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Once We Were Brothers

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  11,370 ratings  ·  1,566 reviews
The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust.

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as prepos
ebook, 400 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 2010)
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Susan Segal
Once We Were Brothers - to begin with - was edited by someone without an understanding of punctuation, especially interjections. That aside, if you have never heard of the Holocaust and need a quick but somewhat flawed understanding of the Holocaust in Poland during WWII and do not mind mixing your genocide with a modern day is-he-a-Nazi or isn't-he-a-Nazi accusation that involves a young lawyer and her soon to be SPOILER ALERT..... lover P.I., then perhaps you will not find this book too offens ...more
Tina Galli
In reading the reviews for this well written first novel I am totally aghast at the low scores that people are giving this outstanding novel! I have written better reviews for books that are not even in the realm of this book. Well written and historically accurate, the book gets into to your soul and you cannot put it down. I read the entire 389 page book in less than 20 hours! This book was not at all what I was expecting but as I read more of it I became totally absorbed and engrossed not onl ...more
Really this is only a 1 1/2 star book and the half star is only because the concept of the story is intriguing. Sadly the execution of telling the story is terrible. This book reads like a cheesy predictable soap opera. The characters are flat and under developed. In fact most of the characters seem like the same person with different lines. The "amazing" lawyer who solves the case and saves the day is portrayed as dimwitted and an emotional wreck. As a reader I'm supposed to believe that this h ...more
I’m not inclined to pan a book, but here goes...

At a very public event Ben Solomon, an 83-year old Polish concentration camp survivor living in Chicago, attacks Elliot Rosenzweig, a Chicago philanthropist. Solomon claims that Rosenzweig is really Otto Piatek, a Nazi who stole Solomon’s family’s treasures. To complicate matters, Piatek was Solomon’s adoptive brother, left with Solomon’s Jewish family by Piatek’s down-on-their-luck gentile parents. In spite of hundreds of witnesses, Rosenzweig ref
This book reads like a screenplay, and I want to bet it becomes a movie. I believe Chicago lawyer mr. Balson has the wherewithal to make it happen. It's called a "legal thriller". The thrill is perhaps in going through WWII with Ben. We go back and forth in time as Ben tells his story to convince a young attorney than a very rich and prominent Chicago philanthropist is in reality a childhood friend of Ben's named Otto Piatek, who was abandoned by his parents and went to live with Ben's family. B ...more
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
“We must never allow the world to forget." Page 179

That quote says it all, and Ben Solomon vowed to follow through on this edict, and he definitely was following through.

ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS is a powerful, well-researched first novel that will have you glued to the pages as Ben tells his story of hatred, horror, and the annihilation of his and other Jewish families during WWII.

Telling the story of the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Poland was stressful for the 83-year-old main character, Ben
I signed up for a chance to receive an advance readers' copy of Once We Were Brothers through Good Reads and was lucky enough to be sent a copy. The opening scene immediately grabbed me as an octogenarian dressed for his first trip to an opening night opera gala that he had paid $500 for but didn't plan to sit through. He, instead, tucked a German Luger into his cumberbund and headed to the formal reception preceding the performance. Although I made rather slow progress through roughly 3/4 of th ...more
Say you just got back from the grocery store after witnessing a bickering couple argue to the point of near-violence. You want to tell someone, so you call up a friend. How would you tell the story? You might start by indicating how unnerved the incident left you and let them know the general shape of what happened. You might say 'I just had the most horrible experience at the store and I'm a little shook up. There was this couple there and they were shouting at each other, I thought they were g ...more
Once we were brothers by Ronald H. Balson is a novel with a compelling plot about two boys and a family that struggles to survive in war-torn Poland. It is also the story of a young lawyer who must face not only a powerful adversary, but her own self doubts. Two lives, two worlds and sixty years all on course to collide in a fast paced legal thriller.

The book's premise is extremely compelling, and the shifting events from present-day Chicago to war torn Poland and back create an interesting narr
Shari Dolinsky
A Must Read for anyone interested in the Holocaust. One of my favorites!! As written on Amazon......From Nazi-occupied Poland to a Chicago courtroom Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser, Ben Solomon, is convinced he is right. Solomon urges attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his c ...more
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Ben Solomon accuses one of the richest, most philanthropic men in Chicago of being the Nazi, Otto Pietak. He gets a lawyer, Catherine, to bring a law suit against Mr. Rosenzweig. In a very deliberate way, over a period of several weeks he reveals to her what exactly Pietak did and why he wants justice after so many years. It turns out that Ben's family raised Otto when his parents all but abandoned him and encouraged him to become a Nazi to help their family from the inside. But Otto became enam ...more
This book was such a complete surprise. A truly compelling tale. I could not put it down. I know that this is one of those books that will always stay with me. I will remember the characters years from now. I know it is fiction, but the author's descriptions of Poland before and during WWII are so well written, you just know there was tons of research. I am amazed at the layers in the story. It's a love story, historical novel, a legal thriller and a mystery. And the themes that run through the ...more
Gail Herman
I have read dozens of Holocaust books and found this novel to be well written and captivating. The author presented this story providing the reader with accurate and detailed background details of what happened during this horrific period in history. For readers who know little of the Holocaust as well as for readers who DO know of the Holocaust, the author paints a picture of survival, determination and love. Ben Solomon is an amiable man and is well read and intelligent. He illustrates determi ...more
Jan Rice
A Scheherazade plot that draws you in, culminating in a legal thriller. Dollops of history that go down easily with the action. What's not to like?

Well, for starters, some pretty bad writing. For example, violation of what I call the "guffaw principle," by which I mean that if an author latches onto a word like "guffaw," or maybe it's some unhappy phrase that's repeated, it is going to be an irritant. Then there are characters who are more types than individuals and who are made to give voice to
Chrissy (The Every Free Chance Reader)
Did I enjoy this book: I did not.

About five years ago I stumbled across a wonderful little Jewish Deli in Pittsburgh, PA. I chatted with the elderly spitfire of a clerk behind the counter before deciding on my order. When I saw his hand reach for the cash register, I winced. For the first time in my life I saw the obscene green numbers tattooed on the inside of someone’s forearm. I immediately knew what they were. I’d read about them in school but seeing them on a living, breathing, human bundle
I heard that they are making a movie out of this book and I think that it will make a good one! I could not give it 5 stars because there were one or two plot holes/ far- fetched elements. However, I decided to give it 4 stars because I could not put it down and I haven't said that about a book in a very long time!
Karen Wyle
My mother, who barely escaped prewar Poland, recommended this book for its historical accuracy. I trust her assessment, and the book certainly paints a detailed and vivid picture of a way of life and its destruction. My mother was less concerned with the book's merit as a novel -- which is where, for me, it falls somewhat short.

There are two timelines, and the historical narrative is by far the better of the two, though the device of having it told in the present does not always work well. The c
Debbie Shoulders
Ben Solomon risks everything to expose Jewish financiar and philanthropist Elliott Rosenzweig as an escaped Nazi, Otto Piatek, the "Butcher of Zamosc." Soloman's lawyer Catherine is also taking a risk in her comeback career in taking on old man who seems to have nothing but memories.

What might be a great premise is bogged down. Catherine must not have taken any history classes in her formal education allowing Ben to not only tell his story but the story of many Polish Jews to increase her unders
I was really looking forward to reading this, however, the story and its characters lacked feeling. About 3/4 of the way through I did finally glimpse some of the emotion that I was looking for. The premise was a really good one, I just really was expecting it to grab me and, sadly, it didn't.
Once We Were Brothers is a distressing and deeply emotional novel; one that readers should expect to bring forth plenty of tears and heartache. In Pre-World War II Poland Otto Piatek’s mother has abandoned her family and his father is struggling to find work. Abandoned at the home of Abraham and Leah Solomon, a kind and generous Jewish family, Otto is raised as a member of the Solomon family – a brother to Ben and Rebecca. Years later Otto’s parents, having reunited, return to claim their son an ...more
I've read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction, set in this time period and this just failed to pack a comparable punch. The premise was good and the ideas for characters were good, but the characters themselves were one-dimensional. I didn't feel much for any of them, which is pretty unfortunate in a Holocaust tale. I also didn't care at all for the structure of the book. It was told in flashback from the point of view of the central character, but the author chose to do this with const ...more
Joey Chanin
Ronald H. Balson's Once We Were Brothers is a riveting tale of an elderly, middle-class holocaust survivor who accuses a millionaire, egocentric, yet generous philanthropist of belonging to the vicious Nazi Regime, the most evil, corruptive force the world has ever seen. The story delves into an exhilarating exposition in which Benjamin Solomon, the nearly eighty-year old survivor, armed with a pistol, confronts his prominent defendant, Elliot Rosenwieg, at an elegant banquet and claims he is O ...more
4.5 stars.

**Received from GoodReads first reads giveaway.

I really enjoyed this book about Ben Solomon, a Polish Holocaust Survivor who goes to the opera and puts a gun to the head of Elliot Rosenzweig whom he really believes is Nazi Otto Piatek. Ben and Otto have a past - they once lived in the same home. Otto having been taken in my Ben's family. The story is told in a series of flashbacks and during interviews with attorney Catherine Lockhart who is listening to Ben's tale to see if he has a
I was surprised at how much I loved this book. It engaged me from beginning to end. Although a work of fiction, I truly hope that many stories like that of Ben & Hannah, survived the Holocaust. What I liked most, was the pace at which the author wrote the book. Towards the end I kept wondering how the book would wrap up when I only had 50 pages or so left. How would the author bring it all together with so few pages to go! Those last and most significant pages, took me about 10 minutes to re ...more
I think that this book is superbly written. It is really two stories, the first a tale of Nazi genocide in Europe, the second a legal battle to prove that an esteemed Jewish benefactor is not who he says he is. I feared that the Holocaust scenes would be depressing, and they were not pretty. But the book does show the best and the worst in humanity and the legal profession. By the end of the book, you will feel uplifted and perhaps in tears.

Once you start this book, make no other plans. You will
flat characters in a fiction story trying to be informative. How does an intelligent woman to through college and law school and not know what a ghetto is or how ghetto fit into WWII?. Why would she give so many hours to hearing the most drawn out story in history? Not a good book
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson. Well researched and could be the story of a number of people, only most would not have been a major criminal, I wouldn't think anyway. A lot of people came over after the war. And alot of people married service people and came back to make their homes and raise their families here. And there have been others, too. And I guess Argentina has very well noted for welcoming former Nazi's. The line is thin, I'm sure. When it comes to your own survival or that ...more
Ben Solomon, an elderly retiree, threatens a city scion (Elliot Rosenzweig) with a gun, accusing him of being Nazi killer, Otto Piatek, known as the "Butcher of Zamosc". Introduced by a mutual friend, litigator Catherine Lockhart agrees to listen to Ben's rambling story, which starts with Otto being raised by his family when his parents could not afford to feed him. The story itself was very emotional: Ben's family, his all-conquering love for his deceased wife, Catherine's decision to quit her ...more
I should, perhaps, precede this review by stating that I listened to this story on audiobook. The narrator was very engaging and made the story come alive. Set partially in war-ravaged Poland, during the second World War, and partially in modern day America, this is a story of a former Jewish prisoner who is trying to bring to justice one of his former tormentors, known during the Reich's heyday as The Butcher of Zamosc. Although a work of fiction, the stories of everyday horror and unspeakable ...more
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The author, Ronald H. Balson, is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues, including villages in Poland which have inspired the novel Once We Were Brothers.
More about Ronald H. Balson...
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“Find a reason to turn your nose up at a culture, to denigrate a people because they are different, and it's not such a giant leap from ethnic subjugation to ethnic slaughter” 1 likes
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