It’s important that we never forget the horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people and many other marginalized populations during World War II. The loss of life was tremendous, and we have a responsibility to bear witness to these atrocities so we can ensure that something like this never happens again. These Holocaust memoirs and nonfiction books will help contemporary readers understand what so many people went through, and honor the millions that died senselessly.
Thousands of people have been honored for saving Jews during the Holocaust -- but not a single Arab. Looking for a hopeful response to the plague of Holocaust denial sweeping across the Arab and Muslim worlds, Robert Satloff sets off on a quest to find the Arab hero whose story will change the way Arabs view Jews, themselves, and their own history.
The story of the Holocaust's long reach into the Arab world is difficult to uncover, covered up by desert sands and desert politics. We follow Satloff over four years, through eleven countries, from the barren wasteland of the Sahara, where thousands of Jews were imprisoned in labor camps; through the archways of the Mosque in Paris, which may once have hidden 1700 Jews; to the living rooms of octogenarians in London, Paris and Tunis. The story is very cinematic; the characters are rich and handsome, brave and cowardly; there are heroes and villains. The most surprising story of all is why, more than sixty years after the end of the war, so few people -- Arab and Jew -- want this story told.
As the Holocaust recedes in time, the guardianship of its legacy is being passed on from its survivors and witnesses to the next generation. How should they, in turn, convey its knowledge to others? What are the effects of a traumatic past on its inheritors? And what are the second-generation's responsibilities to its received memories?
In this meditation on the long aftermath of atrocity, Eva Hoffman -- a child of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust with the help of neighbors, but whose entire families perished -- probes these questions through personal reflections, and through broader explorations of the historical, psychological, and moral implications of the second-generation experience. She examines the subterranean processes through which private memories of suffering are transmitted, and the more willful stratagems of collective memory. She traces the "second generation's" trajectory from childhood intimations of horror, through its struggles between allegiance and autonomy, and its complex transactions with children of perpetrators. As she guides us through the poignant juncture at which living memory must be relinquished, she asks what insights can be carried from the past to the newly problematic present, and urges us to transform potent family stories into a fully informed understanding of a forbidding history.
Millie Werber; Eve Keller
Judged only as a World War Two survivor's chronicle, Millie Werber's story would be remarkable enough. Born in central Poland in the town of Radom, she found herself trapped in the ghetto at the age of fourteen, a slave laborer in an armaments factory in the summer of 1942, transported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944, before being marched to a second armaments factory. She faced death many times; indeed she was certain that she would not survive. But she did.
Many years later, when she began to share her past with Eve Keller, the two women rediscovered the world of the teenage girl Millie had been during the war. Most important, Millie revealed her most precious private memory: of a man to whom she was married for a few brief months. He was -- if not the love of her life -- her first great unconditional passion. He died, leaving Millie with a single photograph taken on their wedding day, and two rings of gold that affirm the presence of a great passion in the bleakest imaginable time.
On the evening of February 15, 2001, Sonia Reich, Howard Reich's mother, packed some clothes into two brown shopping bags, put on her gray winter coat, locked the door to her home in Skokie, Illinois and fled. Someone was trying to kill her, "to put a bullet in my head," Sonia told anyone who would listen. Polish and Jewish, Sonia Reich had survived the Holocaust by staying always on the run. She and Howard's father, Robert, also a Holocaust survivor, had fled to America, moved to Chicago, and raised their young son to tell no one that they were Jewish. It was only after moving to Skokie, a town filled with Holocaust survivors, that his family would live as Jews. Still, his parents told Howard almost nothing about their past. The First and Final Nightmare is Reich's moving and bittersweet memoir of growing up in Skokie, discovering an odd and personal American freedom in jazz, and his riveting, revealing investigation into his family's past and the nature of his mother's illness, called late-onset Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a poignant story of a mother and a son, a haunted past, and the irony of what may happen when that often repeated admonition to "never forget" becomes a curse.
n June 1944, Freda Wineman and her family arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous Nazi concentration and death camp. After a cursory look from an SS doctor, Freda's life was spared and her mother was sent to the gas chambers. Freda only survived because the Allies won the war -- the Nazis ultimately wanted every Jew to die. Her mother was one of millions who lost their lives because of a racist regime that believed that some human beings simply did not deserve to live -- not because of what they had done, but because of who they were.
Laurence Rees has spent twenty-five years meeting the survivors and perpetrators of the Third Reich and the Holocaust. In this sweeping history, he combines this testimony with the latest academic research to investigate how history's greatest crime was possible. Rees argues that while hatred of the Jews was at the epicenter of Nazi thinking, we cannot fully understand the Holocaust without considering Nazi plans to kill millions of non-Jews as well. He also reveals that there was no single overarching blueprint for the Holocaust. Instead, a series of escalations compounded into the horror. Though Hitler was most responsible for what happened, the blame is widespread, Rees reminds us, and the effects are enduring.
The Holocaust: A New History is an accessible yet authoritative account of this terrible crime. A chronological, intensely readable narrative, this is a compelling exposition of humanity's darkest moment.
Although the Soviet Union was part of the Allied forces, what so many Americans didn't know at the time was that Josef Stalin was just as cruel and murderous as Hitler. He was responsible for the deportation, imprisonment, and murder of six million Jewish people, and just as many other Europeans and Soviet citizens—and his wartime killings weren't widely known for many years thanks to the Iron Curtain that fell not long after the end of WWII. This book looks at an American ally critically, shedding light on lesser-known deaths.
by Karl-Heinz Reuband
Although many people believed after WWII that ordinary citizens couldn't have known about the Holocaust during the war, the fact remains that the discrimination, persecution and murder of millions of people didn't just happen. Eric Johnson's book analyzes what everyday life was like in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich, how people coped, survived, and justified what was happening, and just how much people really knew about the Nazi's evil.
When it became evident that Hitler was about to invade Denmark, one brave German man helped raise the alarm and warn Danish Jews that they were in grave danger, and the Danish resistance mobilized to smuggle the majority of the country's Jewish people to Sweden. Emmy Werner interviewed many of the eyewitnesses who were involved in this rescue, providing a rare firsthand account of a tremendous and organized act of courage.
First published in 1949, this book was a groundbreaking work that revealed how fourteen different people—some Jewish, some Germans who opposed Hitler's ideologies—survived being hunted by the Gestapo, being imprisoned in concentration camps, and the violence of war. This is both an important testimony to the horrors of WWII, and a vital historical document that exposed those horrors to a shocked world.
by Dan McMillan
In studying the Holocaust and WWII, the loss of life and cruelty can be overwhelming, and people want to know how it could have even gotten that bad. Historian Dan McMillan takes a wide approach to understand the Holocaust by examining the various systems of power in place, the causes and effects, and the factors both manufactured and coincidental that went into shaping the Holocaust. This is a book that helps people understand history on a macro level, allowing them to see many connections between events and places.
by Lyn Smith
This book incorporates so many firsthand accounts of people who survived the rise and fall of Hitler's Third Reich, originally recorded for the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and London's Imperial War Museum. It also includes accounts of non-Jewish people who were targeted by the Nazis, such as Romani, LGBTQ+ people, and Jehovah's Witnesses. This is another essential firsthand account.
David Clay Large reveals one of the great tragedies of the early years of Hitler's rise to power: German Jews tried to flee, but no one would grant them asylum. This book follows the story of Max Schohl and his family, who were wealthy German Jews who were also educated and well-connected, with family in the United States and job offers from American universities. Nonetheless, the Schohl family couldn't get the visas they needed, and they were eventually arrested and sent to concentration camps. They left behind an enormous collection of letters and documentation revealing the rest of the world's indifference to their plight.
by David Crowe
Schindler's List is one of the most popular films about the Holocaust, but this nonfiction book tells the more complicated story about the man who is credited with saving over a thousand Jewish people. Oskar Schindler was an opportunist, a sometimes collaborator with the Nazis, and he's not at all entirely responsible for the creation of the famous list. He faced exile after the war, died in poor health, and was criticized by his wife after the appearance of the film. This is a fascinating account of a real person that reveals humanity desire to romanticize and dramatize WWII.
Although many readers may not have the emotional bandwidth to read all of these books at once, each of these nonfiction Holocaust books and Holocaust memoirs provides an essential viewpoint on a horrific period in history, and it’s worth taking the time to read these stories.