“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day marks the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps in 1945.
Holocaust books, fiction imparticular, are something I enjoy reading and encourage many all to read. Here my go-to list when someone asks me which are my favorites.
Warning: while many of these titles are YA they hold powerful messages and can be emotional journeys for the reader.
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting
“‘Help!’ they screamed ‘Somebody help!’ But there was no one left to help.
A picture book about the Holocaust. A perfect read-a-loud for upper elementary, middle school, and high school.
A 32-page picture book that captures so much in so little space.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
“Passover isn’t about eating, Hannah….It’s about remembering.”
Passover Seder will not be the same tradition Hannah is used too. This year she will time travel to an unthinkable horror.
One of my favorite books.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
“It’s just a small story really, about, among other things: * A girl * Some words * An accordionist * Some fanatical Germans * A Jewish fist fighter * And quite a lot of thievery.”
Liesel is taken in by a foster family during World War Two. She likes to steal books and run the streets with her friend Rudy. Her life becomes complicated and dangerous when her foster family decided to hide a Jewish man in their basement.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
“Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy—love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.”
A 15-year-old girl, Lina and her Lithuanian family are sent to Siberian work camps during World War II. Lina loves art, it is that and the love for her family that keeps her going.
Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen
“They were being shot for walking too quickly, staring too hard, not answering questions fast enough or answering too fast, or just because they wore the yellow star. To die was easy. To live was harder. Papa said to us, “We have chosen the more difficult path, that of life. Now we must walk it.” We walked.”
Twins Chaim and Gittel and their friends must find the will to survive after an escape gone wrong.
Number the Star by Lois Lowry
“and I want you all to remember—that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to, and with pleasure feel he is a part of—something he can work and fight for.”
Annemarie Johansen and her Danish family take the risk of hiding and smuggling Jewish people, one being her best friend.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
“Sorry for what? he had retaliated, why should I, an American, feel sorry, hadn’t my fellow countrymen freed France in June 1944? I had nothing to be sorry for, he laughed.
I had looked at him straight in the eyes.
Sorry for not knowing. Sorry for being forty-five years old and not knowing.”
Sarah, in a panic, hides and locks her little brother in their favorite hiding place. Years later an American reporter, Julia, starts to unravel Sarah’s story.
The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
“I found a girl who wasn’t the girl I was looking for. I let go of a friend I’ll still miss every day. I’ll go back to work. I’ll get better. I’ll get better slowly. I’ll find all the secret, hidden things.”
Hanneke is working within the black market to make money. Out on a delivery she is asked to help track down a missing girl. As Hanneke searches, she is pulled into the mystery and truth of what is happening around her.
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
“But those who believe that flowers grow in vases don’t understand anything about literature. The library has now become her first-aid kit, and she’s going to give the children a little of the medicine that helped her recover her smile when she thought she’d lost it forever.”
Based on the real-life experiences of Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus. This is the story of a young girl who risked everything to keep the magic of books alive while she was at Auschwitz.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
“The people I see from my window. In the huts, in the distance. They’re all dressed the same.’ ‘Ah, those people,’ said Father, nodding his head and smiling slightly. ‘Those people…well, they’re not people at all, Bruno.’ Bruno frowned. ‘They’re not?’ he asked, unsure what Father meant by that.”
Bruno moves with his family to the edge of a concentration camp, where his father will now be working. Bruno notices the people, the fence, their clothes, and forms a friendship.
These are all powerful novels. We need to read them and never forget. Thank you for doing this.