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"