Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (389 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

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 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 a story that stayed with me after I’d read the last word. Although it is the work of fiction, Mr. Balson did such a wonderful job portraying the main character, Ben, that when he begins to tell his story about what happened in Poland leading up to and during World War II, it comes across as real. You get easily caught up in his fight for survival, and like one of the characters, Catherine says, you’re emotionally invested in Ben’s story. In the book, that’s what motivated Catherine to take on Ben’s case against Rosenzweig and for me, the reader, I wanted to see if justice would be served.

There’s also a love story that threads through the tale, that of Ben and Hannah. The dialogue and depth of characterization was spot on for ideal pacing. In fact, I found myself sitting reading for longer stretches of time than I’d intended.

Once We Were Brothers serves to remind us of the heartbreaking horrors of the Holocaust, the human cost of war, and all while telling a fictional story of one man’s experience of the two, and many years later, his determination to seek justice.

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