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The secret HOLOCAUST DIARIES
The untold story of Nonna Bannister
By Nonna Bannister
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One Boarding the Train
August 7, 1942-Konstantinowka, Ukraine
It is fourteen hours and fifteen minutes (2:15 p.m.), and we were just loaded on the train! My God-this is not what we thought it would be like to make this journey! We are packed like sardines in a can into the cattle cars of the train. The German soldiers with their rifles are with us and Mama is scared. (I know that she is.) Mama still thinks we can get off the train and leave our luggage behind and walk home. There is Grandmother standing about twenty feet away, looking so shocked and in dismay-she is crying-with the tears running down her face as she waves good-bye. Somehow, I know that we will never see her again.
As the train starts to move, Mama and I just look at Grandmother until she is out of sight. At the hour of 1600 (4:00 p.m.) everyone inside our car is very quiet and nobody is talking. Some are crying quietly-and I am glad that I have my diary and two pencils.
I got into the corner as far as I could so I would have some room to write. Now the door of our car is open, but I can hear some noises from the top of the roof. The German soldiers had positioned themselves on the top of the train, and they are talking and singing-I think they are drinking-they sound drunk to me.
It is almost midnight-the moon is so full-and we are crossing large fields. I need to get closer to the door so I can get some fresh air. As I approach the open door, I see a pair of legs in black boots dangling right above the door-then this face leans down and the soldier yells, "Hi, pretty one!" and I get away from the door very quickly. Mama pulls me closer to herself, and I think I am getting sleepy.
August 8, 1942
When we wake up, we can look into the horizon and see the sun rising from the edges of the biggest fields that I have ever seen-it is a beautiful sunrise! Where are we? How close are we to Kiev? The train is slowing down, and it looks as though we will stop moving.
August 9, 1942
We are in Kiev, but the train stopped at least a block away from the large train station. The Germans jumped down, and I could see how many of them there were-we were surrounded. They were telling us to get out-"Raus, raus." We saw trucks approaching the train, loaded with German soldiers and German shepherd dogs (lots of dogs). There was a truck loaded with food (soup made with cabbage and potatoes, and there was black bread). They passed out some bowls to us, and as we walked to the food truck, I looked to the back of the train and I saw two cars loaded with Jews. They were not allowed to get out-the doors of their cars were barred with heavy metal bars, and the German soldiers were guarding them. I saw old men, women, children, and even some babies. They were begging us to give them some of our bread with their thin (almost skeleton like) hands stuck out through the bars. I started to go there with my food, but just as I got close to them, a German soldier shouted at me and commanded me to get back or he would shoot me if I dared come any closer.
SEPARATE CARS The Jewish prisoners, headed for concentration "death" camps, were in the same transport but rode in separate train cars from the Russian women, who were headed for the labor camps. The Nazis allowed the Russian women to leave their cars, go into the woods to relieve themselves, and eat. But they allowed no such privileges to the Jews.
August 9, 1942-late evening
When we got back into the car of the train (Car 8) and the train started to move, we thought that we were on the way again. But in fifteen minutes, our train came to a stop. Three trucks loaded with Jews approached our train, and the Germans loaded them into the first two cars of our train. It was close enough for us to hear the screams of the children, the wailings and moaning of the women. There were shots fired frequently. Oh! Those screams and cries! And the dogs-there were so many of them. It was mass confusion, and I became aware that we, too, were prisoners and that there was absolutely no way to escape as Mama had planned to do when we got to Kiev.
August 10, 1942
We are leaving the Ukraine now, and the train is moving fast. I will never forget the sight of the last sunset as we were leaving Kiev. The sun looked like a huge ball of red and orange fire, and it was moving down slowly against the horizon at the end of the endless fields. Almost it was as though the sun were saying, "Farewell, my dear-we shall never meet on this soil again!" As I stood there near the door of our train car, I kept looking at the sun until it had completely disappeared. Then I suddenly felt very sad and lonely. It was a "farewell" that made me feel that a part of me had died. Many sunsets and sunrises were thereafter, but never was one so beautiful as the sunset that I saw at Kiev.
"MANY ... WERE THEREAFTER" In some places it is difficult to distinguish what Nonna might have written during or just after the war from what she added later to her transcript. In this chapter, Nonna directly translates her diaries almost exclusively, though this comment reflects her backward look at this story from a late-twentieth-century point of view.
Now I know that we are heading into Poland, and Mama is beginning to make plans for us to escape when we make the first stop in Poland. The next stop is for a meal. We will crawl under the car and wait for everyone to get loaded, and we will get out quickly and run toward the wooded area. Mama is planning.
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