The best books that made the biggest impact on me as the daughter of Holocaust Survivors

Who am I?

I am a member of a generation that wasn’t supposed to be born. My parents were Hungarian Holocaust survivors and I was born amidst the fragments of European Jewry that remained. As a psychotherapist, I have specialized in helping people navigate the multigenerational reverberations of the Holocaust. Having a witness to your own experience, in therapy and through books, provides comfort, understanding, and hope.

I wrote...

Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute

By Marta Fuchs,

Book cover of Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute

What is my book about?

This intergenerational memoir tells the story of my father, Morton (Miksa) Fuchs, and his rescuer, Zoltán Kubinyi, the Hungarian Army Officer who defied Nazi orders and saved 140 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. The book includes photos, Holocaust testimony, meeting the rescuer’s family, my childhood memories and escape in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and reflections by the third generation in my family.

"You may think you have read everything you ever wanted to hear about this era; but you will find this book will stir you to tears, and inspire you with courage.” (John F. Duge, PhD, MD)

The books I picked & why

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Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

By Helen Epstein,

Book cover of Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

Why this book?

I found this book decades ago symbolically languishing on a remainders table in the back of Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley. I nearly fainted when I read the title. Could this book be about me and others like me, members of a generation that wasn’t supposed to be born? This groundbreaking book, considered the Bible of children of Holocaust survivors, gives voice to the multigenerational impact of the Holocaust which we, the second generation, inherited directly from our parents who were the lucky few to survive while two-thirds of European Jewry was wiped out. As a psychotherapist, I have recommended this book to clients and their partners to better understand family dynamics, grief, trauma, resiliency, and determination to create a better world.

The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

By Art Spiegelman,

Book cover of The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Why this book?

A comic book about the Holocaust?! I wouldn’t touch it, thinking it must have trivialized my sacred history, until a friend said, “You of all people must read this.” The subtitle, A Survivor’s Tale is a double entendre, as Maus details his father’s survival as well as his own of their tortured relationship.

When writing my first book, immersed in hours of painful family testimony, one of Spiegelman’s powerful frames kept me company: he’s hunched over his drafting table, a mound of naked corpses underneath, and “Lately, I’ve been feeling depressed.” As children of survivors, we must find a way to sift through the ashes of our family and navigate our grief or be swallowed up by it. Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Maus has helped me do that.

A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz: A Memoir

By Göran Rosenberg,

Book cover of A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz: A Memoir

Why this book?

I have read many moving memoirs by survivors and members of the second generation like myself. This one by the Swedish journalist son of a Polish survivor is like no other. I could hardly breathe while reading it, or after I finished it. Gripping, poetic, and calmly devastating, the author recreates his father’s Holocaust journey through family documents and historical research, trying to imagine what exactly his father experienced. And then the devastating aftermath, as his father attempts to rebuild his shattered life. “Luck, chance, and freak are the stones with which every road from Auschwitz are paved,” the author tells us.

Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory

By Elizabeth Rosner,

Book cover of Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory

Why this book?

Back in the late ‘80s, I was at a small gathering of daughters of Holocaust survivors and next to me sat Elizabeth Rosner. As we each said something about our family’s history, Liz read a poem about her survivor father that vibrated with such resonance with me, and I knew I was in the presence of a gifted writer. Rosner went on to publish poetry and novels, and in this work of non-fiction that is lyrically and evocatively written, she confronts personal history and its aftermath while also exploring similar legacies of descendants of other atrocities that have left their multigenerational impact. Her “Alphabet of Inadequate Language” is alone worth the price of admission.

Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe

By Samuel P. Oliner, Pearl M. Oliner,

Book cover of Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe

Why this book?

What motivated “ordinary people” to risk their lives and their families’ lives to save Jews? I was especially interested to know because my father and his labor battalion of 140 Hungarian Jews were saved by their Commanding Officer. As a therapist, I wondered what personal and family characteristics made a difference. As a mother, I wanted to raise children who care about others and take action in the face of injustice.

Based on interviews with 700 rescuers and survivors, central was the rescuers’ sense of personal obligation to others which began with close family relationships and seeing their parents model caring behavior and ethical values. I remember hearing a rescuer sum it up, “I had to do it to be able to live with myself.”

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Holocaust survivors, the Holocaust, and motivation?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Holocaust survivors, the Holocaust, and motivation.

Holocaust Survivors Explore 33 books about Holocaust survivors
The Holocaust Explore 176 books about the Holocaust
Motivation Explore 19 books about motivation

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Three Minutes in Poland, The Complete Maus, and With the Old Breed if you like this list.