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Once We Were Brothers
by Ronald H. Balson

Published: 2013-10-08
Paperback : 400 pages
15 members reading this now
32 clubs reading this now
14 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 11 of 11 members

The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust.

"A novel of survival, justice and redemption...riveting." ?Chicago Tribune, on Once We Were Brothers

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, ...

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Introduction

The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust.

"A novel of survival, justice and redemption...riveting." ?Chicago Tribune, on Once We Were Brothers

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, 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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

ONE



Chicago, Illinois, September 2004
BEN SOLOMON STOOD BEFORE his bathroom mirror fumbling with his bow tie. He was eighty-three years old and getting dressed for Judgment Day. Years had come and gone since he had last worn his tuxedo, but then, Judgment Day was a black tie affair. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Does it trouble you to think that remnants of the Nazi era may remain? Of the six hundred thousand SS members remaining at the end of the war, only a few thousand were actually brought to justice. Most escaped. Some to America. Only one hundred or so have been found and deported. Was Ben’s quest after all these years, in spite of Rosenzweig’s civic contributions, justified?

2. Responding to someone who said, “I can't believe anybody cares about those events of so long ago,” Eli Rosenbaum, former head of the U.S. Office of Special Investigations, stated, “I think there’s particular value in showing would-be perpetrators that if one dares to perpetrate such crimes, there is a chance that he or she will be pursued for the rest of his or her life to locations thousands of miles from the locations of their crimes.” Where do you stand? Do you think we should continue seek out and prosecute now-elderly Nazi war criminals?

3. It is said that “first impressions are lasting ones.” What were your first impressions of the principal characters? At what point did your opinion change? Why?

4. Ben’s family had the opportunity to leave Europe at certain times in the story. When cousin Ziggy told them of the persecution in Germany and when Uncle Joseph came from Vienna, they could have all escaped through the mountains into Slovakia. Why didn’t they take advantage of each of those opportunities? Why did Jewish families remain?

5. From the diaries of survivors, there are many stories of extraordinary heroism, of ordinary people who, in the darkest moments, find unbelievable strength and courage. Have you known such people? Where do you think they find such courage?

6. If you had the opportunity to speak to any of the characters at any moment in the story, to whom would you choose to talk, what advice would you give, and what would you say?

7. Ben was a religious man, as was Catherine. If religious doctrine preaches that God is all-knowing and omnipotent, how does a religious person accept the existence of the Holocaust in God’s world?

8. Ethnic slaughter, the oppression of minorities, did not cease with the end of World War II. Does the world community today do enough to respond to the oppressors? What should be done?

9. Why did Elisabeth decide to turn against her husband? Did it have anything to do with her fear of facing Ben?

Suggested by Members

Discuss how this relates to atrocities being committed in today's world?
by Callie (see profile) 10/01/14

none
by arizonamom (see profile) 04/29/14

Talked a lot about Poland during that period in history as well as current times.
Discussed the holocaust.
by ncvlib (see profile) 04/02/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

German dinner
by Callie (see profile) 10/01/14
Our hostess served a true German dinner with sauerkraut, bratwurst, kielbasa, pickled cucumbers, and German chocolate cupcakes for dessert.
none
by arizonamom (see profile) 04/29/14

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by mjnzilinsky (see profile) 04/25/14

 
  "Once We Were Brothers"by wlreader (see profile) 02/18/14

Book Club members liked the book, found it different from other holocaust accounts, and very real.

 
by joannking (see profile) 09/27/16

 
  "once we were brothers"by Carolynr (see profile) 08/24/16

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... (read more)

 
by Christie Lambert (see profile) 09/22/15

 
  "Very insightful book"by Callie (see profile) 10/01/14

Very well written providing insight into the way ordinary men became monsters and repeatedly perpetrated atrocities on the Polish men, women and children of the Jewish faith and those who helped them.... (read more)

 
  "Different view "by arizonamom (see profile) 04/29/14

Our members thought it was a different view of the sufferings of the Jews, because it was not set in the concentration camps, but followed the lives of a few men, and the conviction of a war criminal.... (read more)

 
  "Once We Were Brothers"by ncvlib (see profile) 04/02/14

Wow another book everyone liked. This was the author's first book and he did a good job with research and character development.

 
  "A compelling novel about a true historic tragedy event."by thewanderingjew (see profile) 04/02/14

This is a very powerful story about the quest of Holocaust survivor, Ben Solomon, to expose a Nazi Collaborator. When Ben was a 12-year-old in Poland, a local priest recommended that his dow... (read more)

 
  "Once We Were Brothers"by Betty56 (see profile) 02/24/14

Be prepared to sit down and read for hours at a time. This is a gripping story and hard to put it down. There is history, drama, romance, suspense all packed into 389 pages.

I have read

... (read more)

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