Nonna’s Diary and the Holocaust

I got to page 200+ of The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister.  I will finish the book tomorrow.  The book is under 300 pages and I can usually read 100 pages a day… on Tuesday I hope to get back to The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History. However, back to Nonna: I found out that Nonna—who was Russian—was put in the part of the concentration camps reserved for Russians and Ukrainians.  Although Jews had a “special” place, so did other groups…  I think I had heard that Poles, Ukrainians and Russians had ended in concentration camps, but I had never seriously thought of it. I do not mention all this to diminish the Jewish tragedy… only because I am discovering that it was not the only tragedy. I had heard about the gypsies and the mentally and physically disabled, but I never thought of other ethnic groups that Hitler hoped to liquidate in the end…

I don’t know how I missed it: Stalin’s son Yuri died trying to escape from a concentration camp. Apparently, Hitler had a nephew the Russians captured and Stalin’s son Yuri was captured by the Germans. Neither side was willing to make the trade for the close relative of the other side without “more.” Yet Yuri tried to escape. To an ordinary leader–whether a President or a king–Yuri’s attempt to escape would have been an act of heroism. Stalin was purely indifferent. And presumably Hitler’s nephew died in the Gulag Archipelago with people Stalin had gathered up for forced labor camps analogous, almost, to the concentration camps.

Anyway, back to Nonna. What is odd about the book is that it goes into great detail the happier times that came before the camps… even Stalin had not been able to crush the domestic joys of this family that Hitler did… no, though Nonna was the lone survivor, she did record the happier times in her childhood before the camp that she and her family were sent to. This has the effect some of Anne Frank’s diary has: of creating an oasis of brightness in the darkness of what happened to Anne and most of the people who were hidden with her.

            Moreover, I hope Rabbi Pepperstone will let me write a speech or have others read the books I have read so I can at least lead a discussion on my books about children who lived and died in the Holocaust… I know that the fates of adults matter, too, but there is a particular tragedy that 1.5 million children died in the Holocaust.

Though unrelated to Nonna’s tragedy, there is some other things I would like to use with a group dealing with the Holocaust. One of them I have mentioned before–the music of Theresienstadt. However, one thing I would like to have us read and then watch as a group is a book that was made into a Robin Williams film, Jacob the Liar. It is about a man who falls into the position of everyone in a Jewish ghetto believing he has a radio, which of course he does not have. However, he cannot tell them the truth that he does not have one because if they realize the good news they keep getting from whom isn’t true, it will destroy all their hopes of salvation. For all that it was fiction and about the Holocaust I really liked it… it was a profoundly hopeful film… tragic, but hopeful.

            I want to something meaningful for the Holocaust… maybe extending no further than my own synagogue, but still… I wish I could make all the Jewish knowledge I have—not just the Holocaust knowledge—I have accessible to other Jews…

Published by hadassahalderson

I am a professional author who lives in Wichita, KS. I went to Friends University and spent one year at Claremont Graduate University. My published work includes: The Bible According to Eve I-IV and Faust in Love.

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