The best books about the Holocaust in Eastern Europe

Who am I?

Born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War 2, Ettie immigrated with her parents to the USA. She grew up and was educated in New York City and Pennsylvania and immigrated to Israel after completing graduate school. After retiring from a career in international schools in 6 countries, she currently resides in Arizona with her husband. She is a Board member for the Phoenix Holocaust Association and devotes much time to giving presentations to youth and adults worldwide. 


I wrote...

Book cover of A Holocaust Memoir of Love & Resilience: Mama's Survival from Lithuania to America

What is my book about?

With the Nazi occupation of Kovno (Lithuania), her life changed forever. Zlata Santocki Sidrer was Jewish, but she survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Gone was her normal life and her teenage dream of becoming a doctor. Instead, she witnessed untold deprivations, massacres, imprisonment, hunger, and slave labor before being transported to the Stutthof Concentration Camp. Her story of the death march is a testament to her fighting spirit and the limits of human endurance. Yet the challenges did not end with liberation.

Lovingly compiled from recorded interviews and researched by her eldest daughter, Ettie, this is an account of a remarkably resilient woman who raised herself out of the ashes after unimaginable hardship and sorrow. She found love and happiness where none could be expected — a secret marriage in the ghetto and life-saving friendships. She describes escapes, dangerous border crossings, and reunifications.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Nazi's Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather Was a War Criminal

Ettie Zilber Why did I love this book?

While the author and I came from different sides of the same fence, I found myself empathizing with her deathbed promise, her fears, her worries, her self-doubt, and her commitment to finding, and eventually exposing, the truth. Setting out to write what should have been a fairly ‘easy’ biographical tribute to her late grandfather – hailed as a Lithuanian hero- she discovered - and uncovered - details and documents which shattered her world and confirmed “the gossip.” She began to doubt the stories she was told as a child and the people who told them- both in her Lithuanian-American neighborhood and back in the old country. What a page-turner…what agony and pain…until she finally made her courageous decision. Bravo, Silvia.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. There were very few survivors from Lithuania, and Foti’s book helps me understand why. I started learning about the Holocaust at my mother’s breast, after my birth in a Displaced Person’s camp in Germany, and I have been researching it ever since.

By Silvia Foti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Nazi's Granddaughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hero–or Nazi?

Silvia Foti was raised on reverent stories about her hero grandfather, a martyr for Lithuanian independence and an unblemished patriot. Jonas Noreika, remembered as “General Storm,” had resisted his country’s German and Soviet occupiers in World War II, surviving two years in a Nazi concentration camp only to be executed in 1947 by the KGB. His granddaughter, growing up in Chicago, was treated like royalty in her tightly knit Lithuanian community.

But in 2000, when Silvia traveled to Lithuania for a ceremony honoring her grandfather, she heard a very different story—a “rumor” that her grandfather had been a…


Book cover of The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews

Ettie Zilber Why did I love this book?

 How and why did a French Jesuit priest become engaged in the mammoth task of researching and documenting the very gruesome and unimaginable details of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. Many do not realize that the Nazi strategies of classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, and extermination (Stanton’s stages of genocide) of the Jews in western Europe were different from those of the eastern European countries. It was Father Desbois who coined the term “Holocaust by Bullets” to describe the events in 10 countries (today as): Estonia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Testimonies of non-Jewish neighbors, who were eyewitnesses, helped the researchers by willingly taking them to the exact killing sites and by describing the processes of the perpetrators. The sequel, In Broad Daylight: The Secret Procedures behind the Holocaust by Bullets, is a chilling and forensic analysis of the stages and procedures that led to the extermination of almost 2 million innocent men, women, and children- the largest crime scene in history.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. There were very few survivors from Lithuania, and Father Desbois’ book and extraordinary research helped me understand how and where my ancestors were murdered. I started learning about the Holocaust at my mother’s breast, after my birth in a Displaced Person’s camp in Germany, and I have been researching it ever since.

By Patrick Desbois,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Holocaust by Bullets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this heart-wrenching book, Father Patrick Desbois documents the daunting task of identifying and examining all the sites where Jews were exterminated by Nazi mobile units in the Ukraine in WWII. Using innovative methodology, interviews, and ballistic evidence, he has determined the location of many mass gravesites with the goal of providing proper burials for the victims of the forgotten Ukrainian Holocaust. Compiling new archival material and many eye-witness accounts, Desbois has put together the first definitive account of one of history's bloodiest chapters.Published with the support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


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

Ettie Zilber Why did I love this book?

The author and I have somewhat similar backgrounds, with ancestry back in Lithuania. We both made the commitment to travel to Lithuania, but for different reasons. Her quest to improve her knowledge and fluency of the Yiddish language, (my native language) brought her to Vilnius, Lithuania to study with a master teacher.  While she was there, she was determined to learn as much as she could about the long history of the Jews of Lithuania, the fate of her ancestors, and why (and how) almost 96% of the Lithuanian Jewish population was murdered- the highest percentage of any European country. Through research, interviews, songs, and Yiddish expressions, the author weaves together a nostalgic, literary, and academic odyssey into the past- and discovers the answer to the percentage question – the Nazis had willing collaborators.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. I started learning about the Holocaust at my mother’s breast, after my birth in a Displaced Person’s camp in Germany, and I have been researching it ever since.

I was also raised with Yiddish as my first language, I went to school to learn Yiddish literacy, and I am even teaching the language today.

By Ellen Cassedy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ellen Cassedy's longing to recover the Yiddish she'd lost with her mother's death eventually led her to Lithuania, once the "Jerusalem of the North." As she prepared for her journey, her uncle, sixty years after he'd left Lithuania in a boxcar, made a shocking disclosure about his wartime experience, and an elderly man from her ancestral town made an unsettling request. Gradually, what had begun as a personal journey broadened into a larger exploration of how the people of this country, Jews and non-Jews alike, are confronting their past in order to move forward into the future. How does a…


Book cover of Our People: Discovering Lithuania's Hidden Holocaust

Ettie Zilber Why did I love this book?

The partnership of these two authors, one, a Lithuanian national and prominent figure and the other, a Jewish/Israeli Nazi hunter, even surprised them both. While they come from the polar opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, their ultimate research collaboration offers the reader a view into the reason why 96% of Lithuanian Jews were murdered during – and after – the Holocaust – many, before the Nazis fully occupied the country. Travelling together throughout Lithuania, they interviewed non-Jewish eyewitnesses, who told them (on the record) what they saw and what they remembered of those horrible days when the Jews were murdered …by bullets… and who collaborated, assisted, and who pulled the trigger. 

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. There were very few survivors from Lithuania, and the Vanagaite-Zuroff book helps me understand why. I started learning about the Holocaust at my mother’s breast, after my birth in a Displaced Person’s camp in Germany, and I have been researching it ever since.

By Efraim Zuroff, Rūta Vanagaite,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This remarkable book traces the quest for the truth about the Holocaust in Lithuania by two ostensible enemies: Ruta a descendant of the perpetrators, Efraim a descendant of the victims. Ruta Vanagaite, a best-selling Lithuanian writer, was motivated by her recent discoveries that some of her relatives had played a role in the mass murder of Jews and that Lithuanian officials had tried to hide the complicity of local collaborators. Efraim Zuroff, a noted Israeli Nazi-hunter, had both professional and personal motivations. He had worked for years to bring Lithuanian war criminals to justice and to compel local authorities to…


Book cover of A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet: My Grandfather's SS Past, My Jewish Family, a Search for the Truth

Ettie Zilber Why did I love this book?

The author, a daughter of an uncommon ‘mixed marriage’ between a Lithuanian-Jewish Holocaust survivor and a Lithuanian-Christian immigrant family. Both sides of her families were kept separate, except for rare special occasions. As a child, she was told wonderful stories about how her Lithuanian grandfather helped save Jews. As an adult and as an historian, she began to investigate the true activities of her grandfather, during those dark days in Lithuania. Like, Silvia Foti, she was emotionally fractured when she learned the truth. 

There were very few Jewish survivors from Lithuania, and Gabis’ book helps me understand why.

By Rita Gabis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In prose as beautiful as it is powerful, Rita Gabis follows the trail of her grandfather’s collaboration with the Nazis--a trail riddled with secrets, slaughter, mystery, and discovery.

Rita Gabis comes from a family of Eastern European Jews and Lithuanian Catholics. She was close to her Catholic grandfather as a child and knew one version of his past: prior to immigration he had fought the Russians, whose brutal occupation of Lithuania destroyed thousands of lives before Hitler’s army swept in.

Five years ago, Gabis discovered an unthinkable dimension to her family story: from 1941 to 1943, her grandfather had been…


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Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

Book cover of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

Antonieta Contreras Author Of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a trauma therapist and dedicated researcher, I love uncovering valuable insights within lesser-known books. There are hidden gems, free from the pressure of commercial success, crafted by authors deeply committed to research, understanding, and the art of writing itself. Their dedication resonates with me, as I believe in the profound value of information and the power of critical thinking. Through my own book, Traumatization and Its Aftermath, I aim to emphasize that psychological concepts often lose their depth in translation and my mission is spreading awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of trauma and its intricate facets. With that idea in mind, I chose these five titles. 

Antonieta's book list on uncovering the human experience and exploring the depths of trauma

What is my book about?

A fresh take on the difference between trauma and hardship in order to help accurately spot the difference and avoid over-generalizations.

The book integrates the latest findings in brain science, child development, psycho-social context, theory, and clinical experiences to make the case that trauma is much more than a cluster of symptoms to be tamed, but instead best understood as development gone off course, away from growth and towards (only) survival.

This book prompts a profound shift in perception, inviting to view trauma as an intricate and diverse experience, a point of view that ultimately leads to sharper treatment and, hopefully, more healing. It encourages a transition from asking, "What happened to you?" to the deeper question, "What is your relationship with what happened to you?"

Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

What is this book about?

The book is comprehensive, bold, and practical-a much-needed resource for the assessment and treatment of trauma. Instead of the traditional focus on the overall importance of healing, Traumatization and its Aftermath decodes why some people don't heal as easily as others, analyzes the various failures of diagnosis, and explains how to make therapeutic interventions truly effective.

This book offers a systemic deep dive into traumatization that clarifies myths and misinformation about the entire spectrum of trauma and provides both clinicians and non-clinicians with the right level of validation, preventive measures, conceptualization methodology, assessment tools, and healing facts that have not…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holocaust, Lithuania, and Jewish history?

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