaker. This may sound strange but these parts of the book actually serve as a reminder as to how precarious a project such as this one can be and how we might easily not have heard this story at all if the author wasn’t who she is.

    Sawver also adds to the book a great deal of personal research. She travelled to the places that Henry speaks of and gathers valuable artifacts that are photographed to further illuminate Henry’s experience. The book has a reverent feel, almost as if you are moving through the book version of a memorial museum as Shawver describes her own trauma in the second-hand reliving of potent memories and acts of sheer horror.

    Henry’s voice captured in his broken English shines through as he remembers for us, his past and what he endured. A handsome and imposing figure both in his youth and older years, we meet an exceptional man with an iron will. Henry speaks frequently about the forces at play that kept him alive during such an arduous journey. He comes across as accepting of his fate without a trace of bitterness but still with a healthy sense of outrage over the cruelties of man and the horrific ways that cruelty played out. His affectedness runs deep yet his love of life and mankind is ever present. He pays homage to the luck he was fortunately on the receiving end of many times but his point of view will not be lost on those who can clearly see what he had suffered and lost.

    This story is worth all of our time. One of the photos included in the book was one of an older Henry and his wife Nancy well after Henry settled in the United States. I could not help thinking upon seeing that photo that this was a couple I might have seen sharing a meal in a diner or sitting together on a park bench never realizing the extraordinary lives they have led. It made me wonder how many more stories are hidden behind the eyes of people we superficially see but do not know. Stories like this one are gifts and a privilege to read. Don’t let this one pass you by. I guarantee you will be better for having read it.

    BRB Rating: Read It

  • Nancy

    I really wanted to give this book a higher rating. However, the organization and writing were a distraction. The author admits she had a hard time pulling the hours of interviews and her extensive research together. Unfortunately she didn’t get enough help to make this work as important as the material deserves. What has become of talented editors?

    Henry’s remembrances of growing up in Poland, as a survivor of WWII concentration camps, the Nazi death March, post-war Russian rule and finally emig

    I really wanted to give this book a higher rating. However, the organization and writing were a distraction. The author admits she had a hard time pulling the hours of interviews and her extensive research together. Unfortunately she didn’t get enough help to make this work as important as the material deserves. What has become of talented editors?

    Henry’s remembrances of growing up in Poland, as a survivor of WWII concentration camps, the Nazi death March, post-war Russian rule and finally emigration to America are fascinating. The author frequently veered from Henry’s retelling into background material without transition. Varied type or headers could easily have corrected this cumbersome feature. It is obvious that the author went to great lengths to research and verify the material but sometimes it becomes more about her and less about Henry’s incredible story.

    Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC.

  • Michelle Kidwell

    Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship From Auschwitz to America

    by Katrina Shawver

    Koehler Books

    Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members’ Titles

    Biographies & Memoirs , History

    Pub Date 01 Nov 2017

    I am reviewing a copy of Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story Of Friendship From Auschwitz to America from Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Netgalley:

    This book only came to Fruition through multiple first person interviews that were recorded from November 2

    Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship From Auschwitz to America

    by Katrina Shawver

    Koehler Books

    Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members’ Titles

    Biographies & Memoirs , History

    Pub Date 01 Nov 2017

    I am reviewing a copy of Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story Of Friendship From Auschwitz to America from Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Netgalley:

    This book only came to Fruition through multiple first person interviews that were recorded from November 2002-2003 with Henry Zguda. English was his fifth language

    Henry Zguda was a polish swimmer who survived three years in Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War Two But he survived and went on to live the American dream.

    Henry was catholic and had been accused to listening to the BBC he was severely beaten until he passed out.

    Henry talks about poverty, and hunger but also the escape he found in swimming. He talks about his first love.

    One day while sitting with the girl he was in love with, Henry was badly beaten because his attackers were certain he was Jewish. He had grown up around anti-Semitism throughout his early life, and only had three Jewish friends in that time.

    Henry goes on to talk candidly about the abuse in the camps, the starvation, the depravity. He dropped to a hundred pounds, ready to die. He goes on to say he survived the camp because he was lucky and new someone. Henry survived the camp despite nearly dying of Typhoid fever and any number of infections.

    In January of 1959 Henry, in January of 1960 he married Nancy a woman from a large Italian family.

    I give Henry five out of five stars!

    Happy Reading

  • *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.

  • Priya

    Having read quite a bit of fiction set around WW2 times,I was not unfamiliar with some of the horrors of the war.

    Nevertheless, this account of a survivor, a man who actually went through all that torture and lived to tell the tale, was truly chilling!

    Henry's story brought out the fact that along with Jews, many Poles were also imprisoned in the concentration camps, something which I for one didn't know.

    The horrible conditions of the camps, the backbreaking work given to the prisoners, severe lac

    Having read quite a bit of fiction set around WW2 times,I was not unfamiliar with some of the horrors of the war.

    Nevertheless, this account of a survivor, a man who actually went through all that torture and lived to tell the tale, was truly chilling!

    Henry's story brought out the fact that along with Jews, many Poles were also imprisoned in the concentration camps, something which I for one didn't know.

    The horrible conditions of the camps, the backbreaking work given to the prisoners, severe lack of food and the cruelty of the guards and directors, as told in the words of Henry, really brought out the horrors of a war that destroyed everything in its wake.

    Neither hope nor positivity nor spirit would have helped anyone survive these camps as they were utterly inhuman. The methods of killing the inmates.. Lining them enmasse and shooting them, luring them into basement rooms and hanging from hooks on the wall, gassing innocent people before they knew what was happening... Was something witnessed everyday. Survival was by extreme good luck or contacts.

    Even years later, seeing pictures and hearing about the ovens used to dispose the bodies and the way corpses were piled up is unbearable.

    These stories need to be told so that the world is aware and consciously prevents the creation of an environment where such a thing occurs. This must serve as a lesson to never allow discrimination on any basis to blind people to their human sides and make them monsters.

    So many millions lost their lives and few like Henry who survived were surely never the same again.

    The history of the war and the snippets of information on the countries involved were enlightening.

    It was not a tough book to understand though the subject made it a difficult one to read.

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