Some Favorite Books on the Holocaust

Holocaust booksYou 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.

Additional Layers

  • 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.


  1. Please consider adding Sevek the Boy Who Refused to Die to your wonderful list. It has been used in hundreds of schools, engaging middle schoolers of all backgrounds. Sevek is my father – he survived ghetto, slave labor camps, concentration camps and death marches. He is now in his 80s and still works with schools. thank you!

  2. Are _Three Against Hitler_ & _Stepping on the Cracks_ on your list? They’re YA, I think. Very good. Ken Follett wrote several about this period(his are definitely adult): _The Key to Rebecca_, _Jackdaws_ & _Hornet Flight_. Of those three, my favorite is _Hornet Flight_. Edge-of-my-seat, worse & worse, right to the end.

  3. The Boy in Striped Pajama’s ( 4th grade and up) is also a good one along with Between Shades of Grey (High School) tells a different aspect from the repression in Russia they go through similar torture as the Jewish people in Germany.

  4. I suggest the books by Eva Mozes Kor. One is Echoes from Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele’s Twins: The Story of Eva and Miriam Mozes and the other is Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz. I believe the second one is YA, but I’m not 100% sure on that. I also suggest Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli. Echoes and Auschwitz would be high school/more mature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.