Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
When Ben Solomon begins his tale of how Otto Piatek, taken in and cared for by Ben’s family, turned against all of them and became a Nazi war criminal, you have the sense of this being just another Holocaust tale. However, as his tale unwinds, you also begin to get sucked in to the charges that he stole from Ben’s family and how a civil suit is the means by which Ben might expose his true identity. Otto Piatek, alias Elliot Rozenzweig, has created a persona for himself, however, enmeshed in the highest society of Chicago and known for his generous philanthropy. It takes the team of a gutsy PI named Liam and an attorney with high ethics and strong drive, named Catherine, to help Ben pursue his challenge.
Essentially there are 2 stories that intertwine, with the telling of Ben’s story that took place in Poland and the tale of the legal procedures. While the beginning of the book focuses on Poland, the latter part focuses on the lawsuit and the suspense of the legal proceedings builds and builds and makes the book very hard to put down. The author definitely draws you in to feeling such affection for Ben and wanting to see him win in his cause. You are also drawn in to feeling sympathy for Catherine who is fighting a whole team of expensive lawyers singlehandedly. Catherine is quoted as saying that this made “David and Goliath seem like a fair fight.” While it is only fiction, when you are reading it, it feels very real and very true, I think because of how well you’ve come to know the characters. By the end, you just can’t help cheering them on or booing the “bad guys.”
An essential read for anyone who is interested not only in the Holocaust, but in anything related to human rights and in justice being served.