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The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story Of Nonna Bannister (2009)

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister (2009)
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Rating
3.83 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
1414325460 (ISBN13: 9781414325460)
languge
English
publisher
tyndale house publishers
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The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Unt...
The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story Of Nonna Bannister (2009)

About book: NO SPOILERS!!!This book recounts the life of Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister. It is another biography based on a woman living through the holocaust. However, Nonna is not Jewish. She was raised according to the practises of the Russian Orthodox Church. Her grandfather was a Cossack and although he dies rather early on in the story, her grandmother plays a central role in the early years of Nonna's life. There are two central themes, the wonderful memories of her young childhood spent with her family and grandmother in Konstantinowka (Santurinowka) and her experiences in German labor camps during WW2 with her mother. Nonna had to hang to the good memories to have the strength to survive the bad memories. The bad memories were horrible. It is important to recognize that not only the Jews suffered unimaginable horrors during the war. Nonna was the only survivor of her large Ukrainian family. Life under Stalin also influenced who she became as an adult. Even children of this time and place came to realize the need for secrets; not keeping hidden that which is said in the family walls and that which can be said in public. Keeping secrets became a manner of being, a way of life. The stories about Christmas celebrations, sleigh rides, an abundance of food and well being, garden filled with fruit and flowers. Glorious remembrances of sights and sounds and smells are marvellously imparted.At the same time there are depictions of such evil events that this book is one of the hardest to read. There are childhood reminiscences of seeing Jews deported into extermination camps, compared to her experiences while being deported into the German labor camps. There is an episode with an umbrella, an episode with a Jewish baby being thrown into the train car and an episode concerning a little Jewish boy called Nathan that came to save Nonna's life that are simply heart-wrenching! That such has happened! The book should be read to know of these events. I will never forget these three events. This book should be read by all.Now I need to talk a bit about how the book came to be written. It is based on Nonna's diary. After the war she immigrated to the US and she never spoke of her diary, of her hidden photos and letters she had saved from her past. She never spoke of her past - not to her husband and not to her children, to no one! In the 1980s she decided to transcribe her diary notes and poems and other writings into English. They had been written in several different languages. Her father had insisted she learn many languages. That she was proficient in several did in fact save her life. Eventually she spoke to her husband about these memories, writings and saved mementos. She agreed that the material could be brought forth after her death. The truth should be known. Given the history of how this book came into being one can understand the inconsistencies that the reader finds in the book. Actually that one time she says the bombing of Kassel took 15 minutes or a little less than one half hour is for me insignificant. That she says she was eight when she began her diary and other times she says she was nine; this doesn't bother me either. If I were to talk about what happened in my childhood I am sure I would not keep absolutely everything straight. I see these inconsistencies as a proof of truth. Many reviewers dislike that the prose is interrupted by comments on Nonna's statements. These are like footnotes, but they occur right in the middle of the text. I liked this. I would often have questions about what Nonna says and the following paragraph would then answer the questions that had just troubled me. However if you never read footnotes, this may disturb you. I wanted to understand; the inserted paragraphs increased my understanding. There are poems that she wrote as a child. There are religious thoughts about God. Neither spoke to me! At the end of the book there is a map which I only discovered when I had finished the book. Anyhow, it was impossible to read in the ebook format. At the end of the book there is a chronological summary of all the events in the book. This is a bit redundant. Definitely some further editing would have improved the book. At times I asked myself if I hadn't just read a given sentence twice; two adjacent sentences were almost exactly the same! One of them should have been eliminated. So yes, there are problems on how the book has been put together. The errors that have occurred in this book are not due to Nonna's writing. She had an important story to tell. I am very glad I read this book.You should read about Nathan and about what can be done with an umbrella………If this book interests you, also check out The House by the Dvina: A Russian Childhood. I gave that five stars. I am always yapping abour Fraser's book.

Upon first glimpse of the synopsis of The Secret Holocaust Diaries one is reminded of Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. While there are some similarity between the two there also are vast differences. The first being that Nonna Bannister was a Russian Christian and Anne Franks was a Jew. The second is that Bannister lived to write and revise her story while Frank did not.The Secret Holocaust Diaries is a tale of how a young girl survives not only World War II but also the early years of Communist Russian. The reader gets snippets into the authors life during these troublesome years and get to see some of the hopes, joys and fears of Bannister as she narrates her early life. The one downside to Bannister narration is that sometimes the emotions that she tries to convey are flat and do not come through as well as one would hope. This could be because the "entries" are not directly from Bannister's diaries rather she wrote out her story based her diary entries and the reader only gets what she released. Bannister is able to reflect on her entries and included or take out what she wants. She may have excluded the emotional reflections in order to make it easier for her to complete her task.It is always informative to read about history from those who have lived it. Reading memories like Bannister's and Frank's has a way of linking historical events in a way that is not done in a history class. Many people (self included) know something about World War II and maybe even less about the formation of the Soviet Union. The Secret Holocaust Diaries mesh this two events together and lets one see how they affected each other. There is a lot of information about the treatment of Jewish during Hitter's reign but Nonna's diary gives insight of the treatment of Christian captives during this time. It's interesting and heartbreaking to see the differences and similarities in the treatment of Germany's Christan and Jewish prisoners.Nonna Bannister came from a remarkable family and in turn grow up into a remarkable girl. Both her and her mother used their abilities to make themselves assets to the Germans. Her mother was an acomplished painter and musician. Nonna had the ability to speak in six lanugauges. But the educational achivements of Nonna and her family also made them suspect while they were in the Soviet Union. The Soviet authorities believed that Nonna's father was not loyal to their cause and while they were right, he just wanted what was best for his family.There were some minor issues that can be found in the book. That can be because the copy used for this review was and ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). One of those issues were that the were repeated references to the pictures that Nonna was able to save and that were still around. But there were no pictures in the book. It would have been nice to see the pictures that Nonna was able to save. There also was a mention about the fact that Nonna father might have been Jewish. I don't think enough attention was paid to this speculation, which could be because Nonna didn't included but it was rather mentioned by the editiors. The editors Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin included historical clarifications and story references throughout the book. They were useful but sometimes they were misplaced or repetative. They would try to clarify stuff that Nonna wrote before the reader got to that point.The editors also included serval appendixs that gave more insight into what is known about Nonna's family on her maternial side. Those were not reviewed or read but could be highly informative to those that are interested in getting futher information about Bannister and her family.
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Reviews
Misfit
Nonna Lisowskaya, a refugee from Soviet Russia, arrived in the US in the 1950's and quickly married. Many years later she showed her husband the diaries and notes she'd kept as a young girl in Russia. Nonna's family was a privileged one, but even they couldn't escape unscathed as WWII escalates. First the Soviets come looting the countryside, and then Hitler's forces arrive to take what little food and fuel is left. Having given up the *opportunity* to evacuate with the retreating Russian forces, Nonna and her mother (along with other Ukrainians who chose to stay) are at the mercy of the German soldiers, and they're eventually packed up on trains and transported to labor camps."We were kept there for about ten days while the Germans deloused everyone. They shaved many of the women’s heads and made them shave under their arms and even their groin area. Then they came by with a bucket of liquid and painted this solution over our naked bodies with a paintbrush—then everyone was given a physical exam to check for any diseases.""When she refused to perform because she was sick, the Gestapo had broken her arms and, later, broke her fingers."To say I liked this a lot is probably not the correct phrase, but I am very glad I read it and would recommend it to others. I would caution that a great deal of the first part of the book are Nonna's recollections as a young girl and her family, so if you're expecting it all to focus on her time in the labor camps you might be disappointed.
Christine Rebbert
It's always difficult to say something such as you "liked" or "enjoyed" a book about the Holocaust. I actually had read this a few years back and forgotten about it until a couple days ago, when I was on some other book website and saw the picture of the book -- and those haunting eyes brought the memory back...The book is basically what its title suggests it is. Nonna and her mother are taken to the camps, and she manages to obtain little scraps of paper and pencil to keep a diary of her time there. The subtitle "The Untold Story..." refers to the fact that even after being liberated and moving to the U.S., getting married, having children, she never told anyone about her experiences during wartime. She slept with the diary every night of her life but wanted to put it all behind her. Finally, in later life, she did share the diary with her husband, who encouraged her to publish it. I can't imagine saving a secret from the person closest to me for fifty or so years. How can you really be "you" without sharing something that momentous? But it seems that's what many Holocaust survivors have done. I'm glad she finally had the courage to share it not only with her husband but with all of us. I have read a lot of Holocaust literature, and sometimes feel "well, that's enough -- you probably don't need to read any more." But I keep on reading - it's like I continue to search in each new book for some "reason" or "answer" that will explain it all, but my mind still cannot grasp the immensity of this tragedy of world history. I guess all there is to say is, Never forget...
Etta Mcquade
Many people may not be aware that non-Jews were Holocaust victims, such as Nonna Bannister, a Russian girl who was imprisoned in German labor camps with her mother, who later was transferred to a concentration camp where she was burned to death in an oven. Her father was brutally killed by Nazi soldiers in Russia. What's amazing about Nonna is that she kept a diary from the time she was nine years old and still in Russia, hidden under her clothes and tied around her waist in a small pillow, even writing in it in six different languages so it might be harder to be read by someone who found it. She did not tell her husband for 40 years about her past, then finally unlocked the trunk and showed him her diaries, photos, and other family documents that she had saved. She agreed that her writing should be made public but not until after her death. As I read about her loving family in Russia, her strong Christian faith, her ability to forgive, and the pain of her experiences, I was touched to the core and so grateful she could immigrate to the United States and there meet a wonderful, understanding, kind man whom she was married to for 43 years before her death in 2004.
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