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I am writing this the day before Halloween but I can think of nothing more scary than the deplorable and shocking ways members of the human race are capable of treating one another. One of the most pertinent examples of this is the Holocaust. Henry is the true story of a Polish swimmer and Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor whose spirit, courage, and indomitable will will have you falling in love with this extraordinary man and the amazing life he led. Watch for my upcoming interview with the author regarding this book coming in the new year.
October 2017 . Henry . Katrina Shawver
Author: Katrina Shawver
Publication Date: November 1, 2017
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