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The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister Paperback – March 18, 2010


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The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister + Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust + I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1414325479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414325477
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (693 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Russian refugee Bannister (1927–2004) rarely spoke about her brutal experiences under the regimes of Stalin and Hitler, not even to the American she married after the war. In this memoir, she reveals how a privileged childhood in the 1920s and '30s gave way to horror and loss in the 1940s. Although the sound quality of this production is poor (lots of rustling papers), Rebecca Gallagher does reasonably well with the multiple languages and wisely avoids attempting to replicate European accents. What is irritating, however, is the constant interruption in the form of unnecessary editor's notes, which make the narrative choppy and disjointed. More helpful is the seventh disc, which contains an interview with Bannister's husband and son, a precious audio reminiscence from Nonna herself, recorded in 1993, and abundant PDF materials, including maps, photographs and genealogical data. A Tyndale hardcover. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

How this story came to be written is a big part of the drama. The only World War II survivor of her wealthy Russian, devout Christian family, Nonna Lisowskaya came to the U.S. in 1950, married Henry Bannister, and never spoke about her Holocaust ­experience––until a few years before her death in 2004, when she revealed her diaries, originally written in six languages on paper scraps that she had kept in a pillow strapped to her body throughout the war. Now those diaries, in her English translation, tell her story of fleeing Stalinist Russia, not knowing what was waiting in Hitler’s Germany, where she saw her mother murdered in the camps, escaped a massacre of Jews shot into a pit, was nursed by Catholic nuns, and much more. The editors’ commentary in different type constantly interrupts the memoir, but the notes are helpful in explaining history and context. The added-on heavy messages celebrating Nonna’s Christian forgiveness seem intrusive and unnecessary, no matter how heartfelt. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Very well written and really reads fast.
terry clark
Despite the horrors Nonna experienced, her story is also one of God's love and forgiveness.
Pat J. Sikora
If you are interested in history I highly recommend that you read this book!!
Danielle Borsh-Vaughan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

172 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Shelly Kelly on April 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
[...]

When 23-year old Nonna Bannister arrived in the United States in 1950, she closed the door on her disturbing past. She married and raised three children and never told a soul about her experiences in Russia, the Ukraine, and Germany during the Holocaust. After 43 years of marriage, she finally introduced her husband to her past, the photographs and diaries she had miraculously saved and painstakingly transcribed into English. This book is her story.

The book, a compilation of Nonna's diary entries and family stories, opens with her 1942 transport from the Ukraine to Poland, bound for a "labor camp" in Germany. The horror is quickly realized as fifteen year old Nonna witnesses firsthand the murderous brutality of the German soldiers toward the Jewish prisoners.

After this shocking opening, the editors return us to Nonna's earliest childhood memories and stories about her unusually comfortable life in Russia post-Revolution, embracing family and Russian Orthodox Christian religion as the foundation of her character. Embedded in these childhood tales, Nonna becomes more aware of the outside world and dangerous influences. In the mid-1930s, the communist Soviet laws were heavily enforced, ending her Grandmother's prosperity and Nonna remembers that everything had to be "donated" to the "collective farms." Religion was forbidden and her parents send away her older brother to an unknown location for his safety. Nonna never saw him again. As German troops approach from one front, the family chooses not to evacuate with the retreating Soviets and hide in the cellar. They later learn that Aunts, Uncles, and cousins who did retreat were killed.
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251 of 261 people found the following review helpful By Susy Flory on April 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought The Secret Holocaust Diaries a few weeks ago and started reading it. What an amazing book! Nonna Bannister was a gifted young Russian girl from a loving, warm, and wealthy family. Caught up in the horror of World War II, she watched everything and everyone she knew and loved disintegrate before her eyes. Yet Nonna miraculously survived, with her faith intact and her secret diaries hidden away, known only to her until recently. What is most astonishing to me was Nonna's lack of bitterness and hatred for the perpetrators of the savagery she witnessed--possible only with divine forgiveness, I'm sure, but still difficult to fathom.

Reading The Secret Holocaust Diaries is like sitting down to tea with Nonna, as she unveils the secrets carefully packed away in her locked green trunk in the attic. Even her husband didn't learn about her past until their twilight years, when she decided it was finally time to tell him. I'm so glad she decided to share. Nonna's voice is powerful; after I read a passage and close the book, her lovely and heartwrenching prose stays with me. This is the type of book you don't want to read too fast; I'm savoring it, page by page.
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142 of 147 people found the following review helpful By Kristina J. Petrella VINE VOICE on May 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Nonna Bannister left behind the horrors of her European childhood when she relocated to the United States alone. Having lost all of her family, including her brother Anatoly with whom she was quite close to the Nazi regime, Nonna closed the door on her life in Europe and started afresh in the United States. Throughout her marriage, the birth of her children, and her latter years, she did not speak of the immense cruelty she suffered at the hands of the Germans, however one day, she opened her secret place in the attic to her husband. Looking at her journals written in many different languages (Nonna knew at least five fluently) her husband wondered how he would read these memoirs that were written in a tongue he didn't know. It was then that Nonna produced the legal pads. Piles of legal notepads full of her translations. This book is the meat of those notepads.

the secret Holocaust Diaries is Nonna's true story of her experiences at the hands of the Germans. It chronicles her childhood before the Germans came to power and continues through he imprisonment at a labor camp through until her death. With a memoir, I feel the story cannot be critiqued because this is not a plot fabricated in the mind of an author--this is a person's life; their experience. Therefore any critique is my opinion on the writing style and/or how much I enjoyed the book.

That being said, I don't think 'enjoy' is the correct word to use when referring to reading a true story about the Holocaust. This book was intriguing and poignantly written. I will warn that it is a detailed account of Nonna's experiences and there are some VERY disturbing interactions that take place. What more can one expect from a Holocaust memoir.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By James W. Crawford on April 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Readers will find this memoir of the mid-twentieth century a powerful reminder of the heights and depths of the human condition. It tells the story of a woman who lives contentedly in the late twenties and early thirties in Western Russia, moves to the Ukraine in time to be caught, in 1939-40, between the fierce invasion of the Nazis and the fearful retreat of the Russians, each hating the other, and destroying the innocents in the territories between the two nations. The woman, Nonna Bannister with her mother, finds herself captured by the Germans and sent to a number of camps in Poland and Germany to serve as slave labor. What she witnesses and its impact on her life lies at the heart of this autobiographical reflection - assembled late in her life from diaries and scraps hidden in secret recesses. Nonna's story contains all the violence and horror we associate with the Holocaust. It also illustrates the powers of courage, incredible bravery, human solidarity and hope in face of the worst we can do to one another. The two collaborators in the story's telling, Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin inevitably discover themselves engaged in Nonna Bannister's life, and eagerly seek to assist us in interpeting that life as a unique testimony to an undergirding Christian faith. They - and Ms. Bannister- succeed fabulously well.
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