The best books about the concentration camps of the Holocaust

Who am I?

I’ve dedicated most of my writing career to the Holocaust, and in order to create novels that are historically accurate, I’ve interviewed survivors, as well as done research at many of the camps. It is one thing to study Auschwitz, but it’s an entirely different thing to walk its soil. I give lectures on the Holocaust and do readings from my novels all across the country, and I view my work as a way to open discussion about what happened in Europe between 1933-1945. As I often say, just because we live in a post-Holocaust world, does not mean we have come to understand the Holocaust.


I wrote...

The Commandant of Lubizec: A Novel of the Holocaust and Operation Reinhard

By Patrick Hicks,

Book cover of The Commandant of Lubizec: A Novel of the Holocaust and Operation Reinhard

What is my book about?

The Commandant of Lubizec is a harrowing account of a death camp that never existed, but easily could have in the Nazi state. Told as a historical account in a documentary style, it explores the atmosphere of a death camp. It describes what it was like to watch the trains roll in, and it probes into the mind of its commandant, Hans-Peter Guth. How could he murder thousands of people each day and then go home to laugh with his children? This is not only an unflinching portrayal of the machinery of the gas chambers, it is also the story of how prisoners burned the camp to the ground and fled into the woods. It is a story of rebellion and survival. It is a story of life amid death.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers

Patrick Hicks Why did I love this book?

This is a shattering account of a man who was forced to work in the gas chambers of Auschwitz for several years. Not only did he see the serial mass murder up close, but he also witnessed the failed rebellion at Crematorium IV on October 7, 1944. Müller’s writing is sparse and harrowing as he describes daily life in the Third Reich’s largest concentration camp. This is an essential document about the Holocaust and it helps the reader understand what it meant to be part of the Sonderkommando—those unfortunate prisoners who were forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria. This is an unforgettable and vital book.

By Filip Müller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eyewitness Auschwitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Filip Muller came to Auschwitz with one of the earliest transports from Slovakia in April 1942 and began working in the gassing installations and crematoria in May. He was still alive when the gassings ceased in November 1944. He saw millions come and disappear; by sheer luck he survived. Muller is neither a historian nor a psychologist; he is a source-one of the few prisoners who saw the Jewish people die and lived to tell about it. Eyewitness Auschwitz is one of the key documents of the Holocaust.


Book cover of The Last Jew of Treblinka

Patrick Hicks Why did I love this book?

When I first read this book, I didn’t know much about Treblinka, and in order to write my book I needed to read as much as I could about the extermination camps. I read Raichman’s memoir in one sitting because his account of surviving Treblinka is so immediate and visual. Whenever I’m asked about books on the Holocaust, I always recommend this one. He describes thousands of innocent people getting off trains, being separated, and then being forced to run naked up the “The Road to Heaven” and into the gas chambers. No other book captures Treblinka as well as this one does. Some 900,000 people died in Treblinka, and nearly all of them were Jewish. Raichman’s account is deeply moving, poignant, and heart-rending.

By Chil Rajchman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Jew of Treblinka as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Quickly becoming a cornerstone of Holocaust historiography―a devastatingly stark memoir from one of the lone survivors of Treblinka.

Why do some live while so many others perish? Tiny children, old men, beautiful girls. In the gas chambers of Treblinka, all are equal. The Nazis kept the fires of Treblinka burning night and day, a central cog in the wheel of the Final Solution.

In the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival at Auschwitz and The Drowned and the Saved, Rajchman provides the only survivors’ record of Treblinka. Originally written in Yiddish in 1945, without hope or agenda…


Book cover of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps

Patrick Hicks Why did I love this book?

Most people don’t understand the difference between a concentration camp and a death camp. Between 1942-1943, a new phase of the Holocaust was undertaken by the Nazis under the code name “Operation Reinhard.” It was designed to murder all of the Jews of Poland. Camps were set up with one purpose: the swift and unrelenting slaughter of innocent families and villages. In this supremely detailed historical account, Yitzhak Arad explains the construction and daily operation of Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. In these three camps alone, nearly two million people were murdered. This book helped me to understand this aspect of the Holocaust in new and important ways. It haunts me still.

By Yitzhak Arad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

" . . . Mr. Arad reports as a controlled and effective witness for the prosecution. . . . Mr. Arad's book, with its abundance of horrifying detail, reminds us of how far we have to go."-New York Times Book Review

" . . . some of the most gripping chapters I have ever read. . . . the authentic, exhaustive, definitive account of the least known death camps of the Nazi era." -Raul Hilberg

Arad, historian and principal prosecution witness at the Israeli trial of John Demjanjuk (accused of being Treblinka's infamous "Ivan the Terrible"), uses primary materials to…


Book cover of Night

Patrick Hicks Why did I love this book?

If there is a single book about the Holocaust that most people have read, it’s probably Wiesel’s account of entering Auschwitz with his family and witnessing so much horror orbiting around him. Wiesel’s emotional story of trying to keep his father alive—and also trying to understand how a loving God could allow a place like Auschwitz to exist—is taught in schools all across the world. There is a reason this slim but powerful book has become an introduction to the Holocaust for so many. My copy is a mere 106 pages, but those few pages changed me. I must have read this when I was fourteen or fifteen, and I’ve never forgotten it.

By Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel (translator),

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born into a Jewish ghetto in Hungary, as a child, Elie Wiesel was sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. This is his account of that atrocity: the ever-increasing horrors he endured, the loss of his family and his struggle to survive in a world that stripped him of humanity, dignity and faith. Describing in simple terms the tragic murder of a people from a survivor's perspective, Night is among the most personal, intimate and poignant of all accounts of the Holocaust. A compelling consideration of the darkest side of human nature and the enduring power of…


Book cover of Survival in Auschwitz

Patrick Hicks Why did I love this book?

Like Wiesel, Levi explains his daily survival at Auschwitz and we learn about how vast and huge the camp was during its peak operation. Levi goes into the sociology of camp life and tries to explain what Auschwitz did to the mind and spirit. Importantly, he tries to help us understand what survival did to those who managed to walk away from the killing, and he is deeply thoughtful. He nudges us to ask what it means to be human after experiencing the Holocaust. I had a hard time choosing between this book and his other masterpiece, The Drowned and the Saved. Both probe what it means to live a good life in the face of evil. 

By Primo Levi,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Survival in Auschwitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true and harrowing account of Primo Levi’s experience at the German concentration camp of Auschwitz and his miraculous survival; hailed by The Times Literary Supplement as a “true work of art, this edition includes an exclusive conversation between the author and Philip Roth.

In 1943, Primo Levi, a twenty-five-year-old chemist and “Italian citizen of Jewish race,” was arrested by Italian fascists and deported from his native Turin to Auschwitz. Survival in Auschwitz is Levi’s classic account of his ten months in the German death camp, a harrowing story of systematic cruelty and miraculous endurance. Remarkable for its simplicity, restraint,…


You might also like...

She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

Book cover of She Refused to Bow

Farida Manekshah

New book alert!

What is my book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.

She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

What is this book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holocaust, concentration camps, and prisoners?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Holocaust, concentration camps, and prisoners.

The Holocaust Explore 373 books about the Holocaust
Concentration Camps Explore 34 books about concentration camps
Prisoners Explore 92 books about prisoners