Holocaust Book Recommendations

Mariampole, Lithuania
Mariampole, Lithuania 1928 postcard

My grandfather’s family came from Mariampole, Lithuania. We assume that the relatives left behind in World War II were all killed in the Holocaust. You can read the other side of the postcard that my grandfather sent in 1928 on this post.

As today is Holocaust Day or Yom HaShoa, here is a list of books I read that have the Holocaust as a theme:

  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • They Called me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (true stories with artwork)
  • Stronger Than Iron: The Destruction of Vilna Jewry 1941 1945: An Eyewitness Account by Mendel Balberyszski
  • Maus I: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (graphic novel)
  • Gertruda’s Oath: A Child, a Promise, and a Heroic Escape During World War II
    by Ram Oren, Barbara Harshav (Translation)
  • The Violin of Auschwitz: A Novel
    by Maria Àngels Anglada, Martha Tennent (Translator)
  • Badenheim 1939
    by Aharon Appelfeld, Dalya Bilu (translator) (I would recommend any book by Aharon Appelfeld, but this is one of his best known works. And it’s short, a novella).
  • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco (loosely related to the Holocaust – it is a strange historical novel about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. One of the themes of this novel is modern antisemitism).

I used GoodReads to keep track of the books I read; feel free to friend me there. Have you read any Holocaust books that you want to share?

Many of the survivors of the Holocaust have since died; even some of the child survivors are no longer alive. It is up to us who have heard their tales to carry on their stories.

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25 thoughts on “Holocaust Book Recommendations

    • I’ve been thinking about posting recent books – and then I wanted to put something up for Yom HaShoa – so it went together.

      My daughter wanted to bring something in for school, so I printed a copy of the postcard. She wanted to bring in the real postcard, but I said no.

  • Sarah’s Key didn’t feel authentic to me. I recommend Sepharad. Also read “Our Holocaust,” a novel about an Israeli child obsessed with the Holocaust survivors around him and interspersed with many real characters and accounts. The Lost by Mendelsohn is another good one. I will look out for some of the ones on your list.

    • Thanks for those recommendations. I read The Lost quite a while ago – I remember liking it.

      I can see what you mean about Sarah’s Key seeming non-authentic. What I liked about it was modern day people puzzling over the tragic and horrific past.

  • HaYeladim M’Rechov Mapu” (“The Children of Mapu Street”) by Sarah Shner-Nishmit. (It was written in Hebrew, but there’s an English translation available.)

  • Have you read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas? I had mixed feelings about it (I reviewed it when I had a public blog) and the reviewer in the Jewish Chronicle didn’t like it at all, but it was very popular and was made into a movie. I might recommend it as a starting point for teaching non-Jewish children about the Holocaust.

  • Battlefields and Playgrounds, by Janos Nyiri, based on his childhood during the war in Hungary. If you can imagine this, it is actually a very funny book. The protagonist is an absolutely incorrigible child.

    • Helen, I think you may have mentioned this book before, because I have it in my to-read list. I see on Amazon it is out-of-print (though available used from other sellers).

  • I have read all but Umberto Eco’s book

    You know how Holocaust books are my primary reading genre

    I am in the midst of reading You, Fascinating You, by Germaine Shames

    • And I find out about many books by reading your blog. I certainly would not know about Mendel Balberyszski’s book if not for you. And now our library has a copy (at my request), so others can read his memoirs as well.

    • Now that *is* a classic! It’s good to know Anne Frank’s diary isn’t the only memoir written. Others are being written even today (sometimes posthumously published by descendants of survivors).

    • What I liked about Sarah’s Key was the characters from our era trying to relate to the past. I thought the initial story about Sarah was well told as well. But the main characters in present time varied from “it’s all the past, let’s move on” to “wow. whoa. now what?” – how does one process all this evil? And all this loss (both human and cultural – the book really doesn’t touch on the cultural loss).

  • One thing that I found interesting about Sarah’s Key was that it took place in France. There aren’t many books that I’ve seen about the Jewish experience there during the Holocaust.

    One of my favorite books is Uncle Misha’s partisans by Yuri Suhl.

  • Thank you, Leora, for the excellent list and invitation to connect on Goodreads. Jewaicious was kind enough to mention my Holocaust-themed novel, “You, Fascinating You.” The Historical Novel Society has recently designated the book “Editor’s Choice,” a quarterly honor bestowed on works that exemplify the best in historical fiction.

    I look forward to following your posts, recipes and wisdom.

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