No moment in history is more horrific than the Holocaust of World War II. Everyone, including young people, are drawn to the stories of real people who experienced disaster and tragedy. The survivors. The heroes. The monsters. When the Titanic sunk, women and children were saved first. During the Holocaust, they were killed first. Some of these books provide darker details of the Holocaust than others. I have listed them in order from least to most disturbing.
Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine
This is the story of how Hana’s suitcase came to be in the possession of the curator of a small Holocaust museum in Japan. Fumiko became obsessed with finding out the story behind the suitcase. With much effort she finally found Hana’s brother alive in Canada and learned the tragedy of Hana’s death at Auschwitz.
Irena’s Children by Mary Cronk Farrell
When the Nazi’s invaded Poland Irena Sendler watched helplessly as her Jewish friends were ordered into the Warsaw ghetto. Since Irena was a social worker she was allowed clearance to enter. She smuggled in food and medicine and eventually began smuggling children out. Though caught and imprisoned, she never gave up the names of her associates and ultimately saved around 2000 children.
Somewhere There is Still a Sun by Michael Gruenbaum
Few people know about the “model” concentration camp, Terezin. It was set up to show the Red Cross and foreign officials that Jewish prisoners were being treated humanely. Michael was imprisoned at Terezin for 2 ½ years thinking there couldn’t possibly be a worse place. When the prisoners who had been transported from Terezin to Auschwitz three months earlier return barely alive, he realizes the horror he was spared.
The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
When Lieb Leyson’s family was sent to the Krakow ghetto, his father was one of the Jews employed by Nazi member Oskar Schindler. They were eventually deported to the Plaszow labor camp, but Schindler managed to obtain work permits for the family. All of Schindler’s Jews were spared the horrors of the labor camps and is regarded as a hero by the Jewish community.
Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren
Jack was a teenage boy when he was separated from his mother and sister by the Nazis and forced into a labor camp. Over three years he endured the horrors of starvation, cold, and cruelty. By the end, he had been shuffled around to seven camps, and still managed to survive for three years. Through it all, he held onto hope that his family was suffering, but alive. He was the only one to survive Hitler.
I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia E. Bitton-Jackson
Elli was a teenage girl from Hungary when the Nazis invaded, taking away her freedoms and forcing her family into the ghetto. All of that was nothing compared to the life she faced at Auschwitz and Dachau death camps. Elli put her own life at risk again and again for her mother who never would have survived without her.
Tell Them We Remember by Susan Bachrach
This is a documentary overview of Hitler’s rise to power, the erosion of Jewish freedom, the deportation to concentration camps and the liberation. It’s an informational book rather than a memoir, and provides everything you want to know about the Holocaust. Full of photographs from the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
Survivors: True Stories of Children of the Holocaust by Allan Zullo
This book gives a short perspective of eight different child survivors of the Holocaust. Although they came from different countries and backgrounds, they were all Jewish and targeted for extermination. They all saw their freedoms eroded by the Nuremberg laws, but their paths to survival were different. Some went into hiding, while others went to the ghettos and death camps.
Survivors Club by Michael Bornstein
Michael was born during the early years of World War II and never knew freedom until the war ended. Since his father was the most influential member of the Jewish Council, his family was one of the last to be deported to Auschwitz. Nearly all children were exterminated upon arrival, but inexplicably 4-year-old Michael was spared and avoided certain death multiple times.