The best nonfiction books for middle schoolers about children in the Holocaust

Allan Zullo Author Of Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust
By Allan Zullo

The Books I Picked & Why

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust: Memories of a Refugee Childhood

By Uri Shulevitz

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust: Memories of a Refugee Childhood

Why this book?

Through his poignant words and stark drawings, Uri—a renowned children’s book author and illustrator—recounts his harrowing eight-year childhood ordeal when he and his Jewish family fled from the Nazis.  The book is an absorbing first-person narrative that describes his constant fear, daily hunger and recurring loneliness as he and his family eluded the enemy at every turn.  Uri’s haunting, imaginative drawings help bring this riveting true story into sharp, emotional focus.


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Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz

By Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany

Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz

Why this book?

In this engrossing first-person account, Eva Mozes Kor tells the horrifying story of how she and her twin Miriam were ten years old when they lost their family to the gas chambers and were subjected to the sadistic medical experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, the personification of evil. Written for young adults, Eva presents a unique and chilling child’s-eye view of how she and her sister persevered despite suffering under the madness of the Angel of Death.


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We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust

By Jacob Boas

We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust

Why this book?

Yes, it’s heartbreaking to know that these young people died in the Holocaust, but their words live on.  The author, who is a Holocaust survivor, does an outstanding job of putting each diarist’s thoughts, dreams, and hopes—and fears—in context with his gifted commentary.  Among the excerpted diaries featured in this book is the most famous of them all—Anne Frank’s.


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I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust

By Livia Bitton-Jackson

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust

Why this book?

This is an extremely well-written first-person account of how anti-Semitism followed and haunted Livia (born Elli Friedmann in Czechoslovakia) before, during, and after she, her brother, and mother were shipped off to Auschwitz.  The atrocities and harassment they endured in the death camp didn’t stop after they were liberated in 1945 because so many anti-Semites made life unbearable, yet eventually Livia and her family triumphed.


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The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible....on Schindler's List

By Leon Leyson, Marilyn J. Harran, Elisabeth B. Leyson

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible....on Schindler's List

Why this book?

This is the only published memoir by a child on Schindler’s List.  As a scrawny undersized 15-year-old, Leon (born Leib Lezjon) needed to stand on a box to reach the controls of the machine he operated in Oskar Schindler’s factory.  From this unique perspective, Leon weaves a personal, heartrending true story of persecution, bravery, and survival.  He also presents a portrait of a courageous man who risked everything to save the lives of 1,200 Jews.


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