Prisoner Number A26188: Surviving Auschwitz

The German invasion of Poland in 1939 marked the beginning of World War II and the escalation of Hitler's Nazi persecution of the Jews. It also was the beginning of one of the war's truly inspiring stories, that of a young Polish girl named Henia Bryer. In her own words, Henia tells how her family perished in concentration camps, how she survived and went on to witness to the creation of Israel.
Lisa Bryer
Henia BryerMaurice Bryer
English [CC]
Audio languages

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Lisa Bryer
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Foul languageviolence
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4.7 out of 5 stars

396 global ratings

  1. 84% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 10% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 4% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 1% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

LadyxReviewed in the United States on January 4, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Another Important Survivor Testimony
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This documentary isn't long - it dives straight into the story of Henia's traumatic experiences during WWII. I really admire her candor and her bravery. She is very articulate, intelligent and well-educated. She possesses a rare type of intense resiliency that is captured in her story. I enjoyed seeing her family members speaking at the end of the film. Her husband's love for her is very touching and it seems like she has a wonderful family now. She is happy now, and deservedly so. If you enjoyed this documentary, there are several others that you can check out here on Amazon, on Netflix and also on YouTube:

Swimming in Auschwitz (not my favorite one, but still great)
Kitty - Return to Auschwitz (my favorite survivor film)
Forgiving Dr. Mengele
Hitler's Children
Auschwitz - Inside the Nazi State (excellent 6 part documentary about Auschwitz)
Auschwitz: Blueprint for Genocide

Also, check out the USC Shoah Foundation witness testimonies. Some of them are hours long, but the detail and personalized storytelling are very powerful and important. <3
104 people found this helpful
PeggyReviewed in the United States on January 8, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
History and survival
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Beautifully done. Beautifully scored. What a gem of a film. To the person who criticized the film for it's "clinical description" of the Holocaust -- it's anything but. It's the story of a woman who survived, and she survived because she refused to break, and her soft voice never breaks during the film, and she gets all of those difficult stories out succinctly and beautifully, because she is asked to. She never voluntarily talked about the horrors with her children because she was afraid of "second-generation syndrome;" she had read about the troubles--including survivors' guilt-- faced by children whose parents talked incessantly about their concentration camp experiences. There were "no psychologists or psychiatrists" after the war, she says, there was nothing to help people deal, and "we had to deal with it ourselves". But when asked, she tells. She even talks softly about a difficult time she had with "her nerves" while in Israel after she left Europe, and I had to rewind the film because I though she had said "nurse." Her grandson called her on his cell phone from the gates of Auschwitz on his 17th birthday--she too had been there on her 17th birthday. "Grandma, where were you when you were here?" he asked. She directed him by phone exactly to her bunker.
This is the story of a human being, a woman, surviving. What human beings are capable of doing to each other is atrocious; what people are able to survive is miraculous.
68 people found this helpful
JMMReviewed in the United States on January 31, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Extremely well told story that includes so many places from the start of the war to afterwards
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Another reviewer said that this is like so many other survivor stories, with nothing of interest to those who have studied the Nazi genocide. I disagree.

The narrator tells her story clearly and concisely. Her narration is sensible, grounded, and sure. Her career after the war was in education, which is readily apparent in how well she explains historic events. Throughout, she connects her experiences to films we may have seen or things we may have read about. She discusses the roles that luck, self-will, the kindness of fellow prisoners, and the Nazi bias toward her blond, blue-eyed good looks played in her survival. She is not only a survivor, she is a teacher.

In one sense, her story might seem "general" because she experienced so many different aspects of the Holocaust. Her story includes the invasion of Poland, her family's confinement in a Polish ghetto, her own survival in three different camps and then a death march, the loss of three members (half) of her immediate family in different ways, and finally post-war Paris, settlement in Israel, and starting a family in South Africa. She speaks frankly about the psychological aftermath of the Holocaust and how she worked not to pass this burden on to her children.

One note: Another reviewer commented that it was disappointing that no mention was made of the racist conditions in South Africa. I agree that such a discussion should've been included. It's germane to this story and it's a stunning omission. That is the one flaw in this film.

The historical footage in this film is stark. The still photos are some of the most gruesome I've seen. However, they are well-fitted to the narration, some of which couldn't possibly be comprehended without the photos. As horrifying as the subject matter is, this film is an affirmation of life. And it is prisoner number A26188 who makes it so.
19 people found this helpful
jodyReviewed in the United States on January 14, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
but an amazing story, told in her gentle way
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short, but an amazing story, told in her gentle way. Im kawaiisu, and my grandmother had stories about being a california indian during the removal times. our family story of survival is mostly amazing too. there were tiny things wondrous things, that caused my maternal line to go on. when I see my children and grandchild, I see them too, and remember our family stories. they would recognize us as their family if they could see us now.

perhaps it's not right to have such a comparison, to such a terrible time in our history as human beings. this grandmother has a story to gift the world, and it is a story that should be heard by generations, even if you've heard this history before. we are not the same tribe, but then we are all the same tribe. now I am the grandmother, and my own story is somewhat amazing, though thankfully not so amazing as these stories are. I wondered if there was some reason my family line continued. Or some reason prisoner A26188's family continued. There is no reason though. When I was 8 I went to a place with my grandmother, and many other grandmothers, where my relations remember some things. there are their grandparents bones still scattered or sticking up out of the ground. I didn't know about ww ll then. I was only just learning about my own grandmothers stories. this grandmothers words are precious, and no one should miss what she has to say.
7 people found this helpful
Melissa HaldemanReviewed in the United States on January 6, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
I often wonder how evil like this is allowed to get as out of hand ...
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This was very insightful. I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on her experiences. The atrocities that happened during World War II with the Holocaust fascinate me, I often wonder how evil like this is allowed to get as out of hand as it does. I appreciate the transparency and vulnerability she showed in sharing her story, and I thought it was interesting the way she shared that she guarded her children years later so that they would not have such emotional and spiritual scaring because of the things she endured to survive. Considering the harshness of the subject, I recommend it highly.
19 people found this helpful
MarieReviewed in the United States on May 4, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
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The stories of survivors should all be told in such a simple yet powerful way. Do not go into this documentary looking for something new, go into it to hear this amazing women's story of how she lived, what she went thru, how she survived and how she rebuilt her life afterwards. At times I wondered how she could tell her story without any tears but at some point during the fill I truly looked into her eyes and all I could see was a haunted look and at that moment she sorta of choked up but very quickly regained her composure and I realized that she wasn't crying because she had already cried to many tears and now her past was just a horrid piece of history that she had no more tears to give because she had survived and overcome it.
One person found this helpful
ChrisSherrillReviewed in the United States on June 2, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
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Not a badly done documentary. Not great but not terrible. Not a lot of new information, except that the Soviets took blood from camp prisoners to treat their injured soldiers – that was new to me. It wasn’t surprising that they did it, but it was surprising that they took enough to kill some prisoners. Those were almost inconceivably brutal times. The animosity between the Russians and the Germans was deep and of long standing (and both hated the Poles), so the brutality practiced on both sides bordered on the indescribable. In addition, the Russians had no particular love of the Jews, but freeing the camps was good propaganda for the Soviets.
4 people found this helpful
lawyeraauReviewed in the United States on August 11, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
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This is the story of Henia Bryer, a Polish teenager and Jew who survived World War II, despite being in several concentration camps. She tells her story and that of her family in very broad strokes rather dispassionately and calmly. Still, it is clear she was determined to survive the camps.

Her narration is augmented by archival photos and film, some of which are horrific. She did go on to rebuild her life, marry, move to South Africa, and have children. She is a lovely and seemingly charming elderly woman. Her husband and grown children round out the narration. As far as Holocaust survivor documentaries go, however, there was really nothing particularly revealing or new.
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