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 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 preposterous, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's own family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man?
Once We Were Brothers is Ronald H. Balson's compelling tale of two boys and a family who struggle to survive in war-torn Poland, and a young love that struggles to endure the unspeakable cruelty of the Holocaust. Two lives, two worlds, and sixty years converge in an explosive race to redemption that makes for a moving and powerful tale of love, survival, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.
©2009 Ronald H. Balson (P)2013 Macmillan Audio
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These types of books are my favourite; I always gets sucked into WW2 era stories because I find them so compelling and I found this story even more riveting than many others because of the added legal-thriller-courtroom-drama aspect.
Although I found it was an excellent story, some things did bother me a little:
•In the beginning when Ben wanted to tell his tale to Catherine, the whole “lawyer wants to hurry up / Ben wants to slow things down” thing was very tedious. I felt like it was being drilled into me – it was borderline drinking game. “get to the point Ben” “I’m getting there Catherine” enough!
•Too much interjection of the present punctuated into the recollections of the past. I’ve read many books where the main narrative is told as a recollection, but the interjection of only a sentence or two from the current time line (like a question from Catherine) broke the mood. Explaining to me how Catherine was reacting to Ben’s story or going into detail about how she felt about what she was hearing interrupted the flow and rhythm.
•The romance between Catherine and Liam – why bother? Such an unnecessary thread. That entire thing could have been cut out in my opinion along with ALL of Catherine’s personal-life threads. Pointless.
Despite those complaints, I really enjoyed it overall. Good book!
best narrator I've heard so far! great story. felt like I really knew the characters!!!
"A triumph of faith during and after the holocaust."
A terrific portrayal of the effects of the holocaust especially on one family. An Aryan boy reared by a Jewish family is gradually transformed into a Nazi who many years later is eventually brought to justice. The novel presents a unique perspective on the social dynamics on society, especially in Poland, under the influence of the Third Reich. Rich characters portrayed from before WWII into the 21st century. By personalizing the experience, events and behavior that seem unbelievable in hindsight become perfectly understandable. Very well written and read. I thought the narrator, who apparently irritated some, did an excellent job of recreation of the characters, both men and women.
"5-Star Thriller with History and Heart"
At a fundraiser, Ben Solomon a holocaust survivor, walks up to Elliot Rosenzweig, a well-know Chicago businessman and philanthropist, and clocks him right in the jaw, all the while accusing Rosenzweig of being an ex S.S. Nazi Officer by the name of Otto Piatek. A shocked Rosenzweig, concerned for this man's sanity and his own reputation, rolls up his sleeve to reveal the tattooed identification numbers of the Auschwitz Death Camp. And so the tale begins between these two men. A legal thriller, Ben sets out to prove his accusations, while Elliot needs to prove Ben's lying.
Much of the book is filled with Ben telling his story to Catherine Lockhart, a young busy lawyer. Ben wants to convince her to take his case of stolen property from all those years ago. Catherine, is skeptical that there is any tangible evidence after all this time, but after much persuasion she allows Ben to tell his story. Ben takes no short cuts, beginning with growing up in Zamosc, Poland explaining how his life entwines with Otto Piatek right through the war. But are Otto and Elliot one in the same?
Being the daughter of 2 Holocaust survivors, I have listened to my share of Holocaust novels, in fact I've even written one, but Once We Were Brothers has to be one of the best books I've come across.
Fred Berman did an incredible job narrating this book. His performance brought the characters to life. It's almost a week since I finished Once We Were Brothers and I can't stop thinking about it. It would be a shame to miss this one.
"Narration adds to enjoyment"
Meaningful and suspenseful. It transported me and had my attention from beginning to end
"Corny & Predictable"
Although the story of the Holocaust is tragic and compelling, this book in particular was poorly written and oversimplified the terrible events of the time. I found the characters very one dimensional, shallow and stereotypical. The narrative was very unoriginal and corny in parts with many inconsistencies in the story line. It read more like a teenage adventure story! I also found the writing style very amateurish, dripping with over sentimentality! I would not recommend this to anyone looking for a realistic account of the Holocaust experience. The protagonists lacked the depth and nuance one would expect from such characters.
The accents and mispronunciations of certain non-English words were terrible.
Disappointment, derision and the feeling of condescension from the author's perspective. It felt like an insult to my intelligence. At parts in the story I found myself guessing the plot, rolling my eyes in disbelief and screaming in frustration.
A waste of money!
"Such a corny reader!"
It was not time well-spent. I found myself so annoyed by the whining voice that I was anxious to be done! I've read many other fine books about the horrors of the Nazi regime - in fact I'm reading the superb "All the Light We Cannot See" right now, and find this book to be so simplistic and cliche. I kept talking back to it - of course his Hannah was the most beautiful girl in the whole world!
The accents were awful. I don't feel I can honestly evaluate the book because I was so annoyed by the reader's corny, whining voice.
Part 1 and 2 were great! The last part was harder to finish, a little boring. Great book overall
"Don't pass on this one"
I don't often right reviews, but with this one I had to. This is, hands down, one of my top 5! This is one that sticks with you. I had to make myself turn it off at night so I could go to bed, only to think about. It is tragic and beautiful at the same time. Don't pass this one by!!!
"Gripping Historical Fiction"
Fascinating Timely Mystery
No, but this was fabulous. Ben's voice, aging and with heavy accent, brought this story to life.
Ben's narratives about the rise of Hitler and subsequent Nazi invasions were perfectly read and added so much to the book.
The book was good, but in this case, the Audible version made it exponentially better. Just excellent!
"OUTSTANDING - STORY AND NARRATOR BEYOND EXCELLENT"
gripping story line, excellently narrated
that's a no-brainer question; this book is incomparable - without equal
no, but certainly intend to now
absolutely, but for the time factor. listened to it 2x within 10 days, with even increased pleasure!
I don't feel I can rate this highly enough. Each time I listened, in the car - driving and just sitting in it (to carry on listening), walking the dog, cooking, getting up etc etc, I thought: this is just superb and Fred Berman's acting/reading mind-blowing. Both Ronald Balson and Fred Berman have created an UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE for me.....
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