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Five books about the Holocaust you need to read

By Andrea Silva Santisteban Fort, February 15 2021—

January 27 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the current context of rising anti-Semitism and increasing levels of hate speech, this day is an opportunity to educate ourselves on the subject and to take part in the process of recovery of the communities that have been treated unjustly over the course of history. I personally like to read Holocaust literature and think that we as a society have the duty to at least try to understand what happened during the Second World War.  

This is why I recommend the following five books: 

Book cover for The Red Ribbon. // Book cover courtesy of Candlewick.

This book tells a beautiful story of friendship, kindness and resilience within the harrowing camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Ella is a young Jewish girl with a passion for dressmaking. After securing a job in the sewing rooms, she starts making dresses for the commander’s wife and female guards — a task that helps her to escape the cruel chaos that surrounds her. The Red Ribbon is shocking at times, but also sweet and touching as we see the relationship between Ella and her best friend, Rose, develop. This is definitely a five-star read. 

Book cover for They Went Left. // Book cover courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

They Went Left tells the story of Zofia Lederman, a young Jewish girl who, after being liberated from a concentration camp, travels from her hometown in Poland to a displaced persons camp in Germany. She is searching for one family member she swore to protect, her younger brother Abek. Three years ago, as she and Abek were the only members of their family to avoid the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Zofia made a promise to her sibling: “Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet.” The plot of this book is a moving tale about love, bravery, loss, deception and the enduring consequences of war. 

Book cover for Night. // Book cover courtesy of Hill and Wang.

This book is the first of a trilogy written by Elie Wiesel who, as a teenager, was taken from his home to the Polish concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. You have to go into this read blindly, but I will say that Night not only gives a testimony to what happened in camps but also delivers an unforgettable message — this level of evil must not be allowed to happen ever again. 

Book cover for Man’s Search for Meaning. // Book cover courtesy of Beacon Press.

This is a memoir of the recognized psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, that gives the reader a detailed description of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Based on his own experience and the stories of his patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it and move forward with renewed purpose. 

Book cover for The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz. // Book cover courtesy of Penguin Books.

This book tells the story of a father and son who are sent to Buchenwald in 1939. As Gustav is transferred to Auschwitz, his son Fritz decides to follow him. This goes against the advice of others who remind him that “anyone that goes here, never returns.” The story continues for the next five years as the bond between father and son gets even stronger. In a harrowing context, this tale is about hope, determination and courage. 

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