Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Secret Holocaust Diaries


I just finished this book this morning. I would not say that I loved it ... but only because of the subject matter. How could I ever "love" a book written about something so horrific ? I will say that is in an incredible story and that Nonna Bannister was an inspiration.

Russian born Nonna lived a happy childhood in a wealthy and seeming very well grounded family. Her parents loved each other and their children. Her father taught her multiple languages, a skill that very probably saved her life time and again during the war.

Living through World War II and the Holocaust, Nonna's story is more than one about the torture she endured.

More than half of the book talks about Nonna's family. It gives fascinating family details, intertwined with childhood memories and experiences. It lays the foundation for what you read at the end of the book, the foundation of her whole life. It shows the reasons why, after all that she endured, Nonna was able to forgive the people who brutally and senselessly killed her entire family. It speaks of a strong faith that was woven into her during those early years.

This book is a collection of diary entries that Nonna kept (and was able to keep hidden and intact throughout the war ) and later translated and shared with her husband. Before sharing them, she kept them and the details of her background hidden from him for 50 years !

To my recollection, I have never read a book about the Holocaust that was not from the Jewish point of view. I found it eye opening to read from Nonna's perspective. Her people and the Jewish people were on the same trains, some bound for concentration camps, some bound for forced labour camps. Though Nonna's plight was seemingly as bad as it could be, she describes the plight of the Jews on the same train as much worse. Her people were given stale bread to eat and allowed to get off the train on a few occasions to go to the toilet. The Jews were not fed, skeletal and could only be seen through the bars on the train 'windows'. Her compassion towards them, in light of her own situation, astounded me.

There were parts of the book that were terribly difficult to read. But, they happened. And she has told her story so people don't forget. So that maybe, just maybe, we can stop it from every happening again. And for that reason, and because of the hope and the restoration seen through the life of this amazing woman, I would recommend you read it.

4 comments:

Sabba and Nanny April 26, 2012 at 8:31 AM  

Great review. Definitely makes me want to read the book.

readingellie April 26, 2012 at 2:41 PM  

Oh wow. I'm glad you read this. I don't think I can though. I loved reading about her family, but was too sad to keep reading when I knew that none of them would make it through the war. Maybe, I will ask you about the end of the story sometime. Hear the redemptive parts that I am so very interested in.

Karyn Taylor-Moore April 26, 2012 at 6:38 PM  

The Secret Holocaust Diaries sounds like a truly amazing book. I just don't know whether I would be brave enough to read it!! I have read only a very few stories set during the Holocaust - and every one of them reduced me to tears and also made me extremely angry. Unbelievable we humans can do this to each other. I may try though - on your recommendation - read this book. It sounds redemptive - and redemption is a beautiful thing. Thanks Bonnie :-)

T.S. Ötli April 26, 2012 at 7:42 PM  

I read many books over this period and I have never found one that leaves me indifferent. I'ld really like to read this one.
Thanks for sharing.

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