The Best Books On Viewing World War II Through the Eyes of Children

Heinz Kohler Author Of My Name Was Five: A Novel of the Second World War
By Heinz Kohler

The Books I Picked & Why

All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

Why this book?

This is a beautifully written story about a blind French girl and a German boy whose lives are interwoven in occupied France as both try to survive the horrors of World War II. The boy’s infatuation with building a radio that can bring them news they can trust reminds me of my own illegal activities in Berlin, where listening to the BBC on an outlawed radio was crucial for my family, but punishable by death.


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A Mad Desire to Dance

By Elie Wiesel

A Mad Desire to Dance

Why this book?

A beautiful novel about Doriel, a European expatriate living in New York, who was a hidden child during the war, while his mother was a member of the Resistance, and who is still haunted by his parents' secrets. A psychoanalyst finally helps him deal with his own ghosts, which reminds me of decades of PTSD I myself inherited from that war and the associated sufferings of family and friends I had to witness.


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A Boy in Winter

By Rachel Seiffert

A Boy in Winter

Why this book?

Early on a grey November morning in 1941, only weeks after the German invasion, a small Ukrainian town is overrun by the SS. This novel focusses on Yankel, a boy determined to survive when all hope seems lost. This is a powerful story about terror and fear and the possibility of courage to face them. It reminds me of a day in the 1930s when my own father was ordered to appear at SS headquarters and urged to join them as a volunteer. When he refused, life was changed forever for his wife and child, and he soon found himself in a penal regiment clearing mine fields on the eastern front.


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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

By John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Why this book?

Berlin, 1942: Two young boys encounter the best and worst of humanity during the Holocaust in this powerful book. Here Bruno meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences. This reminds me of the day when my own best friend, Dieter, was fatally shot by a Spitfire while standing just two feet away from me, a scene featured on the cover of my book.


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Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-Of-Age Love Story Set in WWII Germany

By Annette Oppenlander

Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-Of-Age Love Story Set in WWII Germany

Why this book?

Solingen, Germany, 1940: Here begins the story of 7-year old Lilly and 12-year old Günter whose lives spiral out of control as the war escalates, bombs begin to rain and people die. A sweeping family saga of love, betrayal, and PTSD similar to the one I witnessed as well.


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