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Books for understanding the Holocaust

By Kobo • July 13, 2022Recommended Reading

Stories of the Holocaust—both fiction and nonfiction—give readers insight into this significant time in history.

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was Nazi Germany and its allies' systematic persecution and genocide of six million Jewish Europeans during World War II. The Holocaust took place throughout Europe between 1933 and 1945, slowly evolving into horrific crimes and the government-sanctioned murders of millions of innocent people. Stories of the Holocaust—both fiction and nonfiction—give readers insight into this significant time in history. As horrible as the events of the Holocaust were, remembering the truths of this period in time is a somber reminder of how important it is to remain active citizens and to speak out against injustice.

The Holocaust: A New History by Laurence Rees

Laurence Rees's comprehensive history of the Holocaust sets out to answer two major questions: How did the Holocaust happen? And why? Drawing from 25 years of interviews with Holocaust survivors—often at the site of the events—as well as the latest academic research, Rees tells the story of The Holocaust as it's never been told before. Prior to common beliefs about this time in history, The Holocaust is not just a story about the Jews and the Germans, and there wasn't one simple decision that lead to these horrific events. There was a series of escalations that slowly built up to the worst crime in history.

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The Last Checkmate by Gabriella Saab

Gabriella Saab's extensively researched debut novel The Last Checkmate is the story of Maria, an avid chess player and a member of the Polish underground resistance in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. After she is captured by the Gestapo, they imprison her in Auschwitz and her family is sent to their deaths. The camp guards are amused by Maria’s chess abilities and they start playing against her as a means of entertainment. Maria knows they’re only keeping her alive until she is no longer of interest to them, so she plays chess against them as if her life depended on it, because it does. But Maria is smart, and she has a plan to take down the sadistic camp deputy Fritzsch.

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Always Remember Your Name: A True Story of Family and Survival in Auschwitz by Andra Bucci and Tatiana Bucci

Of the more than 230,000 children who were deported to Auschwitz during World War II, only a few dozen lived. Andra and Tatiana Bucci were two sisters who were among the survivors. Always Remember Your Name is their story, in their own words. At the camp, the girls were separated from their mother and tattooed with their inmate numbers. But Andra and Tatiana's mother tells her daughters to memorize her number and to “always remember your name.” The sisters kept this promise to their mother, and in doing so they were able to reunite with their parents after the war.

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Into the Forest: A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love by Rebecca Frankel

Rebecca Frankel's Into the Forest focuses on the story of one family and their struggle for freedom. In the summer of 1942, the Rabinowitz family were able to narrowly escape the Nazis by fleeing to the Bialowieza Forest. There, the family lived and survived through harsh conditions and cold winters for two whole years. They survived through harsh winters, Typhus outbreaks, and Nazi raids, until they were finally liberated by the Red Army in 1944.

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Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry's Newberry Medal-winning novel is a Holocaust story told through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen, living in Copenhagen in 1943. Annemarie and her friend Ellen Rosen's daily lives are full of school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. Then the Nazis begin coming for all of the Jews of Denmark, and so the Johansens take Ellen in and conceal her as part of their family. This modern classic of historical fiction is the story of the friendship and love that was at the heart of the Danish resistance.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is the bestselling and critically acclaimed story by Markus Zusak that looks at the Holocaust from a unique perspective—that of Death itself. In Nazi Germany in 1939, the country is turmoil, and Death has never been busier. Death observes Liesel, a young girl who learns to read and find an appreciation for books with the help of her accordion-playing foster father. Soon Leisel becomes so hungry for books that she starts stealing them from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, and wherever else books can be found. But when her foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world opens up in shocking and unexpected ways.

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Oskar Schindler : The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activites, and the True Story Behind the List by David Crowe

This is the true story of Oskar Schindler, the man who inspired the award-winning film Schindler's List. The real Oskar Schindler was a controversial figure. Although he saved 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust, Schindler struggled in the aftermath of WWII to rebuild his life and gain recognition. This biography examines every aspect of this complex man's life. Yes, Schindler saved many lives, but the man was also a spy who helped Nazi Germany conquer Poland. While Schindler now gets credited for a "list" that saved many Jewish lives, the actual Schindler and the creation of the list is not what you would expect.

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a harrowing and heartbreaking novel based on real-life interviews with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. When Slovakian Jew Lale Sokolov is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, his captors discover that he is multi-lingual. And so Lale is immediately put to work as a Tätowierer (tattoo artist). This novel is a fictional recreation of the very real and terrible things Lale witness during his two-and-a-half-year imprisonment.

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