The best books about Nazi Germany

The Books I Picked & Why

Alone in Berlin

By Hans Fallada

Book cover of Alone in Berlin

Why this book?

Alone in Berlin, is inspired by a true story and set in 1940 Berlin. The book was written in 1946 (but not published in English until 2009) and is a brilliant depiction of a lowly, working-class couple’s dangerous attempt at resistance to Hitler’s regime. It is not only a grippingly written thriller which shows unflinchingly the excruciating level of violence and fear under which the population lived, but the book continuously poses questions of morality. The couple’s resistance to the seemingly all-powerful Nazi war machine at times seems infantile and futile, but they keep going, not knowing if the danger they are facing is having any effect at all. It forces the reader to question, all the way through, what would I have done, in their shoes? 


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All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Why this book?

Anthony Doerr is one of my all-time favourite authors and this book is one I have read several times. The writing is so beautiful, the rhythm and flavour of the book, hypnotic. Against a backdrop of a world war which is so vast, huge, and evil as to be almost beyond comprehension, Doerr tells the tale of two young people, powerless in the face of all that was going on around them, and connected by the tenuous but exquisite possibilities of radio. Blind Marie-Laure in France and German orphan, Werner, against all the odds, find each other. An incredible, bittersweet novel which lingers in the mind forever after. 


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The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

Book cover of The Book Thief

Why this book?

The Book Thief is another extraordinary novel which is written in heartachingly beautiful prose but is equally compelling in action and plot. Featuring nine-year-old Liesel, who is looked after by a foster family, it is so much more than simply another war story. It is a celebration of books, of the power of words and of story. It is about love and kindness and the folly of humankind. Death is famously the narrator of this book which enables Zusak to put a birds-eye perspective view on human behaviour, tragedy, and our unfathomable capacity for evil, as well as for good. An absolute must-read!


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A Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika

By Alfons Heck

Book cover of A Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika

Why this book?

I found this book fascinating and incredibly useful when doing the research for my own novel. It is the memories of Heck growing up under the Nazi regime. It is always good to bear in mind such books are written with hindsight and in retrospect rather than contemporaneously, but I found this to be seemingly an unflinching account. It gives a real flavour of what it must have been like to have been carried along by and brainwashed into, the Nazi system of beliefs at a time when nobody had any idea what was to follow. For anyone interested in the pre-war, Nazi period, this is a good place to start. 


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Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

By Art Spiegelman

Book cover of Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Why this book?

I don’t usually read graphic novels, but this I highly recommend. It’s a masterpiece of visual storytelling. Set in 1970’s New York, it shows Spiegelman interviewing his Polish-born father about his life and experiences during the rise to power of the Nazis and during the war years. The artist has used animals to represent nations: the Germans as cats, Jews as mice, Poles as pigs, Americans as dogs, etc. It is not an easy read, vividly depicting the cruelty suffered during the Nazi period but also, equally importantly, though very much less explored in literature, how much those who suffered under the Nazis continued to struggle for the rest of their lives. How second and future generations have assumed some of this suffering. An important novel powerfully told.  


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