The best books written by children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors

Who am I?

Elizabeth Rynecki is the great-granddaughter of Polish-Jewish artist, Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943). She grew up with her great-grandfather's paintings prominently displayed on the walls of her family home and understood from an early age that the art connected her to a legacy from "the old country": Poland. Elizabeth has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College ('91) and an MA in Rhetoric and Communication from UC Davis ('94). Her Master's thesis focused on children of Holocaust survivors. Her book, Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy, was published by NAL/Penguin Random House in September 2016. Her documentary film, also titled Chasing Portraits, had its world premiere in Poland in 2018 and has screened at numerous film festivals across North America. The film can be streamed on Amazon, iTunes, Kanopy, and OvidTV.


I wrote...

Book cover of Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter's Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy

What is my book about?

The memoir of one woman's emotional quest to find the art of her Polish-Jewish great-grandfather lost during World War II. Moshe Rynecki's body of work reached close to eight hundred paintings and sculptures before his life came to a tragic end. It was his great-granddaughter Elizabeth who sought to rediscover his legacy, setting upon a journey to seek out what had been lost but never forgotten...

The books I picked & why

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The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

By Art Spiegelman,

Book cover of The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Why this book?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel has been hailed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker). For me, Spiegelman’s books are about more than the Holocaust. It is the tale within a tale, about the author’s relationship to his father’s legacy of trauma, that I find most compelling. The Second Generation (children of survivors) didn’t experience the Holocaust and can’t bear witness, and yet growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust impacts everything about their lives. Spiegelman’s Maus I and II books capture this in a remarkably profound way.

The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

By Art Spiegelman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Complete Maus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first and only graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, MAUS is a brutally moving work of art about a Holocaust survivor -- and the son who survives him

'The first masterpiece in comic book history' The New Yorker

Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father's story. Approaching the unspeakable through the diminutive (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), Vladek's harrowing story of survival is woven into the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father.

Against the backdrop…


Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

By Helen Epstein,

Book cover of Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

Why this book?

Epstein “secret quest” was to “find a group of people who, like me, were possessed by a history they had never lived.” When I read Epstein’s book in the late 90s, it was the first time I’d ever “met” other children of survivors. I’d never discussed what it meant to be the daughter and granddaughter of survivors with others who had grown up in similar circumstances. These interviews validated many of the issues I struggled with and helped me see how our voices are an important part of the expanding genre of Holocaust discourse.

Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

By Helen Epstein,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Children of the Holocaust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I set out to find a group of people who, like me, were possessed by a history they had never lived."

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Helen Epstein traveled from America to Europe to Israel, searching for one vital thin in common: their parent's persecution by the Nazis. She found:

* Gabriela Korda, who was raised by her parents as a German Protestant in South America;
* Albert Singerman, who fought in the jungles of Vietnam to prove that he, too, could survive a grueling ordeal;
* Deborah Schwartz, a Southern beauty queen who-at the Miss America pageant, played the…


Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

By Sarah Wildman,

Book cover of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

Why this book?

Years after the death of Wildman’s grandfather, she discovered a cache of letters from a woman named Valy—Valerie Scheftel—her grandfather’s lover, who remained behind when he fled Europe six months after the Nazis annexed Austria. Using the letters as a starting point, and seeking help from others, Wildman pieces together Valy’s story. It’s both a Holocaust story, the desperate effort to reconstruct the history, and a look at how a history, not exactly our own, shapes us.

Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

By Sarah Wildman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Paper Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One woman’s journey to find the lost love her grandfather left behind when he fled pre-World War II Europe, and an exploration into family identity, myth, and memory.

Years after her grandfather’s death, journalist Sarah Wildman stumbled upon a cache of his letters in a file labeled “Correspondence: Patients A–G.” What she found inside weren’t dry medical histories; instead what was written opened a path into the destroyed world that was her family’s prewar Vienna. One woman’s letters stood out: those from Valy—Valerie Scheftel—her grandfather’s lover, who had remained behind when he fled Europe six months after the Nazis annexed…


Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin

By Dina Gold,

Book cover of Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin

Why this book?

Dina Gold knew her grandmother lived a glamorous life in pre-war Berlin and that she dreamed of one day returning to reclaim the family business building. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, Dina set out to do just that. Marching into the building, just two blocks from Checkpoint Charlie she declared, “I’ve come to claim my family’s building.” Stolen Legacy is a detailed account of Gold’s research, legal pursuits, struggles and victories.

Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin

By Dina Gold,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Stolen Legacy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This former BBC journalist's passionate search for justice is a suspenseful confrontation with World War II history. A fascinating journey." Anne-Marie O'Connor, national bestselling author of The Lady in Gold Dina Gold grew up hearing her grandmother's tales of the glamorous life in Berlin she once led before the Nazis came to power and her dreams of recovering a huge building she claimed belonged to the family - though she had no papers to prove ownership. When the Wall fell in 1989, Dina decided to battle for restitution. When the Third Reich was defeated in 1945 the building lay in…


Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film

By Glenn Kurtz,

Book cover of Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film

Why this book?

Glenn Kurtz’s grandparents traveled to Poland in August 1938, one year before the outbreak of the Second World War, to visit family. They filmed parts of that trip, including 3 minutes in Poland, footage that ultimately became one of the last records of a once vibrant Jewish community. Decades later, Kurtz painstakingly set out to identify the people in the film. He ultimately located seven living survivors, including an eighty-six-year-old man who appeared in the film as a thirteen-year-old boy. A heartfelt and powerful telling of what it means to rescue history and stories of survival.

Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film

By Glenn Kurtz,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Three Minutes in Poland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traveling in Europe in August 1938, one year before the outbreak of World War II, David Kurtz, the author's grandfather, captured three minutes of ordinary life in a small, predominantly Jewish town in Poland on 16 mm Kodachrome colour film. More than seventy years later, through the brutal twists of history, these few minutes of home-movie footage would become a memorial to an entire community, an entire culture that was annihilated in the Holocaust. Three Minutes in Poland traces Glenn Kurtz's remarkable four year journey to identify the people in his grandfather's haunting images. His search takes him across the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holocaust, Holocaust survivors, and refugees?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Holocaust, Holocaust survivors, and refugees.

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