The best books to understand the Holocaust and its ramifications

Who am I?

When I was a child, I found myself suddenly fascinated by World War II after reading a Classics Illustrated comic that detailed the history of the war. I remember asking myself, “How could this happen? How could Hitler have exerted such control and power?” Years later, I found myself wanting to write a novel about the Holocaust, but I was shamed and awed by the work of those who had lived through it. Despite that, I kept reading about the war and learning its history. The Taster grew out of all the research I’d done over the years.  


I wrote...

The Taster

By V.S. Alexander,

Book cover of The Taster

What is my book about?

A young German woman finds a precarious haven closer to the source of danger than she ever imagined—one that will propel her through the extremes of privilege and terror under Hitler’s dictatorship.

In early 1943, Magda Ritter’s parents send her to Bavaria, hoping to keep her safe from the Allied bombs strafing Berlin. After an interview with the civil service, Magda is assigned to the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat. Weeks later, she learns she will be one of the Führer’s food tasters, a job that could kill her. Her love for an SS conspirator draws Magda into a plot that will test her wits and loyalty in a quest for safety, freedom, and ultimately, vengeance.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

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. 


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.


Badenheim 1939

By Aharon Appelfeld, Dalya Bilu (translator),

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.


The Passenger

By Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, Philip Boehm (translator),

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.   


Night

By Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel (translator),

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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holocaust, Germany, and concentration camps?

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

The Holocaust Explore 176 books about the Holocaust
Germany Explore 291 books about Germany
Concentration Camps Explore 30 books about concentration camps

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Savage Continent, The Glass Castle, and Japan at War if you like this list.