Book Review: The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna BannisterThe Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister

The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister is the narrative of an adolescent Russian girl whose idyllic life is transformed by the horrors of the Second World War. Walks in the park with her mother, language lessons with her father, and holidays in ther grandmother's Great House come to an abrupt end as war comes to her family, separating them as they struggle to survive.

Nonna witnesses first-hand the abuse of starving, freezing German soldiers who stab her dead father through the chest as he lay in bed--after weeks of suffering from injuries inflicted by other German soldiers who had found him hiding in a tunnel connected to a root cellar at her grandmother's home.

Nonna and her mother, Anna, forage for food in the fields and make temporary homes in the abandoned houses of villages whose residents were driven out by retreating Russians or marauding Germans. They rescue a Jewish baby tossed onto a train by her mother only to witness the baby's murder as a Nazi soldier snaps the baby like a twig. They endure the indignities of life in slave labor camps. They are afforded a modicum of comfort when the Nazis discover Nonna's mother's talents as a painter, singer, and violinist. However, when Anna is too tired to perform any more, Gestapo agents break her arms and leave her without medical care.

Throughout the war, Nonna keeps her diaries secreted in a little down pillow that her grandmother had made for her. These diaries survive the war and travel to America with Nonna when she emigrates from Germany in 1950. She keeps to herself the stories they tell until late in her life, when she shares her own translations of them with her husband.

The sole member of her family to survive the war, Nonna becomes a wife and mother of three children in the US. She died in 2004.

Though the pages of these diaries are filled with horrors that defy the imagination, the fact of their being written by a teenaged girl who would go on to live a good and productive life shows that integrity and honesty can trump evil. That Nonna Bannister has the grace to forgive those men who savagely tore her life apart speaks to the power of the soul to heal itself by choosing grace.

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  1. these are typical and true stories of survivors.
    My Dad never said anything bad about the Germans because the Nazi's were bad but the people were good. Many of them feared the Nazi's as much as any one else and helped feed people who would otherwise die.
    They too risked their lives and hoped God would see them and show mercy to their sons fighting in other countries. Every Mother is the same.
    This is why when immigrants came to their new countries they vowed never to be hungry again and worked hard to make sure they had things to eat.

  2. wow, how sad a tale and that it is probably true...

  3. When I lived in Germany, I visited several of the sites of concentration camps that have been turned into museums and it was horrendous. You never forget the sights, the horror. Wonderful review.


  4. It is heartbreaking to read the tortures of wars but the second world war horrors defies any imagination! The strengths of people who braved the concentration camps is absolutely marvellous.

  5. This sounds fascinating.

  6. Yesterday, I searched and searched Amazon for something good to read. Finally, I did order something, but wish I had seen this first. It sounds like something I would like to read. I guess, I'll order it next time.

    Nice review. Thanks.

  7. The atrocities of war will at all times move me and make me sad. I have read Anne Franks diary and I think this must be a very similar story, from another angle.
    Once long time ago I saw the movie "The Truce" with John Turturro. Incredibly well made and quiet unknown piece, I can highly recommend, even though it is very sad.

  8. That sounds like a powerful book.

  9. that sounds heartbreaking, but that is such a powerful book.

  10. Your review alone brings tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine how strong Nonna had to be to survive and triumph.


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