HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America Kindle Edition
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.
Memoir and history weave together to tell Henry Zguda’s story- the tale of an ordinary man who lived through extraordinary times. The author conducted multiple first-person interviews with Mr. Zaguda in 2002- 2003, one year before he died at age 86.
Henry’s world changed at dawn on September 1, 1939 when some 1.8 million German troops, supported by 2,600 tanks, invaded Poland. Henry, a young man in Krakow, Poland was rounded up a few years later and sent to Auschwitz and then to other camps. What was the goal of this infamous camp? To eliminate all prisoners.
How did Henry survive the hunger, beatings, fear and degradation? He says he was “lucky and knew the right people. You needed someone to help you survive.” Of course, Henry himself had something to do with his survival. During the course of interviewing Henry, the author became close to him and his wife, and she was drawn to his infectious enthusiasm and friendliness. Henry’s ability to stay positive and connect with and encourage others surely contributed to his perseverance. Henry teaches us all a good lesson.
I am interested in World War II, so I found many nuggets to enjoy in this book. The author adds many historical facts to Henry’s retelling which provided context but may not interest all readers. Henry was a good storyteller and a “hail fellow well met” type of guy. So, we read Henry’s public version of what happened to him; but I don’t think he let the author know the “real” Henry. For this reason, the story loses some of its emotional impact.
I commend the author for writing this book about a survivor of the World War II death camps. We need books like this to keep guiding us.
“Thank you America, for being such a wonderful country and for being so good to me.”- Henry Zaguda