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The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister Paperback – April 1, 2010
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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.
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 the Audio CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
That being said, if you can forgive the obnoxious editors and just pay attention to Nonna's story, she had some lovely memories of her childhood and her family. And then she survived the horrors of the holocaust.
Basically, the explanation at the front of the book telling me that Nonna wrote her diaries on little scraps of paper throughout her childhood, and then years later translated and added to them made me understand that the writing was from two different times in her life. I did not need to then be reminded of it every time things jumped around. And if the editors' other notes were in the form of tiny footnotes or something, it would have let me have more info if I wanted or needed it without so jarringly disrupting the story.
I finished it last night. Nonna was definitely a person who remembered places, people, and situations very clearly, and it must have been so therapeutic to write as she did. To those who would criticize her writing style, remember...She was a woman who never expected to be published. I got the feeling she was writing just to remember. She had nothing else except some paperwork, a few pictures, and that pillow. No relatives, not even her husband and children were privy to what she had gone through. So she wrote.
Nonna wanted her story told so that people would never let such atrocities happen again. In my opinion, this is the most valuable part of this book and should be the most cautionary part we take from it.
Think about it. Her family was just living life. They weren't hurting anyone. Their family was accomplished and wealthy. We follow her as she watches her life, her comfort, her home, her food, and finally her family being squeezed into a smaller and smaller piece of freedom, until there is nothing left. This didn't happen overnight. We must always be on our guard to understand what little bits and pieces of our freedom can be taken away without too much discomfort...but eventually it can all disappear. Imagine your house being invaded by Nazis. Imagine living underground. Nonna's family would never have envisioned any situation that could lead to their lives being so horrifically destroyed. And yet it happened.
I wish Nonna's family all the best. I am so glad she emigrated to the US, and that her story came to light and her family saw fit to share it.
Her account should stand on its own, with no comparisons to other Holocaust survivors' stories.
One last note: I was frustrated that my Kindle didn't include any pictures of Nonna except the one on the cover! And I couldn't figure out, for the longest time, what that picture was in between the chapters. I realized it was her beloved pillow. So I went online and looked her up. I feel like I know her better just from seeing the pictures.
Most recent customer reviews
So cool that she knew around four languages