The best books to understand the Holocaust and its ramifications

The Books I Picked & Why

Holocaust Chronicle

By Publications International Ltd

Book cover of Holocaust Chronicle

Why this book?

I have used this book as a reference for all my novels that deal with Nazi Germany. It is a thick, coffee-table-sized book, that, by chance, I found years ago on the “reduced” shelf in a local bookstore. The chronicle isn’t for the faint of heart. It explains the rise of National Socialism and the ensuing Holocaust in graphic words and pictures, and will leave its indelible imagery firmly entrenched in your memory. It takes you from the roots of the Holocaust to its disturbing aftermath, years after the war. 

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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

By William L. Shirer

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

Why this book?

No historian or student of history can ignore the monumental effort of William L. Shirer and his twelve-hundred-page opus on National Socialism. This work starts with the birth of the Third Reich and ends with its last days. In these pages, the reader will find every major and minor personage who populated World War II. Although the Holocaust isn’t mentioned by name in the Index, many of the concentration and extermination camps, and other Nazi atrocities, are examined. This outstanding book is a must for anyone who wants to understand how the Nazis came to power, and how they wielded it once they were in control. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich lays the historical foundation for the Holocaust.

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Badenheim 1939

By Aharon Appelfeld, Dalya Bilu

Book cover of Badenheim 1939

Why this book?

A longtime friend introduced me to this novel after he found out that I had some interest in the subject. I’m so glad he did because, after the first reading, I’ve never forgotten it. This slim volume is a masterpiece of deft description and character development. A resort town, somewhere near Vienna, is peopled with colorful residents, tourists, and later the forced resettlement of Jews. “The light stood still. There was a frozen kind of attentiveness in the air. An alien orange shadow gnawed stealthily at the geranium leaves.” Such is Appelfeld’s sparse, beautiful prose. Disaster looms, tension builds, and people disappear...slowly, inexorably. The chilling ending is a tour de force of writing.

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The Passenger

By Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, Philip Boehm

Book cover of The Passenger

Why this book?

This novel was recently discovered in German archives and published again after years of obscurity. Otto Silbermann, a Berlin businessman, a fighter in The Great War, finds himself under attack by Nazi storm troopers in November of 1938. Forced to act quickly, his choices limited by draconian National Socialist laws, he decides the best way to avoid arrest while running for his life, is to travel by train. Absurdist, surreal, and filled with acerbic humor, The Passenger conveys the sense of dread, the isolation, and the feeling of being chased by death as well as any novel written about the Holocaust. The author was killed at the age of twenty-seven when the ship he was traveling on was torpedoed by a German submarine.   

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By Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel

Book cover of Night

Why this book?

There are books that make their mark and are never forgotten. Night is one of these. Elie Wiesel describes the tragic journey that his family took from their home to the ghetto, to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Wiesel’s account describes the horrific details of the camps: the selections, the struggle to survive, the crushing work, the deaths that become commonplace as the body and soul struggle to understand the terror. The horrors of the Holocaust come to life in Night.

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