Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, every 27th January is as it marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This year is particularly special as it mark 70 years since the liberation. It is of course a very sensitive subject, and one that we should never forget.
I have been rather lucky enough to meet not one but three holocaust survivors whose stories are so radically different and yet the same. I have also been very lucky to visit the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottingham, which has a few exhibitions which can appeal to anyone who is interested in history. Of course museums aren’t easy things, especially when the subject is hard like this one, so I’ve put together and list of books that are about the Holocaust.
1. Survival: Holocaust Survivors Tell Their Story
This is a book I purchased from Beth Shalom, its collection of about forty 46 brief testimonies by holocaust survivors. The book has a whole range of survivors experiences : Concentration and death camps, death marches, ghettos, resistance, hidden children, refugees and Kindertransportees. Definitely a read if you are looking for real stories.
2. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
The story of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about.
If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.
We hope you never have to cross such a fence.
Where is ‘Outwith’ and who is Bruno? How is he connected? Soon he will meet the boy in striped pyjamas and befriend him. But why must the boy stay behind the wire?
3. The Book Thief
Here is a small fact – you are going to die. 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. Some important information – this novel is narrated by death. It’s a small story, about: a girl an accordionist some fanatical Germans a Jewish fist fighter and quite a lot of thievery. Another thing you should know – death will visit the book thief three times.
If you want to read my thoughts on this novel you can do so here. You will also be able to see my revised view on the 31st of this month here.
4. If This is a Man / The Truce
With the moral stamina and intellectual pose of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, duitful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contempible.
5. The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather’s Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation
In 1926, at the age of twenty, a trainee dentist called Bruno Langbehn joined the Nazi party. Growing up in a Germany that was impoverished and humiliated by the defeat of the First World War, and surrounded by a fiercely military environment, Bruno was one of the first young men to sign up. And as the party rose to power, he was there every step of the way. Eventually his loyalty was rewarded with a high-ranking position in Hitler’s dreaded SS, the elite security service charged with sending Germany’s ‘racially impure’ to the death camps. For fifty years after the end of the Second World War, his family kept this horrifying secret until his British grandson, Martin Davidson, uncovered the truth. Drawing on an astonishing cache of personal documents, Davidson retraces Bruno’s journey from disillusioned adolescent to SS Officer to mysterious grandfather.
6. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness
While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal was taken one day from his work detail to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. Haunted by the crimes in which he had participated, the soldier wanted to confess to–and obtain absolution from–a Jew. Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing. But even years after the way had ended, he wondered: Had he done the right thing? What would you have done in his place?
7. Diary of a Young Girl
In July 1942, thirteen-year-old Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the occupation, went into hiding in an Amsterdam warehouse. Over the next two years Anne vividly describes in her diary the frustrations of living in such close quarters, and her thoughts, feelings and longings as she grows up
8. Sarah’s Key
Paris, July 1942. Sarah, a ten year-old Jewish girl, is arrested by the French police in the middle of the night, along with her mother and father. Desperate to protect her younger brother, she locks him in a cupboard and promises to come back for him as soon as she can.
Paris, May 2002. Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, is asked to write about the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ — the infamous day in 1942 when French police rounded up thousands of Jewish men, women and children, in order to send them to concentration camps. Sarah’s Key is the poignant story of two families, forever linked and haunted by one of the darkest days in France’s past. In this emotionally intense, page-turning novel, Tatiana de Rosnay reveals the guilt brought on by long-buried secrets and the damage that the truth can inflict when they finally come unravelled.
9. Shindler’s List
In the shadow of Auschwitz, a flamboyant German industrialist grew into a living legend to the Jews of Cracow. He was a womaniser, a heavy drinker and a bon viveur, but to them he became a saviour. This is the extraordinary story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland and who was transformed by the war into a man with a mission, a compassionate angel of mercy
10. If the Stars Could Only Speak
A moving and sensitvely written children’s book by Holocaust survivor and educationalist Batsheva Dagan. If The Stars Could Only Speak tells the story of a Jewish mother and her children torn apart… by the events of the Holocaust. Specifically written for use in schools with children aged ten and upwards.
I hope you read some of these books. It something we should never forget, as Elie Wiesel said “to forget a holocaust is to kill twice”. All of the descriptions are taken from Amazon.
If you have read any of the books on the list please let me know what you thought in the comments below.
See you soon