A raw and deeply emotional testament to survival and perseverance in the face overwhelming atrocity, Prisoner Number A26188: Henia Bryer is a film that should be required viewing for this and future generations.
Assembled by Lisa Bryer, the acclaimed producer of the Last King of Scotland, the film consists of an intimate 43-minute testimony from Bryer's aunt Henia, a lovely, articulate 86-year old woman who recalls her experiences surviving multiple concentration camps following Germany's invasion of her native Poland in 1939.
Henia was a young teen when she and her family were rounded up and sent to the Radom ghetto with 30,000 others. By the time the war ended, she had lost her father, her sister, and her disabled older brother, and she had been forced to fight for her life in some of the most hellish environments in recorded history.
She also came face to face with some of the Holocaust's most infamous monsters. She was hauled to four camps including Kraszow, the site of unspeakable horrors that was so memorably portrayed in Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning Schindler's List. There, she encountered Amon Goeth, the commandant of the camp who was played by actor Ralph Fiennes in the film. Henia recalls the casual manner by which Goeth would murder camp inmates on a whim.
Later, she was taken to Auschwitz, where her fate was quickly determined by one of history's most sadistic figures, Dr. Josef Mengele.
After she was liberated, she reunited with her mother, got married, moved to South Africa and started a family of her own. Her nightmare might have ended over 70 years ago, but the atrocities she bore witness to are as fresh in her mind as the day they occurred.
Henia recounts these events with incredible poise and a clarity for details. She shares her story so that younger generations can understand a moment in history when unchecked power and prejudice led to the slaughter of millions.
Prisoner Number A26188: Henia Bryer makes the horrors of the Holocaust incredibly vivid and tactile, but it also celebrates our potential to survive even the most savage ordeal with an open heart free from hatred.