• Once We Were Brothers

  • By: Ronald H. Balson
  • Narrated by: Fred Berman
  • Length: 13 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (4,348 ratings)

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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 60 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 listeners say about Once We Were Brothers

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Ugh

This was a romance novel that tried to disguise itself as World War II fiction. It didn't succeed.

There were too many places where the female lead droned on about her insecurities. There were too many instances where the story became an overt history lesson. There were too many conversations where someone withheld information so that we'd be left holding our seat. Just so there would be a cliffhanger. That got old.

I've read much better WWII fiction.

27 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

92 people found this helpful

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Masterful storytelling!

At first I wasn’t fond of switching between the past and the present as I felt it altered the flow of the story. But I was wrong. To understand the depth of the horror experienced by Ben and the after effects, it was the perfect presentation, especially to feel the attorney’s journey. I grew fond of all of the characters and miss them now that the book is finished so I must read other books by this author. The voices of the characters was by far the best book telling I’ve heard yet. I will search out additional Audible books read by Fred Berman.

10 people found this helpful

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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.

6 people found this helpful

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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!

30 people found this helpful

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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!

38 people found this helpful

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Narration adds to enjoyment

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

10 people found this helpful

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Loved it!

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

26 people found this helpful

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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!

20 people found this helpful

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Great Story!

This book has been on my "to read" list for a while. However, between my Stephen King binge and the Golden State Killer being caught, it was pushed down my to do list for a while. That being said, I really enjoyed the story line, the narrator was phenomenal, but the dialogue between the two main lawyers was a bit melodramatic, in my opinion. So, if you want an interesting, world war II/Nazi era story that's wrapped up in a nice bow- read this one.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anne Turner
  • 06-30-22

Very captivating

Reflected the horrors of the time while telling a sentimental story of courage and love. You will be spell bound.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • JACQUI
  • 04-20-22

a worth while listen

even though I've read many holocaust novels.. it was worth while listen. Even though the end was predictable, I listened to the end. A good believable story.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-17-21

Wonderful book

I was totally absorbed by this wonderful moving book. The writing and narration were excellent and the story will stay with me a long time.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • The Curator
  • 09-14-21

Hinted at more

At various points this story hinted at a more complex resolution than in fact we were given. Mysterious third parties alluded to then dropped and spiritual ‘guided by the Cabala’ stuff. Maybe as a Christian Agnostic, I’m just not the right audience.

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  • karen447
  • 05-06-21

Amazing

The best audio book I have ever listened to.
The reader is fantastic and i was totally absorbed in the story.
I didn’t want it to end.
Can not recommend this highly enough.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ray
  • 02-18-21

Lest we forget. The Holocaust

Totally absorbing. Could not stop listening. Brilliantly told. We should never forget about the Holocaust. It should be taught in a format like this book in school. So well written

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Shireen
  • 01-06-20

Gripping and moving!!!

This book gripped me from the beginning to the end! Narrator was brilliant!! Must read/listen!!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jackie
  • 09-16-19

Life changing life lessons

I have no regrets for listening to the painful and heart wrenching books i have, regarding the holocaust, with the graphic truth we all should hear and feel...but this presentation of an amazing story touches the entire realm of human emotion. Beyond the horrific period in history shared and lessons in courage and never giving up....whether justice is swift, long and hard won or even found at the end of life on earth or beyond our time on this planet, the story is the lesson found in religions believing in good bs evil....of acceptance and tolrtance...of remaining open and humble. This story offers a renewed belief that just maybe there is hope for the generations ahead....thanks for sharing this story

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  • Phillip
  • 08-06-19

Loved this book

This book was awesome, could not put it down/switch it off, it was amazing !!! The Narrator Fred Berman was so good to listen too:)

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joleen Tobias
  • 10-30-18

Great story

The plot was intriguing and clever although I think it petered out at the end. I was very irritated by the poor pronunciation of the narrator.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-29-22

Starting out promising

Based on the reviews I had high expectations but five hours from the end, it became slow and predictable. Irritating characters and some cringey soapy moments made things worse. I held on, waiting for a twist, but it never came.

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  • ben b.
  • 08-07-21

by far the best book ever

this is without doubt the best audiobook performance I've ever heard it was so believable and the story is so utterly moving that I cried like a baby

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lyn Bender
  • 11-15-20

Truly remarkable

The narrative comes to life. 1930s Poland and the town of Zamosc
are as vivid as the characters.
Memories can and do travel across time and place in this amazing story of unknown and unnamed victims of the Holocaust. The central character of Ben Solomon tells all their stories, It is also a deep love story with an intriguing search, In which a young US lawyer and her friend a private detective search for justice in a sometimes corrupt world . It may bring tears to the reader .

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-28-20

Great story!

I really enjoyed listening to this story. The narrator's were great and the story powerful.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Alberto Fabrizio
  • 09-20-20

Been looking for a book like this.

This book was riveting, I couldn’t stop listening. It is one of those books you will never forget having read.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dena
  • 09-03-19

Fantastic story, brilliant narration

I Loved the story and couldn’t put it down. A couple of parts seemed a bit unrealistic but the story was so well put together and so well narrated that it still made for an excellent story

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Melinda Hannett
  • 12-13-17

Brilliant

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

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Christine Campbell
  • 10-02-17

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.