The best novels set in WWII with unique plot lines and perspectives

Who am I?

As a retired opera singer, I have sung many of the songs that are featured in the book. I first became interested in Terezin when I sang with an opera company that was performing Brundibar, a children’s opera (composed by Hans Krasa, who was imprisoned in the camp) performed more than 50 times in Terezin. As a psych major (having written several medical/psych thriller books as well) I am constantly questioning the idea of choices and the consequences that fall from them. War challenges our notion of humanity, hope, and choice, and perhaps writing helps me work through some of those questions I have…what would I do in that situation? 


I wrote...

Swan Song

By Elizabeth B. Splaine,

Book cover of Swan Song

What is my book about?

Adolf Hitler becomes obsessed with his nephew’s fiancee, a beautiful Jewish opera singer who is the doppelganger for his beloved, deceased niece with whom he had an affair. Because he can’t possess her, Hitler uses her life as a pawn in a vindictive, global chess game he plays with his nephew. Based on real-life people and places, Swan Song will have you hooked from the first tantalizing chapter.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Les Parisiennes: Resistance, Collaboration, and the Women of Paris Under Nazi Occupation

Elizabeth B. Splaine Why did I love this book?

Les Parisiennes lays out in graphic detail the significant inequities handed down throughout the war with regard to social, economic, and religious status for women of world war II Paris. Ms. Sebba uses a timeline of pre-, during, and post-world war II to paint a picture of what daily life was like depending on how much money you had or whom you knew. She uses real-life examples like Coco Chanel, Genevieve de Gaulle, and Edith Piaf to help the reader understand the consequences of various choices made during wartime.

By Anne Sebba,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Les Parisiennes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Anne Sebba has the nearly miraculous gift of combining the vivid intimacy of the lives of women during The Occupation with the history of the time. This is a remarkable book.” —Edmund de Waal, New York Times bestselling author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes

New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba explores a devastating period in Paris's history and tells the stories of how women survived—or didn’t—during the Nazi occupation.

Paris in the 1940s was a place of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation, and secrets. During the occupation, the swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower and danger lurked…


Book cover of The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler

Elizabeth B. Splaine Why did I love this book?

I wanted to dive into Hitler’s mind as I wrote words pouring from his mouth, and this book did not disappoint. From the opening pages I felt immersed in his pathetically creepy world where he was always the hero, or the wronged one, the victim. His rise to power was foreseeable, predictable, and avoidable, urged forward by people of wealth who consistently chose personal profit over integrity. Reading this book helped me understand how divisiveness can be propagated using deft propaganda. This book is terrifying, revealing, and really important to understand.

By Robert Payne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Life And Death of Adolf Hitler, biographer Robert Payne unravels the tangled threads of Hitler’s public and private life and looks behind the caricature with the Charlie Chaplin mustache and the unruly shock of hair to reveal a Hitler possessed of immense personal charm that impressed both men and women and brought followers and contributions to the burgeoning Nazi Party. Although he misread his strength and organized an ill-fated putsch, Hitler spent his months in prison writing Mein Kampf, which increased his following. Once in undisputed command of the Party, Hitler renounced the chastity of his youth and…


Book cover of The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust

Elizabeth B. Splaine Why did I love this book?

I love books that present choices that seem clear to us, reading in this century, curled up on the sofa in front of a roaring fire sipping from a cup of mocha, latte frappucino. Choices that appear black and white are actually a muddled gray when life or death hangs in the balance. I love to read books that ask (without asking) what would I do in the exact same situation as the protagonist. This book does that, and you can feel the tension, the strain, the angst as the Nazi noose tightens around their necks. Terrifying and real.

By Edith Hahn Beer, Susan Dworkin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Nazi Officer's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman studying law in Vienna when the Gestapo forced her and her mother into a ghetto, issuing them papers branded with a "J". Soon Edith was taken away to a labour camp and when she returned home after months away she found her mother had been deported. Her boyfriend, Pepi, proved too terrified to help her, but a Christian friend was not. Using the woman's identity papers, she fled to Munich. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi party member who fell in love with her and, despite her protests and even her eventual…


Book cover of The Untold Story of Eva Braun: Her Life beyond Hitler

Elizabeth B. Splaine Why did I love this book?

Again, in writing Anna in my own book (who is based on the actions and decisions of Eva Braun), I had to get inside her head. I was fascinated with the idea that someone (Hitler) so reviled could be simultaneously so adored…by Eva and so many other women. Eva’s short, sad life could have taken several turns. She didn’t have to end up dead in a dark, underground bunker next to a madman. Ultimately, the book gave me great insight into her mind, and aided me greatly in writing a character who becomes so obsessed with Adolf that she loses herself.

By Thomas Lundmark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Untold Story of Eva Braun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a condensed version of Eva Braun: Her Life and Times: 1912-1945, which is the most authoritative biography of Eva Braun ever written. The author, who holds doctorates from UC Berkeley and the University of Bonn, began researching the life and times of Eva Braun in 1997, when he became the first American to be appointed to a professorship in law at a German university.
The author's ability to conduct research and to interview witnesses in both English and German enabled him to discover astonishing new facts about Eva Braun, including her personal involvement in anti-Semitic pogroms and the…


Book cover of Helga's Diary: A Young Girl's Account of Life in a Concentration Camp

Elizabeth B. Splaine Why did I love this book?

There are several books I could recommend written by adults who were imprisoned as children in Terezin during the war, but this one stands out because of its artwork interspersed with factual accounts of daily life. Indeed, it’s the factual perspective she takes in her descriptions that makes them so heart-wrenching. Her map was my primary tool in writing descriptions of the camp, and her artwork, imitating her writing style, comes across as stark and factual. Written as a diary, not a novel, I cried at the cruelty with which her life unfurled before her. At the same time, however, she manages to capture the beauty of being a child, full of hope and promise. That balance makes the book a jewel.

By Helga Weiss, Neil Bermel (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Helga's Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1939, Helga Weiss was a young Jewish schoolgirl in Prague. As she endured the first waves of the Nazi invasion, she began to document her experiences in a diary. During her internment at the concentration camp of Terezin, Helga's uncle hid her diary in a brick wall. Of the 15,000 children brought to Terezin and deported to Auschwitz, there were only one hundred survivors. Helga was one of them. Miraculously, she was able to recover her diary from its hiding place after the war. These pages reveal Helga's powerful story through her own words and illustrations. Includes a special…


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The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…


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