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

Who am I?

I have penned more than 120 nonfiction books on a broad range of subjects for general audiences and middle-school readers, including five books about the true-life experiences of young people during the Holocaust.  The most heartbreaking, yet inspiring, moments in my decades-long writing career have been my interviews with Holocaust survivors, who, as children, relied on their courage, their faith, their smarts—and sometimes their luck—to endure years of unbelievable terror.


I wrote...

Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

By Allan Zullo, Mara Bovsun,

Book cover of Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

What is my book about?

It tells the incredible true stories of nine brave young Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, whose riveting accounts are based on the personal, lengthy interviews with the author. These children each found a way to make it through the nightmare of genocide. Some hid, some fled, some fought. Others suffered unbearable agony in ghettos, death marches and concentration camps.

Although it’s hard to imagine that anyone that young could bear so much agony from so much cruelty, this book is a celebration of the human spirit — of the will to overcome unspeakable horrors, the will to triumph over evil, the will to live. In fact, these survivors all shared a common trait: They believed in their hearts that they would live even when so many around them were dying. 

The books I picked & why

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

By Uri Shulevitz,

Book cover of 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.


The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

By Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany,

Book cover of The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

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.


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

By Jacob Boas,

Book cover of 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.


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

By Livia Bitton-Jackson,

Book cover of 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.


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

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

Book cover of 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in children in the Holocaust, the Holocaust, and Eastern Europe?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about children in the Holocaust, the Holocaust, and Eastern Europe.

Children In The Holocaust Explore 10 books about children in the Holocaust
The Holocaust Explore 159 books about the Holocaust
Eastern Europe Explore 26 books about Eastern Europe

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Diary of Laura's Twin, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War, and Good-Bye Marianne if you like this list.