January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and it is a UN designated day to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945, and to honor the millions of victims of the Holocaust and Nazism. Here are five need to read books to commemorate the day and what it stands for, and to ensure that we do not forget as well as to ensure that these horrors are not repeated, or at the least stopped when they do happen (like the current situation in Ukraine).
The number of books I can recommend here are way too many, so I am trying to add the ones I most recently read in the need to read list below, and include the ones I have talked about a few times already as additional reading. Each of these books are
Five Need to Read Books About the Holocaust
Alias Anna by Susan Hood with Greg Dawson (Children’s Holocaust History Books | 10 years and up | HarperCollins, March 22, 2022)
Description: The moving true story of how young Ukrainian Jewish piano prodigies Zhanna (alias “Anna”) and her sister Frina outplayed their pursuers while hiding in plain sight during the Holocaust.
My Quick Thoughts: I had this book in my must-read since I first saw it and finally got around to it earlier this year. And once I started, I couldn’t stop. There is way too much that I love about this book to fit it here under ‘quick thoughts.’
The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (Jewish Holocaust history | Pantheon Books, November 19, 1996)
Description: A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.
My Quick Thoughts: A current read that I am engrossed in, and I totally agree with the words n the description so far. While I am not sure if I will be ready for all the feelings it is sure to incite as I continue reading it, I need to read it.
Jars of Hope
Jars of Hope by Jennifer Rozines Roy and illustrated by Megan Owenson (Children’s Holocaust Books, 9 – 12 years, and up | Capstone Young Readers; July 1, 2016))
Description: Amid the horrors of World War II, Irena Sendler was an unlikely and unsung hero. While many people lived in fear of the Nazis, Irena defied them, even though it could have meant her life
My Quick Thoughts: This picture book is honest, stark, and brave, like its protagonist. Both Roy’s straightforward narrative and Owenson’s art aptly illustrate the hopelessness and the hopefulness, the desperation and the bravery, the evils and the kindnesses.
Night by Elie Wiesel and translated by Marion Wiesel (Jewish Holocaust History, high-school and older | Hill and Wang, January 16, 2006)
Description: Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps.
My Quick Thoughts: I read this last year when my daughter had to read it as part of her high school required reading texts. Both of us cried over it together and marveled at the strength of all those who survived the horrific events of the Holocaust.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (Children’s Holocaust Fiction Books, 9 – 12 years and up | HarperCollins Children’s Books, 50th Anniversary edition, September 2021)
Description: This semi-autobiographical classic, written by the beloved Judith Kerr, tells the story of a Jewish family escaping Germany in the days before the Second World War.
My Quick Thoughts: We first watched the movie based on this book when it came out, and the movie left me torn. I simply had to read this book, and it is, like Morpugo’s words on the cover, “life-enhancing” indeed. We feel all of the sorrows Anna feels but also can see through the bleakness to her hopes. Less harsh and graphic than other reads on this list, this book is still a must-read.
Additional and Related Reading
- The Opera Sisters is a very recent read and one that lead me to go learn more about the sisters featured in the book. (Historical World War II Fiction)
- The Diary of a Young Girl. Of course, no post about this timeframe can be complete without at least a mention of Anne Frank’s diary. This book had and continues to have a huge impact on my life in so many ways. (all ages)
- Yellow Star. A book (also by Jennifer Roy who wrote Jars of Hope) that as I mentioned in my review here, is one for everyone to read. Moving, heart wrenching, inspiring, heartbreaking, read that is simply beautiful in its lyrical voice. (9 – 12 years, and up)
- The Sound of Freedom. In this book for young readers, Kathy Kacer weaves historical fact and fiction seamlessly. (9 – 12 years, and up)
- Number the Stars. Another book that made me teary-eyed throughout. (9 – 11 years, and up)
- We Had to be Brave. A nonfiction (for 8 – 12 years, and up) which I talk about and pair with The Book of Lost Names (Historical World War II Fiction) in this post here is another must-read.
- Two other powerful nonfiction WWII reads for me were Flowers in the Gutter (12 years and up) and Surviving the Angel of Death.(teen and older)
- I also have to mention both The Paris Library. and The Book Thief in this list.
- and so many more I am yet to read and discover, including Jonathan Freedland’s The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World
- If you have not watched the Orchestra of Exiles before, add it your must-watch list now.
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, have you read any of these books? Your thoughts on them? And as always, I welcome your recommendations for similar reads and any and all comments on this post.