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Once We Were Brothers (Liam and Catherine #1)

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  22,439 Ratings  ·  2,512 Reviews
FromNazi-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 Catherin ...more
Paperback, 379 pages
Published February 15th 2010 by Berwick Court Publishing Co.
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Lydia Hodgins There is kind of a sequel. It is called, "Saving Sophie." It isn't about the holocaust but it has some of the same characters. I would recommend it.
S. J. Since mine was one of those that gave it 2 stars, I'd have to disagree. There are much better books about the Holocaust out there.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Tina Galli
Dec 26, 2013 Tina Galli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 04, 2013 Susan rated it did not like it
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
Aug 13, 2013 Chelsea rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2013
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
Aug 23, 2014 Joe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Nov 04, 2013 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

SENSATIONAL... it would make a fabulous movie. Took me a while to get into it, but after the midpoint, I couldn't put it down. Well done. And the narrator was fantastic.
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
Jul 29, 2013 Peter rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-thriller
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
Lewis Weinstein
A compelling read. Several issues raised by Balson resonate sharply with me as I work through similar issues in my own new novel.


,,, Ben hates his former friend and "brother" Otto for failing to save his parents and others from Nazi torture and murder but gives no credence to the enormous risks Otto did take to save Ben and his wife, the unsuccessful but still substantial efforts Otto made on behalf of others, and the numerous warnings he made for all of them to
Apr 12, 2012 Grkchkruns rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 04, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 24, 2012 Dem rated it it was ok
Shelves: ww2
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
Aug 30, 2013 Deb rated it really liked it
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
Shari Dolinsky
Aug 28, 2012 Shari Dolinsky rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 21, 2016 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
One of the best audio books I have listened to. I loved this book and would classify as a WWII Crime Thriller. I look forward to more in this series.
Gail Herman
Aug 23, 2012 Gail Herman rated it it was amazing
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
May 08, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 20, 2014 Natalie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 18, 2017 Jenna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED THIS BOOK! Ben was such a dear heart! The way this story unfolded was like a historical fiction, courtroom thriller. It was so good!
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
Feb 01, 2015 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kristina McMorris
Apr 16, 2013 Kristina McMorris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gripping read with a brilliant premise that kept me guessing until the end.
Terri Lynn
This is a beautiful and powerful story based on the reality of what happened in the city of Zamosc, Poland in the 1930's and 1940's when Hitler rose to power in Germany and began the persecution of Jews in Europe. It is quite different in the way it covers the material. Ben Solomon and his Jewish family took in a Gentile child named Otto Piatek and raised him as their own son from 1933 on because his father was out of work and the German mom left Poland for her native Germany. The Solomon father ...more
Another lawyer turned writer

It took me a while to get into this novel. The characters were not coming across with any authenticity. The story at times seemed unrealistic. The present day setting ... not the historical past. However, at about the midpoint this turned into quite "I cannot put it down" and "one more chapter" book.

Elliot Rosenzweig is a wealthy Chicago philanthropist and is attending the opening night at the opera when Ben Solomon, a retired Polish immigrant, makes his way through t
Jan 25, 2013 Dee rated it really liked it
Shelves: january-2013
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
Debbie Shoulders
Mar 08, 2013 Debbie Shoulders rated it it was ok
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
Nov 25, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jan 07, 2017 Asha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I was a little surprised with the way the story was told. Actually, it was like there was a story within the book. The story part is narrated by Ben Solomon, a Holocaust survivor suing a man named Elliot Rosenzweig, a proclaimed Holocaust survivor as well; however, Solomon claims that Rosenzweig is actually Otto Piatek, a German boy who was raised as a member of the Solomon household and later, after donning the suit of the Reich, brought about the deaths of the family members and took their mon


Le cose cambiano e anche le persone

“Più grande è la bugia, più persone ci cascano.”
Dalla folle idea di Adolf Hitler alle tristi pagine di storia che tutti conosciamo e che ancora offrono spunti interessanti per la narrativa contemporanea in grado di tenere vivo il ricordo di quel periodo, mediante romanzi che ci permettono di giungere ad una riflessione matura e profonda sul rispetto verso gli esseri umani.
VOLEVO SOLO AVERTI ACCANTO è un titolo, già di per sé, denso di significati impliciti. È i
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
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Reading Group Gold: Once We Were Brothers Ron Balson Discussion Questions 1 11 May 23, 2016 10:48AM  
Some of The Girls: What are you reading 1 12 Jan 05, 2015 10:14AM  
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  • The Other Half of My Soul
  • The Far Side of the Sky
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  • The Sisters Weiss
  • Running with Cosmos Flowers: The Children of Hiroshima
  • Gratitude
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  • Anya
  • Clouds Across the Sun
  • Jerusalem Maiden
  • The Luck of the Weissensteiners
  • Pictures of the Past
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When he’s not writing books, Ron is a practicing attorney with the firm of Stone, Pogrund & Korey in Chicago. He has been a civil litigation attorney for forty-three years. He was an adjunct professor of business law at the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business for twenty-five years and was a frequent lecturer in the federal bar certification course and in trial advocacy seminars. ...more
More about Ronald H. Balson...

Other Books in the Series

Liam and Catherine (4 books)
  • Saving Sophie
  • Karolina's Twins
  • The Trust

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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” 3 likes
“It’s another reminder of what can happen when evil is allowed to incubate. Find a reason to turn your nose up at a culture, to denigrate a people because they’re different, and it’s not such a giant leap from ethnic subjugation to ethnic slaughter.” 2 likes
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