The best YA historical fiction about the Second World War and the Holocaust

Who am I?

I'm the child of Holocaust survivors. I grew up with parents willing to talk about their survival experiences and do so in a way that wouldn't terrify me. I asked a million questions that my parents willingly answered. I grew up passionate about this history and determined to write their stories and the stories of other survivors. I'm aware that this generation of survivors is aging and passing away. Their "voices" will soon be gone. I feel a responsibility to capture these stories and write them for the next generations. I'm about to have my thirtieth book about the Holocaust published! And I've got more book ideas on the go.


I wrote...

Under the Iron Bridge

By Kathy Kacer,

Book cover of Under the Iron Bridge

What is my book about?

It's 1938 in Germany, and Paul is under pressure to join the Hitler Youth. Just when he's starting to despair, he meets a group of teenagers working to undermine the growing power of the Nazis. They are called the Edelweiss Pirates. But brave choices have consequences, and during the terrifying violence of Kristallnacht, Paul must step out of the shadows and make a life-changing decision.

Inspired by the true story of the rebel group that declared "Eternal War on the Hitler Youth," Under the Iron Bridge is a tale of courage in the face of adversity.

The books I picked & why

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Names in a Jar

By Jennifer Gold,

Book cover of Names in a Jar

Why this book?

I love the way Jennifer Gold writes. She takes an important historical moment and turns it into a heart-stopping, rollercoaster ride that leaves the reader wanting more! That's how I felt when I read Names in a Jar. The story is an important one, historically. It's set in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Treblinka death camp. There are not many YA novels set in Treblinka, probably because so few prisoners survived that death camp. Jennifer has taken the true story of a real revolt that took place in Treblinka and adapted it for her novel. It's a story filled with courage and with hope.


The Devil's Arithmetic

By Jane Yolen,

Book cover of The Devil's Arithmetic

Why this book?

This book is an oldie but goodie! It was first published in 1998 and has had a lasting impression on me. If you're the kind of person that loves a bit of fantasy mixed with history, this book is for you! The protagonist, Hannah, time-travels from her current-day home back to 1942, just when the Nazis are beginning to take everyone from the village in Poland where the story is set. I loved how Jane Yolan drew the tension of this story out over eight visits to this village. It held me all the way through.


Good-Bye Marianne

By Irene N. Watts, Kathryn E. Shoemaker,

Book cover of Good-Bye Marianne

Why this book?

I love historical fiction that reveals little-known elements of real history. That's why I loved this book so much. It tells the story of the Kindertransport - an initiative to save thousands of Jewish children by sending them to England just before the outbreak of the war. The protagonist of this book is modeled on the real-life story of the author. Irene Watts was only 7 1/2 years old when she was sent to England by Kindertransport. I could feel this young child's fear and uncertainty oozing from every page of this book.  


Daniel's Story

By Carol Matas,

Book cover of Daniel's Story

Why this book?

This is an older book, but such an important one! It was first published in 1993 when the author was commissioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) to create a book and an exhibit for younger children who would be touring the museum. Carol Matas is really one of the first authors to write about this time in history and to do so in a way this is accessible for young readers. She has paved the way for authors like me to continue telling these important stories. By the way, if you visit the USHMM, you can still see the Daniel's Story exhibit on the main floor of the museum. 


What World is Left

By Monique Polak,

Book cover of What World is Left

Why this book?

I love stories that are inspired by real people, and this is one of them; based on a true story about the author's mother who was sent to a concentration camp with her family. Anneke, the young girl of the story, must grapple with the trauma of having left behind the life she once knew. She also faces a terrible choice; standing by her father who is forced to create propaganda that conditions in the camp are good, and her own desperate need to get the truth out. The voice of the young girl is so authentic.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in concentration camps, World War 2, and the Holocaust?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about concentration camps, World War 2, and the Holocaust.

Concentration Camps Explore 31 books about concentration camps
World War 2 Explore 975 books about World War 2
The Holocaust Explore 179 books about the Holocaust

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like War and Millie McGonigle, A Place to Hang the Moon, and Lily's Crossing if you like this list.