You could tell kids about the Holocaust or have them read about it in a text book, but given all the absolutely tremendous first hand accounts, why would you? Such a topic is far more meaningful and life changing coming from someone who was there. Most of our favorite books on the Holocaust were written by people who lived through it or who heard first hand accounts of it.
For Your Youngest Kids
Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (Holocaust) The story of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, the first overt attack against the Jews in Germany.
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting Teaches kids to stand up for what is right, even if no one else is.
The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco. A young French girl wakes up one night to see a “ghost” sitting on the end of her bed. It turns out to be a young Jewish girl who has been hiding in her basement. What happens when the girls are discovered?
For about 4th grade and up
I Am A Star by Inge Auerbacher. A young girl and her family were sent to a concentration camp. The author tells the true story of her own family.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. The author tells her own story, the night her father had to steal away in secret, how she and her mother fled, one step ahead of the Nazi’s and how they made a new life in Switzerland.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Classic. Actually written by a young girl who wrote her daily experiences in Amsterdam as she hid from the Nazi’s. She and her family are found and sent to a concentration camp where young Anne dies.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. A young girl growing up comfy and safe in New York, is feeling rebellious and annoyed by her families traditions. Then she opens a door and steps through to find herself transported back in time to the concentration camp where her Aunt Eva and Grandpa Will were imprisoned during the Holocaust.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. The nation of Denmark heroically saved every one of its seven thousand Jews by secretly ferrying them across the sea to Sweden as Germany marched in.
For high school and up
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. The Ten Boom family were not Jews, tehy were Christian and so they built a false wall in an upstairs room and created a tiny secret space where they could secrete and protect their Jewish neighbors. They are found out and Corrie and her sister are sent to a concentration camp.
Night by Elie Weisel. A teenage boy, the author, is sent with his family to a concentration camp. Perhaps the most riveting part of the story is that the Jewish communities refused to believe what was happening and so they stood still and did nothing, even when the trains came. Extremely graphic and intense.
All of these books are intense because of their subject matter. Please pre-read before deciding if they are appropriate for your child.
- The Jews are not the only victims to suffer horribly at the hands of their fellow man. Genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda, Korea, China, and Chile to name a few. There’s also American slavery, South African apartheid, and oppression of women in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, among other horribleness. Sometimes it seems like oppression and violence are more the norms of the human experience than the exceptions.
- The writers of these stories and accounts are not attempting to merely depress the reader, so why did they write what they wrote?
- Some of you may have friends or family members who survived the holocaust or who heard stories from older relatives. Learn more about their first hand account if you can do so sensitively.
- The “Hiding Place” and “Night” are excellent books to read together, compare, and contrast. Discuss these books with your kids. Over the dinner table is a great place to talk about serious things.