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My Mother's Secret

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  7,696 ratings  ·  942 reviews
A novel based on a true story, a mother and daughter risk their lives to provide shelter to two families and a German soldier--all unbeknownst to each other--in a tiny two-room house in Sokal, Poland, during the Nazi invasion.

Based on a true story, MY MOTHER'S SECRET is a profound, captivating, and ultimately uplifting tale intertwining the lives of two Jewish families i
...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 5th 2013 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published February 4th 2013)
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Carolyn Lind
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Elke Vekeman Do you mean to ask what happened to them after the war?
It is said at the book in the end.
The German boy goes back to his grandmother, accompanied by…more
Do you mean to ask what happened to them after the war?
It is said at the book in the end.
The German boy goes back to his grandmother, accompanied by one of the families.
Bronek, Anelie, Walter and Bryda go to the USA and then to Texas.
Dr. Wolenski, Felicia and Mikolaj move to Palestine.
Helena and her mother move to Switerland. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,696 ratings  ·  942 reviews


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Angela M
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Once in a while a book comes along that makes you want to be a better person . This is a moving , beautifully written novel based on the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter , Helena , who saved Jewish families in Poland during the German occupation . It's impossible to describe the unbelievable courage and humanity of these women who risked their lives for others because they believed it was the decent thing to do . It is a small book with enormous heart and hope and I cannot re ...more
Dem
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
What an amazing story But this is a fictional account inspired by the courage of Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter Helena. The characters in this novel are fictional but a lot of the events are true with the happenings at the time.

Its an amazing story but unfortunately I found the writing very childish and disjointed and wasn't sure exactly what was real and what was fictional until the end where the author does explain in her Epilogue.

Five stars for bringing this story of two remarkab
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Barb
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Having read this inspiring book in one sitting, I am overwhelmed with emotion and hope. This fictional account of a true story of two women's heroic actions to save two Jewish families and a German deserter during WWII restores and deepens my belief that there are angels among us. And I'm thankful that on a whim I picked up this short, poetically written novel because I've needed to have my faith restored with all the turmoil and tragedy in our world. I've read so many Holocaust novels, but this ...more
Theresa
I read this book in two sittings but I made myself take a couple of days before attempting to review. It is one of the hardest ratings I've ever had to make a decision on. (not the written review itself, I'm simply saying the number of stars it deserves) I'm going to call a spade a spade here. If I was an English Prof. and I was grading this manuscript for a creative writing class I think I might have sent it back for many, many revisions. As it is written I would have had to assume the intended ...more
Julia Ce
This work of fiction is based on the true story of Franciszka Halamaj & her daughter Helena, both Polish Catholics, who hid 2 Jewish families and 1 German soldier on their small farm....

The writing is almost sophomoric which, in my opinion, is in sharp contrast to the subject matter. The books is told in 4 points of view... Helena who helps her mother hide these families, Bronek head of his family hidden in the pigsty, Mikolai a young boy hiding w his parents in the cellar, and Vilheim a German
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Carole P. Roman
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
With simple prose, J.L Witterrick has written a stunning novel of bravery and sacrifice during World War II. Franciszka is a Polish cook with two children married to a brutal Ukrainian seduced by Hitler's promise of prosperity. She leaves him to move back to Poland to live with her children, selling eggs to the locals. Like a diary, we watch the horror of the war unfold and new characters are introduced. There is a poor Jewish family, a wealthy Jewish doctor and his family as well as a war weary ...more
Jackie
This book is one of the most beautiful I've ever read. While it's set in the time of the Holocaust, there is love, joy, compassion and profound bravery. This is a novel, but it is based on real people, a woman and her daughter, who saved 15 people from death despite the many difficulties and sorrows of their own. This will make you remember how good people can be, how amazingly resilient they are, and what even just a couple of people can do to truly change the world. This book renewed my faith ...more
Jesse Kimmel-Freeman
Having grown up listening to stories of the Holocaust and the things that people had to do to escape the brutality of the Nazis, when I was approached to review this book I knew I had to. There's something that is amazingly powerful and beautiful about the stories that come out of this moment in history.

I must say that this book follows suits of all the other stories I've heard or read. It is written in a way that seems to flow through the mind as you read the words. It is beautifully crafted.

I
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Carla
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
A wonderful "true" story of a woman and her daughter who harboured Jewish families at their farmhouse during Poland's occupation from Nazi Germany. The lady, and her daughter were not fictional. The story however is somewhat fictionalized. You'd think from the reviews this book should be, or was the top book of 2013. It's a heartwarming story, has no unique aspect from literally thousands of stories along this topic in print, and is written by a woman, who writes like she is a young teen. Chapte ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the writing is very simple and spare, the subject matter is anything but. It is not often that one reads a book about the holocaust and finds it life affirming, appalling too, but that is not the overall tone of the book.

Taking her daughter and her son, leaving her husband, an avowed supporter of Hitler, Francisca returns to Poland from Germany. The Germans invasion of Poland touches their town of Sokal and soon Jewish policies are enforced and all are moved to the ghetto.

She would ev
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Stephanie
4.5/5

Dang, this little book packs quite a punch!

My Mother’s Secret is a Holocaust novel based on a true story. Franciszka is a Polish woman living in the small town of Sokal, Poland, with her teenage daughter, Helena. When Poland gets invaded by the Germans, the two women hide two Jewish families and a defecting German soldier in their tiny home, all without any of them knowing about each other. For more than a year, Franciszka must keep this secret and outsmart everyone to keep them all alive.

F
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Moriah
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love any book that has to do with the Holocaust. I did win this in a giveaway but I’m glad I was able to get it. It’s a quick and easy read.
iamjenai
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Mother's Secret tells the story of Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter Helena. While Franciszka and Helena were real Holocaust heroines, most of the characters and events depicted in the story are fictional. During Hitler's invasion in Poland, Franciszka and Helena hid two Jewish families and a young German soldier all in their home for more than a year. Franciszka's son also helped the Jews during this difficult time but later met his death while transporting a wagon full of supplies to t ...more
Allyson
Jun 28, 2015 rated it liked it
It was a good story but short, so I am not sure the day-to-day issues were fully addressed. This was kind of like the "Cliff's Notes" version of a longer novel (if there were a longer novel to read).
Hannah
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
My husband and I read this story out loud to each other and both thoroughly enjoyed it. Sacrificial love runs through the chapters of this book. A good read that I would recommend.
Remy Benoit
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War is ugly.
It is destruction.
It is betrayal.
It is showing up no matter how terrified you are.
It is our young sacrificed to a failure of diplomacy.
It is our young tested beyond anything rational.
It is our civilian population ravaged, plundered, and raped.
It is rotting corpses; leveled homes; ended and maimed lives.
It is propaganda; it is enemies; it is starvation; it is often torture and murder.
It is the worst of us, killing each other to bleed into the ground; to feed rats with
the dead.
It is t
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A B
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I love the quiet, minimal tone of this book. It's as if I am in a dark room with the narrators whispering softly.

The story has four narrators in a fictionalized retelling of a true event - a Polish woman who helps her mother hide Jewish neighbors during World War II; a Polish Jew who tries desperately to save his family; the young son of a beloved Jewish doctor who hides with his family; and a German conscientious objector who is looking for a way out of his conscripted service.

The action is spa
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Lisa
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This is the second amazing book suitable for young adults and adults, alike, set during the Holocaust, I have read recently. The other was The Boy on the Wooden Box. But, I liked this one even more! It reads like poetry, has simple, profound truths scattered throughout, and is based on a true story of two real-life heroines. My favorite quote from the book, "I always thought that courageous people were those who were not afraid. Meeting Franciszka and her daughter, I realize that courageous peop ...more
Darshana K.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This precious little jewel of a book.

There are many novels based on the holocaust out there. Sadly, I have read very few of them. But each one rekindles in me the same feeling of warmth, sadness and hope. This book was no exception. Written in extremely poetic words, this book tells the story of two exceptional women, mother and daughter, who help save two Jewish families and a German soldier, at a time which brought out the worst, and the best, in people.

If there are books which do their bit i
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Sarah Jessup
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully impacting novel that will leave you changed.
Teresa “Teri”
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caroline Mincks
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don’t let the brevity fool you. This book tells a powerful story in record time. It has a simple, almost conversational tone, which really makes it feel like someone is telling you their story over a cup of tea. It’s an easy read, not as gruesome as many in this setting, which makes it a good choice for school-age readers. Highly recommended for a quick read that will remind you that the right thing to do is rarely the easiest.
Beth
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Before the war, there were 6,000 Jewish people in Sokal, Poland. Only thirty survived the war and half of those because of one Polish woman, Franciszka Halamajowa"

This short yet inspiring novel reads succinctly and concisely. While the author doesn't dwell on detail, I was still so captivated by the depiction of her carefully constructed plan to hide fugitives in her small house. Franciszka bravely displayed tremendous humanity. I couldn't put it down.
C. McKenzie
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I was prepared to read another horrifying account of the holocaust. What I discovered was a poignant story about courage and the very best qualities humans possess.

Not only did this story deliver on the storytelling, it also delivered on the crisp and clean writing style I so admire. No frill. Just one good word after another.
Alana Arco
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shorter book with fewer details of the hardships in war torn Poland during WWII. A sweet and enjoyable read about a simple woman’s bravery to do the right thing.
Lesley
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Inspiring WWII story simply told. I think I will have my kids read this one it is a good WWII book for kids.
Bice
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this audio book very much. ( Although I would recommend the E book version because narrator had an over saccharine voice that might irritate others as it did me and because there were a few places I would have liked to underline) It is based on a true story of a courageous woman and her daughter who hid Jewish families and a runaway German soldier in Poland. It is told in four voices. One: the daughter Helena and the others from one each the hidden people.
Leslie
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a brief but powerful book. Based on a true story, the author presents the story creatively. The brief chapters make this a book easily enjoyed by adults and young adults alike. Highly recommended.
Nele
Dec 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this very easily, but it's not a long book.
I had a bit of trouble getting into the tone in the beginning. I'm not used to things moving along so quickly.
But it's a cute read. Especially if you're trying to reach your reading goal of this year :p
Myla
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-picks
I really like this. A good WWII for younger audience. Kept waiting for the other shoe to drop but it didn't, which was good because it wouldn't have felt right with the writing style or skill level. Always fun to have it based on a true story. The best thing about WWII stories is that you get such incredible examples of love/courage amongst such extreme levels of hate/fear.
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“If you choose to do the right thing, it's a conscious decision at first. Then it becomes second nature. You don't have to think about what is right because doing the right thing becomes who you are, like a reflex. Your actions with time become your character” 8 likes
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