5 star rating
My Mother’s Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story
By   J.L. Witterick
ISBN#: 9780399168543

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt


A novel based on a true story, a mother and daughter risk their lives to provide shelter to two families and a German soldier–all unbeknownst to each other–in a tiny two-room house in Sokal, Poland, during the Nazi invasion. 

Based on a true story, MY MOTHER’S SECRET is a profound, captivating, and ultimately uplifting tale intertwining the lives of two Jewish families in hiding from the Nazis, a fleeing German soldier, and the clever and “righteous” mother and daughter who teamed up to save them.

Franciszka and her daughter, Helena, are unlikely heroines. They are simple people who mind their own business and don’t stand out from the crowd. Until 1939, when crisis strikes. The Nazis have invaded Poland and they are starting to persecute the Jews. Providing shelter to a Jew has become a death sentence. And yet, Franciszka and Helena decide to do just that. In their tiny, two-bedroom home in Sokal, Poland, they cleverly hide a Jewish family of two brothers and their wives in their pigsty out back, a Jewish doctor with his wife and son in a makeshift cellar under the kitchen floorboards, and a defecting German soldier in the attic–each group completely unbeknownst to the others. For everyone to survive, Franciszka will have to outsmart her neighbors and the German commanders standing guard right outside her yard.

Told simply and succinctly from four different perspectives, MY MOTHER’S SECRET is a reminder that there are, in fact, no profiles of courage and each individual’s character is a personal choice.


 My Mother’s Secret is a very poignant novel based and inspired by the courageous Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter Helena. Though the characters are fictional, the “experiences of the characters are consistent with events of that time” (J.L. Witterick states). Franciszka and Helena saved the lives of fifteen Jews and one young German soldier during WWII. This book is based on their lives and it is wonderful. Before the war there were 6000 Jews in Sokal, Poland. Only 30 survived and half of those were hid in the home of this courageous mother and daughter.

My Mother’s Secret is a short read, divided into sections written in first person of characters involved in this astounding story. We get to see what they may have been thinking, how they lived their lives, the horrors that went on around them and the love that kept them going. This book is more than just a depiction of heroics in the face of desperation that occurred during WWII. It is a call for all of us to do what is right, regardless of what is the norm or what it could cost. The sacrifice and determination  and strength of this tiny lady are remarkable and truly astounding. The way this book is written makes it a very quick and compelling read.

My own mother lived through the holocaust, not as a Jew or German, but as a gypsy. Her family was turned in by her own paternal grandmother. That is how dangerous it was for Franciszka and Helena. I heard the stories of how my own “Oma” saved them and all the others on the railcar. This book brings those stories to life for me and I think it will open the eyes and hopefully the hearts of all readers.

I recommend My Mother’s Secret to everyone, of every age, every background everywhere. J.L. Witterick has written a book that will hopefully make u s all think more, do more and be more. Two wonderful quotes from this book reveal so much about this story. The first:

“To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all – Elie Wiesel”.

The second from the author:

“When we have much to lose, but still choose to do the right thing, we uncover the nobility that is within all of us”.

This book is wonderful and I am so happy that I was given the privilege to read it.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*