Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Once We Were Brothers"

Ronald H. Balson is a trial attorney in Chicago, where he has practiced for the last 40 years, and has taught business law at the University of Chicago for twenty-five of those years. Once We Were Brothers is his first novel, which was inspired by several trips to Poland in connection with a telecommunications law suit. The Polish monuments, the memorials and the scars of the war he saw on his trips, motivated him to write his World War II novel. He lives with his family and a couch-eating dog in a Chicago suburb.

Balson applied the Page 69 Test to Once We Were Brothers and reported the following:
Once We Were Brothers is a present day legal drama wrapped around the narration of a family’s struggle to survive the Nazi occupation in small town Poland. In the following passage, the protagonist, Ben Solomon, remembers the days the Nazis took over his town and arrogated their way of life. On page 69, Hans Frank, a ruthless mass-murderer who was ultimately tried and executed at Nuremberg, appears at the Solomon home to appoint Ben’s father to the Judenrat. It is the beginning of the end for the Jews of Zamosc.

Page 69 speaks from the heart of the story. It addresses the dilemma Jews faced when they did not abandon their homes, their belongings, their careers, and everything they knew in the face of the impending Nazi occupation. It also sets a foundation for later confrontations between Abraham Solomon and the SS hierarchy, the lustful advances of Dr. Frank on young Rebecca and the hopelessness that settled on all of Poland when the Nazis took over.
“‘Herr Solomon, I have learned that you are a respected leader among the Jews and so you are to be appointed to the Judenrat, the council of Jews. That is a much honored appointment for you and your family. The Judenrat will report to me, or to my assistant, and will implement the Fuhrer’s orders on Jewish affairs.’

“‘I seek no privileges, sir. I am no more or less than any other member of our community.’

“‘You will address me as Dr. Frank, Herr Solomon. My name is Dr. Hans Frank, and you will not forget that, please. And I suggest you reconsider your declination. There will be a Judenrat, of that you may be sure, and it will consist of the most influential of the Jews in Zamość. You cannot help your people if you are not present.’

“All of us are seated in the room, barely breathing, not daring to say a word. Dr. Frank looks us over, points at Uncle Joseph and says, ‘Who is the crippled man?’

“‘That is my brother, a well-educated and prominent man. He has had an accident.’

“Dr. Frank purses his lips and nods. He crushes his cigarette on a dish, slaps his gloves on his leg and rises to leave. ‘I will see you at the town hall tomorrow morning at ten.’ On his way out, he stops at the door and points at Beka. ‘Who is the young Jewess?’

“‘My daughter, Rebecca. She is only seventeen.’

“‘Yes. Seventeen.’ He gestures for the soldiers to precede him through the doorway and turns to my father, ‘You will be at the town hall at ten.’ Then he bows slightly and leaves our home.”

“Did your father go to the meeting?” asked Catherine.

Ben nodded. “At ten o’clock. When he came home his face was drained of all color. He kept repeating, ‘We should have listened to Ilse. We should have left Zamość.’”
Learn more about the book and author at the official Once We Were Brothers website and Ronald H. Balson's Facebook page. 

My Book, The Movie: Once We Were Brothers.

--Marshal Zeringue