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Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant

Loved this book couldn't put it down. Amazingly written and narrated. Thoroughly recommend this book.

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Haunting and beautiful memoir

This story had me from the first line. I knew it would be grim and I shed tears and felt the pain. No-one should forget the holocaust.. it happened and it's horrors must never be discounted. For me there are two main characters in the book who are superbly supported by those closest to them and make it a harsh but beautiful read.. you feel you know them all personally. I grew to love the narrator's voices and this time listening was so much better than reading. Probably the best story of that time I have encountered and very highly recommend.

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  • Ella
  • 22-11-2014

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.

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J. Paul
  • 24-05-2016

Loved it!

best narrator I've heard so far! great story. felt like I really knew the characters!!!

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Simone
  • 23-08-2014

Almost Perfect

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!

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • MidwestGeek
  • 03-11-2015

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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Larry
  • 05-10-2015

Corny & Predictable

What would have made Once We Were Brothers better?

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.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The accents and mispronunciations of certain non-English words were terrible.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

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.

Any additional comments?

A waste of money!

22 of 26 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kathy-Jane
  • 09-10-2017

Worth the read

This is a great story. At first I was like the lawyer and impatient with her client for dragging out his story and not getting to the core facts. But he pulled me in and made me care. His story was worth knowing and I followed the book though to the end with committed attention. It was a great listen and worth the credit.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel
  • 15-08-2015

Good Book

Part 1 and 2 were great! The last part was harder to finish, a little boring. Great book overall

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • sharony
  • 29-08-2015

Narration adds to enjoyment

Meaningful and suspenseful. It transported me and had my attention from beginning to end
Highly recommend

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Ashley M
  • 28-12-2017

Oh my goodness!

I could kick myself for not adhering the words of another reviewer when they warned about the constant interruptions back and forth between the “story” to the reaction to the story in the here and now. This is extremely annoying to me and I really wish I hadn’t wasted my credit on this book because now I’m stuck with it since apparently you can only make so many exchanges on books with audible. Excuse me for being a very picky reader! If you’d like to hear a truly remarkable story about WWII and the story of a fictional concentration camp survivor then go read Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller”. Ever since I finished listening to that book I am having a difficult time finding another book on the subject that captivated me like that one did! I just can’t forget about it, it was amazing! I felt like I was really living side by side with Sage’s grandmother when she finally told her story. I loved every second of it and wish it didn’t have to end, and this book has absolutely no comparison to that one! So disappointed!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rhouse
  • 26-11-2016

Gripping Historical Fiction

If you could sum up Once We Were Brothers in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating Timely Mystery

What was one of the most memorable moments of Once We Were Brothers?

Ben's narratives

Have you listened to any of Fred Berman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but this was fabulous. Ben's voice, aging and with heavy accent, brought this story to life.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Ben's narratives about the rise of Hitler and subsequent Nazi invasions were perfectly read and added so much to the book.

Any additional comments?

The book was good, but in this case, the Audible version made it exponentially better. Just excellent!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • sunflower
  • 15-04-2014

OUTSTANDING - STORY AND NARRATOR BEYOND EXCELLENT

What did you like most about Once We Were Brothers?

gripping story line, excellently narrated

What other book might you compare Once We Were Brothers to, and why?

that's a no-brainer question; this book is incomparable - without equal

Have you listened to any of Fred Berman’s other performances? How does this one compare?

no, but certainly intend to now

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

absolutely, but for the time factor. listened to it 2x within 10 days, with even increased pleasure!

Any additional comments?

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.....