henry-coverOnce, one person said to me: aren’t you bored to read books about the Holocaust? I replied No, I will never bored to read books about this topic. I will always read books about the Holocaust and continue reading them, over and over again, to not forget and to find a forgiveness motivation. For this reason, I have also been highly honoured to receive and read this book for review. I am discussing about Henry , a first person memoir written by Katrina Shawver, a talented and skilled Polish journalist living in the US.

It was just in the US the author met the main character of this biography, namely Henry Zguda, a Polish swimmer deported to Auschwitz during the Second World War. He was deported only for a unique reason: he was Polish. From this stage, Katrina starts a painful and poignant account about one the most cruel epochs of the past century: the Nazi deportation. As soon as I read the most touching chapters of the book, I started crying and I was still crying while I wrote this review. Yes, I cried, and my tears slipped along my cheeks, remembering what Henry, the Jews and other prisoners endured during the Nazi Genocide.

The author allowed to understand this enormous and unspeakable tragedy from another perspective, not only the one about the Jews, always reported with a great respect and sensitivity, but the history of all those who were deported by the Nazis because didn’t match the madness of Germans officers, soldiers and their political chief Adolf Hitler, such as homosexuals, disabled people, Jehovah witnesses and political opponents. Henry was deported to Auschwitz in June 1942 and remained in this Polish concentration camp until March 1943, when he was moved to the German camp of Buchenwald. Henry’s story is hard to listen, but necessary.

You must be very courageous to read it, but I advise you read it because “when you read, you also became a witness”. Well, I became a witness of a true friendship between Katrina and Henry, and a witness about the concentration camp cruelty. In the interviews with Katrina, Henry admitted to losing the faith in God during the deportation. Through his words, well written and reported by his interviewer Katrina, I realized all of the despair, starvation and suffering endured by the prisoners, but above all, I realized that the Nazis didn’t only obey to Hitler when they tortured and killed people in the concentration camps, they did this because they were really evil, they enjoyed to send people to crematorium, they enjoyed humiliate them, they enjoyed to offer them only dirty water instead of meal or soup, they chose to do awful things to people!

Henry confirms this reality when he said that human beings are the worst beings capable to hurt themselves, no other living being can do like this. The book is enriched with pictures about the family, the life and the imprisonment of Henry, that make this account stronger and stronger. Even though Henry passed away a bit of time ago, I still feel his words echoing inside me, along with this hammering question: Where God was when all this happened? Where He was? I feel still this question in my heart and I believe it will always be without answers.


Full title of the book : Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America.

Author: Katrina Shawver

Publisher: Koehler Books

Price paperback edition: $19.95

Pages: 327

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