The Secret Holocaust Diaries: Nonna Bannister

The railways leading to Auschwitz via The Guardian.
The Secret Holocaust Diaries.
The Holocaust is something that I am deeply moved by.

It’s something that has forever intrigued me and has drawn my attention since I was old enough to be aware of it.

As many of you may know, I love reading and I am always on the hunt for a new read. My favorite type of books are biographies or memoirs because they have a reality to them, a human sentiment of experiences that are either close to home or something that is completely foreign to the reader.

I also enjoy watching the History Channel and have watched many documentaries about the Holocaust and have been deeply move to tears for the absolute horrors that they faced.

On ALL sides.

To me, war never benefits anyone–at least not for long. To some it’s a necessary means to accomplish goals, people then become numbers–collateral damage.

Even until this day.

Due to my ancestry and heritage, I have no direct ties to the nightmare that thousands suffered many moons ago. At least none that I know of, though my own history holds ties to our own civil war. There are things that my own parents will never forget witnessing because of it either. That’s why I am forever grateful to them and I appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that they made to give us freedom and a better chance here in Canada.

Nevertheless, it never ceases to quench my insatiable thirst to KNOW more, to FEEL more and to be more sensitive to human emotions and to be sympathetic regardless of where I was born, what I believe or the color of my skin.

Just yesterday I downloaded a book about the Holocaust on my Kindle app, it was about a Russian girl who tells her horrific story through her survival of the Holocaust, the horrors she witnessed, the ailments she endured and the loss of her ENTIRE family. She also tells of the happy times that she shared with her family.

I couldn’t put the book down.

I finished it not less than an hour ago.

The story is vivid. Real and a must-read.

The book is named, “The Secret Holocaust Diaries” by Nonna Bannister. It is a collection of her diaries that she wrote in 5 different languages and translated herself. After World War II was over, she moved to the US and married and lived an entire life of freedom never to tell about her past until she felt she was ready to share her ancestry with her children and her husband of over 50 years.

In this book, Nonna shares the beautiful memories she shared with her Grandmother, parents, only sibling and her Aunts and Uncle. Hired hand and friend, Petrovich. She paints a picture of how terribly the war ravaged the Jewish people as well as all in the Soviet. Even the Germans themselves.

It paints a perfect picture of the inhumanity that Stalin and Hitler shared and imposed on the innocent and their own people. There are thousands effected by this tragedy and genocide. Jehovah Witnesses suffered greatly for not denouncing their faith. Russians, Ukrainians and Poles were killed for being sympathetic to the Jewish or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Humanity at it’s worst.
Nonna in later years.
Nonna’s secret revelations that remained secret for decades are riveting.

I wanted to share this book with you guys because it’s truly a story that needs to be told. I’ve read many books and have seen so many stories and I am always touched.

But, this story has really strung a cord.

What the Jewish people and those who were pushed into this chaos and injustice suffered truly makes me appreciate my everyday blessings. The things and luxuries that we take for granted. It makes me grateful for the freedom we are gifted with and it gives me great sympathy for those who will do not know what freedom is present day.

I am thankful I can raise my children in freedom and I choose to not forget.

With my work, I have taken care of people from both sides, I take care of patients who were in the German army and I’ve seen a Jewish patient’s branded skin. I have heard them relive those horrific moments once there memories go and revert to a time’s past.

That’s why I choose to remember this and every horrible thing that mankind has done to another because these people should not have had to suffer in vain.

Anyway, I was always taught those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Here is her husband speaking about Nonna, his wife:

What are your thoughts, friends?

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  1. my parents went to Auschwitz a couple of years ago, my mom couldn't go in. She got off the bus, looked at the gates and buildings and cried. Frozen in her tracks, she stood there and bawled. My husband's parents were Ukrainian Jews who escaped to Canada shortly before Poland was captured.

    I am going to have to find that book! I wonder if it's on Kobo?

    1. That is very emotional. I don't blame her for not wanting to go in, that place is an awful reminder of the horrific experience people were unjustly put through.

      I'm sure it's on Kobo but, I got it on Kindle.

  2. I read this when it first came out in 2010. Well written. Heart wrenching, as you'd expect from something covering the holocaust, but also extremely interesting. The pre-holocaust accounts of life in Russia were fascinating. Nonna was a remarkable woman, one who's story will haunt me forever.

    1. Very much agree, I was surprised and very excited that Nonna's son emailed me and thanked me for reviewing the book. He said he is glad that his mother is able to touch so many people in different ways. I told him that Nonna definitely touched my life.

  3. I too am very interested in this piece of history, it's just unbelievable. Am so happy that there were those like Nonna who told the real story of what was happening to them.

  4. This book sounds so good! I'm really interested in the Holocaust as well – Treblinka is one of my favourite books, as is Night by Elie Weisel.

  5. This book looks really interesting. In 2009 I was visiting Poland with a boyfriend (now my ex, but anyway) because his family was from there. We went on a tour of Auschwitz and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. It was humbling and emotional, and such an amazing piece of history to see in person. Everything is preserved, I stood at those railway tracks in your first image there… took my own photo of that spot. It was a historical site I will never forget visiting.

  6. Wow Shash, I don't blame your mom for not going into Auschwitz. I'm sure I'd of thrown up. It's horrifying to think of the atrocities that occured. It's a good thing that books like this are around though. People need to know and remember!

    1. Me too, I completely agree. I'm glad that they wrote memoirs and diaries to document what should never be repeated again.

  7. I just finished reading this book i downloaded from the sony e book store. I was intrigued by Nonna Bannister picture on the cover of her book and decided to read it. Her life story is really compelling and very dramatic. I had to remind myself every so often that this was a true and this really happened to her. I admire her courage in dealing with all the horrific experiences of her early childhood. It's a great read. I would highly recommend it.

  8. I think this book should be read in classrooms. As a child we read The Diary of Anne Frank
    and because of it it opened our eyes to the horrific histoy of the holocaust. Nonna was right, keep history alive… as horrible it may have been…. it happened. It make me think… has the horrors of the holocaust become just another page in the wind?

    1. So very true Jenny, I really hope not. Nonna\’s story is resounding and life-changing. It really changed the perspective on the Holocaust, how it affected ALL.

  9. I find these kind of books about what people went through in the Holocaust really moving and horrifying at the same time. It seems incredible that it was allowed to happen and that so few knew what was really going on. I had tears in my eyes just reading this blog, we must never forget and such atrocitites and genocide must be stopped.

    1. Me too, it is is beyond me that something like this happened. We need to keep teaching this and never forget.

  10. I find books about the Holocaust,just so moving and upsetting,its hard to believe that HUMANS could do this to brothers/sisters

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