The best books on hope and understanding after the Holocaust

Who am I?

Ellen Cassedy explores the ways that people, and countries, can engage with the difficult truths of the Holocaust in order to build a better future. She researched Lithuania’s encounter with its Jewish heritage, including the Holocaust, for ten years. Her book breaks new ground by shining a spotlight on how brave people – Jews and non-Jews – are facing the past and building mutual understanding. Cassedy is the winner of numerous awards and a frequent speaker about the Holocaust, Lithuania, and Yiddish language and literature.  

I wrote...

Book cover of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

What is my book about?

Can we honor our diverse heritages without perpetuating the fears and hatreds of the past? Ellen Cassedy set off into the Jewish heartland of Lithuania to study Yiddish and connect with her Jewish forebears. But then her personal journey into the old Jewish heartland expanded – into an exploration of how a land scarred by genocide is – and is not – engaging with the complex history of the Nazi and Soviet eras. Probing the terrain of memory and moral dilemmas, Cassedy shines a spotlight on fragile efforts toward mutual understanding, and offers a message of hope.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family

Why did I love this book?

Miep Gies helped to hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis, risking her life to bring them food, news, and emotional support. She found Anne’s diary and brought the world a message of love and hope. Her inspiring story shows how ordinary people can act with tremendous courage in extraordinary times.

By Miep Gies, Alison Leslie Gold,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Anne Frank Remembered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the millions moved by Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, here is Miep Gies's own astonishing story. For more than two years, Miep and her husband helped hide the Franks from the Nazis. Like thousands of unsung heroes of the Holocaust, they risked their lives every day to bring food, news, and emotional support to its victims. From her remarkable childhood as a World War I refugee to the moment she places a small, red-orange-checkered diary -- Anne's legacy -- into Otto Frank's hands, Miep Gies remembers her days with simple honesty and shattering clarity. Each page…

The Power of Forgiveness

By Eva Mozes Kor,

Book cover of The Power of Forgiveness

Why did I love this book?

Eva Mozes Kor was ten years old when she was sent to Auschwitz. As a survivor, she became an eloquent – and controversial – activist on behalf of forgiveness.  Her book tells the gripping story of how she freed herself from the burden of hatred.  Not everyone will agree with her stance, but everyone will be challenged and moved by it.

By Eva Mozes Kor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Eva Mozes Kor was just ten years old when she was sent to Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were murdered there, she and her twin sister Miriam were subjected to medical experiments at the hands of Dr. Joseph Mengele. Later on, when Miriam fell ill due to the long-term effects of the experiments, Eva embarked on a search for their torturers. But what she discovered was the remedy for her troubled soul; she was able to forgive them.

Told through anecdotes and in response to letters and questions at her public appearances, she imparts a powerful lesson…

Book cover of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Why did I love this book?

Bloodlands is an original and profoundly humanist history. It takes you intimately into the lives of ordinary people in Eastern and Central Europe – the region Snyder terms “the bloodlands” – during the years of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes. Read this book to deepen your commitment to creating the conditions under which people can stand up, not just stand by. 

By Timothy Snyder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Americans call the Second World War "the Good War." But before it even began, America's ally Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens-and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war's end, German and Soviet killing sites fell behind the Iron Curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.
Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of…

Book cover of Good Neighbors, Bad Times Revisited: New Echoes of My Father's German Village

Why did I love this book?

Mimi Schwartz’s Jewish father grew up in a German town where Jews and gentiles got along – until the Nazi era put extraordinary strains on their ability to coexist peaceably.  Schwartz explores how people who were not unusually brave managed to perform small acts of kindness and defiance. Her book offers important lessons for our time.

By Mimi Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Good Neighbors, Bad Times Revisited as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mimi Schwartz's father was born Jewish in a tiny German village thirty years before the advent of Hitler when, as he'd tell her, "We all got along." In her original memoir, Good Neighbors, Bad Times, Schwartz explored how human decency fared among Christian and Jewish neighbors before, during, and after Nazi times. Ten years after its publication, a letter arrived from a man named Max Sayer in South Australia. Sayer, it turns out, grew up Catholic in the village during the Third Reich and in 1937 moved into an abandoned Jewish home five houses away from where the family of…

Book cover of The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation

Why did I love this book?

Steinman reaches out across a cultural divide to seek out Poles who are pursuing the truth about the past, however painful, and recovering the history of their lost Jewish neighbors. She brings to life the ultimately healing process of Polish-Jewish reconciliation. Her journey changed her, and it will change you.

By Louise Steinman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A lyrical literary memoir that explores the exhilarating, discomforting, and ultimately healing process of Polish-Jewish reconciliation taking place in Poland today
“I’d grown up with the phrase ‘Never forget’ imprinted on my psyche. Its corollary was more elusive. Was it possible to remember—at least to recall—a world that existed before the calamity?”
In the winter of 2000, Louise Steinman set out to attend an international Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau at the invitation of her Zen rabbi, who felt the Poles had gotten a “bum rap.” A bum rap? Her own mother could not bear to utter the word “Poland,”…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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