Bannister-Nonna, Collected Works, History, Memoir, Non-Fiction

#60 The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister


If you’re looking for a rather short memoir about the Holocaust this is a good one to read, especially if you’re a bit squeamish because there isn’t much brutality depicted in this book.

This book was compiled from Nonna’s own diaries that she kept since she was a little girl. It is obviously not her complete diaries the book would have been much longer. The primary information came from a small diary that Nonna carried with her through out all of her trials in a small pillow she had sewn.

Nonna kept her life a secret up into her old age. Until she was an old woman her husband never really knew about her past. Her children never knew it either.

Nonna came from a wealthy Russian/Ukrainian family. Her family was so wealthy that they owned a 37 room house in addition to multiple other homes. Her family had been loyal to the Czar’s in Russia before their murder and overthrow. Nonna gives a little background information on this.

Nonna then starts to tell of how her older brother was sent away when things started to heat up in Russia. Then they moved back into the grandmother’s house. Her father was beaten and then died from his wounds in the town where the grandmother lived.

Eventually, Nonna and her mother are transferred to a work camp. They suffer through horrible conditions, although the conditions are not as bad as what Jewish people suffer. Nonna got by relatively easy compared to the Jewish population. Nonna even suspects that her father is from a Jewish family since her father never talked about his family and he taught Nonna Yiddish.

In the end, Nonna is the only remaining member of her family. This is a result that so many people faced at the end of WWII.

What I liked: It was a short simple account of a wealthy Russian family during WWII. I had never read any account of that before and it was educational. Russia intrigues me to an extent because I have never read many books placed in Russia. I would like to read more because it’s interesting.

What I didn’t like: There is some poetry in the book written by Nonna. It’s just not that great. I know any greatness it probably ever had been lost in translation. Nonna spoke seven differently languages. Her diaries were kept in many languages for fear that she would be discovered.

After the first couple of poems, I skipped over the rest of the poems in the book.

Another thing I didn’t like was the layout of the book. After ever chapter, before every section, and other various places in the book there is this graphic, which I assume is supposed to be the cloth that Nonna made her pillow out of. This may be a nice effect in the print version, but in the Kindle version it’s a pain in the butt. No one wants to click one page, see a full-page graphic which isn’t even an illustration, then flip another page to see a title, then flip another page to see another graphic. It’s not a practical layout.

Since this is a memoir, I also assume that the print version probably has pictures of Nonna’s life. Multiple photos were mentioned, but only one photo was ever included in the text. I wanted to see the photos referred to in the text. If they exist they should have been included in the text. I know there is this trend to remove images from Kindle books, but that just isn’t cool. I know they take up more space on the Kindle, but if they are removed something from the book is lost. An author or editor or whoever intends certain images to appear certain places in a book and it’s just not the same if they’re not there.

Nonna had a hard life, but it wasn’t that hard compared to many others. I am glad she finally gave her husband and family permission to share her story after her death. I do have this give this book a “thumbs down” on appearance and layout though.


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