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The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,927 Ratings  ·  655 Reviews
Nonna Bannister carried a secret almost to her Tennessee grave: the diaries she kept as a young girl experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust while learning compassion and love for her fellow human beings. Nonna's writings tell the remarkable tale of how a Russian girl, born into a family that had known wealth and privileges, was exposed to the concentration camps and lea ...more
Hardcover, 299 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Tyndale House Publishers
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Elaine Shircliff How old are the kids? I think it would be a great book to read together and create dialogue about. In fact, any book about social justice issues…moreHow old are the kids? I think it would be a great book to read together and create dialogue about. In fact, any book about social justice issues should be read together so everyone can talk about what happened. Things like the Holocaust are heavy for adults let alone children. It's good to keep the conversation open and flowing. (less)
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Apr 26, 2011 Ashley rated it really liked it
I think a lot of people are too critical of this book. Please understand before reading it that this is NOT going to be similar it the diary of Anne Frank because Nonna is not Jewish and is not being pursued and persecuted because of her faith. This is the diary of a privileged young Russian girl whose family survives the Russian Revolution, endures Stalin's rule, German's invasion and occupation of Russia and the Holocaust. As a Russian, Nonna is not subjected to the concentration camps but rat ...more
Feb 14, 2012 Ashley rated it really liked it
I finished reading “The Secret Holocaust Diaries” by Nonna Bannister today. It was not what I had expected it to be but I was pleasantly surprised.

I had expected it to be similar to “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank but it wasn’t, and for very good reasons. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who was hiding from the German Nazi’s to avoid being sent to concentration camps and, ultimately, her death. Nonna Bannister was a young privileged Russian girl who is caught up in the German invasio
The title is a misnomer: very little of this book is diary entries. Almost all of it is memoirs written by Nonna Bannister decades after World War II, along with poems she wrote in her youth. Historical notes attempt to add context to Bannister's disjointed and at times confusing narrative.

I didn't find this book to be all that interesting. Bannister writes in great detail about her happy childhood in a wealthy, educated Russian/Polish family, but practically skims over her experiences as a slav
Aug 10, 2011 Vonette rated it liked it
I hate to give this book less than 4 stars because I really think people should read it. The story of Nonna's life is worth hearing. I am glad that I read the book and hope others will as well. There is much to learn from history, and I definitely learned some history (particularly about Russia) which I did not know.

Having said that, I have to also agree with a number of other reviewers that the editing of the book could have been better. Some of the insertions seem to simply repeat much of wha
Susy Flory
Sep 04, 2009 Susy Flory rated it it was amazing
Tea with Nonna: I bought The Secret Holocaust Diaries a few weeks ago and started reading it. What an amazing book! Nonna Bannister was a gifted young Russian girl from a loving, warm, and wealthy family. Caught up in the horror of World War II, she watched everything and everyone she knew and loved disintegrate before her eyes. Yet Nonna miraculously survived, with her faith intact and her secret diaries hidden away, known only to her until recently. What is most astonishing to me was Nonna's l ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I think the best way to appreciate this book is to go into it knowing that the title is misleading. For the most part this is not really diaries. It's a story she reconstructed much later in her life from some diary entries, filled in with her memories of the events and reflection on them many years later.

If you think your friends will never get around to reading the books you've suggested to them, be patient. My Goo Dreads friend Chris recommended this book to me in April of 2011. I read it in
FREE EBOOK ON KINDLE. Non-fiction holocaust memior. Currently down from the regular price of 12.99. Get it HERE. Probably won't be free for long.
The only reason why I am giving this book four stars is because the Kindle edition, at least, lacks the photos that are constantly mentioned. I'm not sure if the photos were included in the print edition of the book nor am I sure why the Kindle edition couldn't use them because of the material that does appear in the appendix. But honestly, if you keep mentioning photos in the notes, you should include the photos.

Nonna Bannister was a Russian, who may or may not have been of Jewish heritage. She
Feb 21, 2012 Rickhow rated it it was ok
I see from all the reviews people loved this book. I am not one. I did not dislike it but it seems to me people just loved it because it is the politically correct view to say anything about the Holocaust is a great book. I am Jewish. I read everything I can get my hands on concerning the subject, but that is exactly what I did not like about this book, it is NOT about the Holocaust except in one or two very minor "chapters". The Holocaust was about the incarceration and murder of millions of pe ...more
Jun 14, 2011 Chrissie rated it really liked it


This book recounts the life of Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister. It is another biography based on a woman living through the holocaust. However, Nonna is not Jewish. She was raised according to the practises of the Russian Orthodox Church. Her grandfather was a Cossack and although he dies rather early on in the story, her grandmother plays a central role in the early years of Nonna's life. There are two central themes, the wonderful memories of her young childhood spent with her family
Apr 15, 2013 Alisha rated it did not like it
I hate to say this about a book with a historical significance like this one, but I found it utterly boring. I honestly don't think it was the author Nonna's fault, as it seemed like most the material given would have made a good story. Rather it was all the tedious, unnecessary inserts, and the odd way it was put together. I would have liked to see things from the beginning of her childhood toward the end, instead of jumping from event to event whenever the editor saw fit. It also felt like a l ...more
Etta Mcquade
Feb 07, 2012 Etta Mcquade rated it really liked it
Many people may not be aware that non-Jews were Holocaust victims, such as Nonna Bannister, a Russian girl who was imprisoned in German labor camps with her mother, who later was transferred to a concentration camp where she was burned to death in an oven. Her father was brutally killed by Nazi soldiers in Russia. What's amazing about Nonna is that she kept a diary from the time she was nine years old and still in Russia, hidden under her clothes and tied around her waist in a small pillow, even ...more
Natalie Vellacott
Apr 16, 2016 Natalie Vellacott rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-christian
I found this hard to follow. Nonna Bannister was born into a relatively wealthy Russian family. Several of her family members were killed during the German ww2 occupation and Nonna and her mother decide therefore to flee to Nazi Germany (presumably not knowing what was going on there.) They end up working in a labour camp alongside Jews and Poles. They witness the serious atrocities at the hands of the Nazis. At the end of WW2 Nonna is the sole survivor of her family and she moves to America whe ...more
Apr 13, 2010 Janna rated it it was amazing
I often times hesitate to review non-fiction books because they take me a lot longer to read than fiction books do, they just tend to slow down the rapid rate at which I zip through books. Until now. This may be one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read.

This is the gripping true story of Nonna Bannister and her survival of the Holocaust during WWII as a Russian (though there are strong suspicions that her father had Jewish blood). Her family lost everything and she and her mom ended u
Apr 07, 2010 Renee rated it liked it
I jumped on this book when it was offered because it's very possible that my ancestors suffered similar atrocities. My maternal grandmother's side of the family is Carpatho-Rusyn from an area that is now Slovakia. I am uncertain of the origin of my maternal grandfather's family - he always said Russian but I've been unable to find immigration records to verify the information. While my immediate family didn't suffer, they came to America soon after the turn of the 20th century, it's possible tha ...more
Feb 13, 2012 Sheri rated it it was ok
Shelves: wwii, nonfiction, race certainly feels like one can't critique a diary of a young girl during WWII; and yet, this book was really quite terrible. I blame the editors. There was so much repetition (and yet so much still missing). We hear several stories twice; the editors feel the need to insert footnotes within the text (rather than the more standard bottom of the page or end of the book); and these footnotes very rarely add anything...they most often just paraphrase what Nonna has already said. I understand ...more
Jan 07, 2015 Monique rated it liked it
Upon first glimpse of the synopsis of The Secret Holocaust Diaries one is reminded of Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. While there are some similarity between the two there also are vast differences. The first being that Nonna Bannister was a Russian Christian and Anne Franks was a Jew. The second is that Bannister lived to write and revise her story while Frank did not.

The Secret Holocaust Diaries is a tale of how a young girl survives not only World War II but also the early years of Communi
Jan 12, 2012 Misfit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Misfit by: Michele
Nonna Lisowskaya, a refugee from Soviet Russia, arrived in the US in the 1950's and quickly married. Many years later she showed her husband the diaries and notes she'd kept as a young girl in Russia. Nonna's family was a privileged one, but even they couldn't escape unscathed as WWII escalates. First the Soviets come looting the countryside, and then Hitler's forces arrive to take what little food and fuel is left. Having given up the *opportunity* to evacuate with the retreating Russian forces ...more
Nonna Bannister left behind the horrors of her European childhood when she relocated to the United States alone. Having lost all of her family, including her brother Anatoly with whom she was quite close to the Nazi regime, Nonna closed the door on her life in Europe and started afresh in the United States. Throughout her marriage, the birth of her children, and her latter years, she did not speak of the immense cruelty she suffered at the hands of the Germans, however one day, she opened her se ...more
Nov 06, 2014 Loraine rated it really liked it
This non-fiction book reminded me of The Diaries of Anne Frank. Nonna was the daughter of a wealthy Russian family. She began keeping a diary at the age of 9. This diary covers her early life and her mother's extended family after the Russian Revolution through the loss of all of her family during World War II. After the war, Nonna emigrated to the US, married and raised a family. During that period she hid all her writings, photographs and stories (written in 6 different languages as Nonna was ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Bridget rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
With a more heavy-handed editor, I think this book could have been outstanding. As it is, it's only pretty dang good. I understand the editors' wish to leave the source material alone as much as possible (these are literally scraps of diaries written by a young Russian girl during WWII, plus later recollections written by her over her lifetime), but it made for a sometimes confusing read. This issue of not quite knowing what/when/who I was reading was compounded by the fact that in my Kindle ver ...more
I was reluctant to read this book because I didnt' want to be sad, but I really liked the way the she emphasized the good amidst the horror. It was very uplifting to know that this woman lived a good, positive life in spite of all the horror that happened to her because of the strong faith shown her by her grandmother and the positive attitude of her parents.
Born into wealth and privileged in present-day Ukraine, Nonna Bannister is persecuted by the Soviets for being wealthy and, later, by the Nazis for being Russian. Nonna keeps a diary throughout her childhood carrying the tiny scraps of paper through the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and then to her new life in the United States in a small pouch.

This book, however, is not a reprint of her diary but rather a memoir rewritten on yellow, legal pads decades after the war and long after Nonn
Nikole Hahn
May 08, 2012 Nikole Hahn rated it it was amazing
“Most of the young people were being watched, and the children in school were being taught that there is no God.” – Page 46

Nonna Bannister was born to wealthy parents in the Ukraine during Stalin’s Soviet Union. She kept her diaries sewn into the hems of her clothing and in a pillow her grandmother gave to her (Nonna was later buried with it in America). She was a holocaust survivor saved only by the mercy of God.

This book is a collection of stories compiled by her husband and children. Parts of
Christine Rebbert
Apr 16, 2011 Christine Rebbert rated it really liked it
It's always difficult to say something such as you "liked" or "enjoyed" a book about the Holocaust. I actually had read this a few years back and forgotten about it until a couple days ago, when I was on some other book website and saw the picture of the book -- and those haunting eyes brought the memory back...

The book is basically what its title suggests it is. Nonna and her mother are taken to the camps, and she manages to obtain little scraps of paper and pencil to keep a diary of her time t
Clockstein Lockstein
Apr 12, 2010 Clockstein Lockstein rated it it was amazing

The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister with Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin is an important record of a tragic era in human history. Nonna Lisowskaja was born into a prominent Russian family who thrived on their history as well as the arts. Her parents doted on both her and elder brother Anatoly, but she was born at a dangerous time. Russia had recently come under control of Joseph Stalin and families like hers were being rooted out and killed as dissidents. Nonna began a diary at the
Lynn Dove
Apr 11, 2012 Lynn Dove rated it really liked it
Married for well over 50 years, Nonna has kept a secret hidden from her entire family. Written memories locked away and sewn inside a tattered pillow case are suddenly brought to light as Nonna shares her past with her husband and children. Raised in a well-to-do Russian family, the quiet life of a young girl is torn apart when Germany invades Poland.

Trying to flee persecution not only from the Russians because of her family's ties to Csarist Russia, as well as the Germans as they eradicate all
Jennie Dopp
Jan 12, 2012 Jennie Dopp rated it really liked it
This book was a bit different than other Holocaust accounts I've read. We know the Holocaust impacted many types of people including those who where not Jewish. This is just one account of a non-Jewish survivor.

It was interesting to read the author’s perspective as a Russian during the war and her interactions with the German Army. Nonna and her family had some connections that benefited them, however they still experienced great hardship and loss. If this was their account of the war, I can onl
E.B. Loan
Jul 01, 2011 E.B. Loan rated it it was amazing
This story follows the life of Nonna Bannister. Her hand written notes, transcribed into a story, taken after her death to a publisher. Wow. It is amazing. The story itself--gut wrenching. True. Unbearable at times. The history & timeline are unwound and even challenged at times, by the publisher/'author'. I read this book on the airport. It was so good, so totally spellbinding, that I could not put it down until the very end.
Even after the war, when Nonna is safe & sound,
Sep 08, 2011 thewanderingjew rated it really liked it
Browsing through my Nook and Kindle books, I came across this one on my Nook, and I decided to have a look at it. After reading barely 40 pages, I was so sad that I had to stop for awhile, but I knew that if I didn't read this one, in one sitting, I might never return to it because of the extreme emotions it aroused in me.

First, I know that there are many who say people were just not aware of what was happening in Europe during the war. Second, there are many who say that it wasn't only the Jews
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