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The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister [Kindle Edition]

Nonna Bannister , Denise George , Carolyn Tomlin
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Nonna Bannister carried a secret almost to her Tennessee grave: the diaries she kept as a young girl experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust while learning compassion and love for her fellow human beings. Nonna's writings tell the remarkable tale of how a Russian girl, born into a family that had known wealth and privileges, was exposed to the concentration camps and learned the value of human life and the importance of forgiveness.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 11177 KB
  • Print Length: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; 1 edition (March 20 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001Y35J5S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #151,195 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank You Nonna July 27 2012
I recently picked up "The Secret Holocaust Diaries - The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister" from my local library as I was intrigued by the premise of the book. Nonna Bannister, nee Lisowskaja, was born to a well-to-do family in Russia in 1927. She survived Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. In 1950 she obtained her visa and traveled to America to fulfill her father' dream and begin a new life. Once in America she soon married but chose to keep the secrets of her past hidden from her family until shortly before her death in 2004. This book is based from the diaries she kept as a young girl and into her later years. As she traveled from Russia to Germany and finally to America, she stowed these diaries and family photographs hidden in a black-and-white ticking pillow that she kept with her at all times.

Although the subject matter of this book is heavy, I found it to be an easy read. Written more or less from the perspective of a young girl, the story is portrayed rather simply but with startling detail. Most of the accounts of the Holocaust I have read have been from the perspective of the Jews in Germany. Nonna's story is that of a girl from a wealthy Russian family with strong ties to pre-Communist Russia as her maternal grandfather and great-grandfather were both Cossacks in the Imperial Cossack Army. Her maternal grandmother, Feodosija Nikolayevna, is a woman of great spirit and strength. She maintains her strong faith in God throughout the persecution from the communist government and passes this faith along to Nonna. As Nonna experiences numerous hardships in Russia and Germany during WWII she holds on tightly to her faith. In Appendix A, Nonna's husband, Henry, attributes her lack of bitterness as a Holocaust survivor to her unfailing faith in God.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable Story June 21 2009
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Reason for Reading: I am always interested in reading survivors' memoirs of the Holocaust.

Comments: Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister, a Russian girl, lived through the Holocaust caught when the Germans invaded her city. She kept diaries from her childhood through the war up until the time she arrived in America in 1950 to start a new life. She never told a soul, not ever her husband or children, what happened to her during those war years. Then one day about 10 years before she died in her eighties she told her husband it was time and she took him up to the attic and showed him all the letters, memorabilia, photos and diaries (which she had written in several languages). She also showed him that she had been spending her time over the years transcribing her diaries into English and was finished as she pulled out stacks of yellow legal sized writing pads for him to read. She wanted her story told to the rest of the family and perhaps published but not until her death. And now that she has passed ... here is her story.

Nonna was born and raised Russian Orthodox. She was a believer her entire life and became a Baptist later on in her new American life. She occasionally writes of her religion but no more so than anyone else's memoir might. However, the book is published by a Christian publisher, Tyndale, and does contain Christian content in the editorial comments.

Nonna goes right back to her childhood years and spends a great portion of the book describing life in Russia during the 1930s. Her father's main goal in life was to get them out of Russia to a better place but he was never able to obtain permission through any channels he tried.
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3.0 out of 5 stars a good book July 14 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book, but at times I felt I was reading repetitive chapters. I think some things should have been left it. It still is a good read to learn about how people struggle during the war.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read April 12 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Good read, writing was awesome and kept me reading for hours. I felt like I was there at times with her I would recommend this book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  739 reviews
258 of 268 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tea with Nonna April 15 2009
By Susy Flory - Published on
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.
175 of 181 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Important Narrative April 23 2009
By Shelly Kelly - Published on

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.

When the Germans invade in 1941, Nonna and her mother are sent to another village for safety, while her father hides; but he is discovered. The rest of the book cover Nonna's darkest experiences. After her father's death, she and her mother are transported to Germany. Nonna's compassion and brief futile attempt to help a young Jewish boy leads her to be put in the middle of a massacre, where she is miraculously saved by the same boy, who dies seconds later.

She survives her experiences at the labor camp and soon her knowledge of five different languages, especially German, is recognized as a valuable asset. She and her mother are moved to a Catholic hospital where Nonna works as a clerical translator and her mother serves as a nurse's aide. But an incident that happened on that first train ride from the Ukraine causes the Gestapo to arrest Nonna's mother and transport her to Ravensbruck and then Flossenburg.

Nonna's story is a valuable contribution as a primary source and witness to the Holocaust. While the editors notes interrupt the flow of the narrative, and should have been added as sidebars or footnotes, they enhance the reader's understanding with background information. The book would benefit greatly from a map showing the various locales discussed, and despite being told that the diaries and photographs survive, there are no photographs included in the book and would be a valuable addition.

Don't pass up reading this book because it addresses an uncomfortable topic. If this teenage girl could live through this and write it as it happened, then we, in our comfort sixty years later, can definitely read it and be witness to her life and the truth. Despite the struggle, this is a tale not only of survival, faith, and courage, but also forgiveness, strength, and hope.
145 of 150 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important Memoir May 14 2010
By Kristina J. Petrella - Published on
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. If you enjoy reading memoirs or Holocaust based titles, this book is a must-read. Again, I would caution however that one should be mindful of the age of those who read this.

This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review purposes.
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horrifying, Yet Touching, Midcentury Saga April 16 2009
By James W. Crawford - Published on
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.
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Jew was a victim, but not every victim was a Jew Sept. 6 2009
By Alter Wiener - Published on
I was born in Poland about the same time when Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister was born in Ukraine/Russia. I come from a religious, loving, warm, wealthy and close knit family; so was Nonna. I became a victim of Hitler's war of conquest, and Nonna became a victim of Stalin's communism and Hitler's fascism. Nonna and I were caught up in the horrors of World War II. There were different pitfalls on our way, but we did survive with stabbed souls and traumatic memories in forefront of our minds.

The Secret Holocaust Diaries were written on scraps of paper. Being a captive in slave and concentration camps, I could not record my experiences. I had no access to paper to write on, neither a pencil nor pen to write with. I am glad that Nonna, had the courage and the ability to write and keep her diaries. Thus, enabling contemporary and future generations to learn what dictatorship and racial prejudice may lead to. Any student learning the history of WWII, or individual, who remembers or witnessed the events of that tragic war, will benefit from reading this unusual book.

During the Third Reich's occupation of Poland, I saw the Germans looting, expropriating, beating, torturing, shooting, hanging, burning alive, starving innocent people. However, being enslaved in concentration camps for three years, I had no access to a newspaper or radio. Ergo, I could not have been aware of the many phenomenal events that took place, in and outside Poland, Russia or Germany as transmitted in Nonna's book.

Nonna saw a Jewish woman tossing her baby into Nonna's mother's arms. Later on that Jewish baby was taken away from her mother and Nonna watched a Nazi soldier killing that baby. What a traumatic experience this was for Nonna who was a young child at the time! I still have nightmares about the murder of my father when I was only thirteen years old.

Although I have, after the war, read many books about WWII, I find The Secret Holocaust Diaries, very informative, compelling and obviously authentic. How ironic and painful it is to read in (9/1/2009) NY Times, the seventieth anniversary of WWII outbreak, that Hamas leader, Yunis al-Astal had said "Adding the Holocaust to the curriculum would amount to marketing a lie and spreading it." This is a reckless prevarication unpalatable to Holocaust survivors. Nonna Bannister, a Christian, impacted by and witnessed atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, kept a diary of factual events in her life. She did not show her diary to anybody. For forty years, she was reluctant to share her traumatic past with her loving husband. Such diaries are obviously not lies.

I am grateful to Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister for her efforts to keep her diaries and to the editors, Carolyn Tomlin & Denise George, for the compilation. The atrocities that Nonna had experienced and witnessed had been committed against defenseless civilians from numerous nations. It corroborates that every Jew was a victim, but not every victim was a Jew. Racial prejudice is contagious. As a Jew, the Nazis categorized me as subhuman, (Untermentch). So were all Slavs, denizens of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia and other European countries. Hitler's imposition of a pernicious regime would not have stopped in Europe if the Allies had not won the war.

Alter Wiener, Author "From A Name to A Number"
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