100 books like Desperate Journey

By Freddie Knoller, John Landaw,

Here are 100 books that Desperate Journey fans have personally recommended if you like Desperate Journey. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Night

James Taing Author Of Under the Naga Tail: A True Story of Survival, Bravery, and Escape from the Cambodian Genocide

From my list on surviving impossible odds.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since arriving as a refugee in America, my father, Mae Bunseng has always wanted to tell his story. It would take many decades later for me, as I was coming of age, to consider what exactly my father had lived through. I was shocked at what he told me and knew his story had to be told. Thus over a decade ago I worked with my him to what eventually became Under the Naga Tail. In addition to this book, along the way, a short documentary called Ghost Mountain was created and released on PBS, which is accessible for streaming here. The film would win the best documentary at the HAAPI Film Festival.

James' book list on surviving impossible odds

James Taing Why did James love this book?

The masterpiece memoir by Elie Wiesel is an astonishingly short autobiographical of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. His account of surviving a concentration camp is important as any other, a narrative that is chilling, yet with compassion put into each word. Night is a book that has to be read. Elie would become an important human rights activist and this continued beyond the subject matter of the Holocaust. During the refugee crisis on the Thai-Cambodia border in 1980, he and several other notables (such as Joan Baez, Liv Ullman, and Bayard Rustin), mobilized to bring relief assistance for Cambodians fleeing the dangerous borders of their country. When asked by a journalist why help Cambodia, he replied, “When I needed people to come, they didn't. That's why I am here.” It demonstrated Elie’s resolve and will to prevent the next genocide from happening somewhere else.

By Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel (translator),

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born into a Jewish ghetto in Hungary, as a child, Elie Wiesel was sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. This is his account of that atrocity: the ever-increasing horrors he endured, the loss of his family and his struggle to survive in a world that stripped him of humanity, dignity and faith. Describing in simple terms the tragic murder of a people from a survivor's perspective, Night is among the most personal, intimate and poignant of all accounts of the Holocaust. A compelling consideration of the darkest side of human nature and the enduring power of…


Book cover of Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews

Monica Porter Author Of Deadly Carousel: A Diva’s Exploits in Wartime Budapest

From my list on the Holocaust and the stories of victims and heroes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was 12 years old when, in Amsterdam on a family holiday, I was taken to see the Anne Frank House. Until then I knew very little about WW2, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. After viewing the ‘secret annexe’ my father bought me The Diary of Anne Frank, which was on sale there, and I started reading it in the car as we drove off. The book sparked my deep lifelong interest in that chapter of history. Many years later I discovered that my own mother also had an extraordinary wartime story. By then I was a journalist and knew I’d have to write a book about it—Deadly Carousel.  

Monica's book list on the Holocaust and the stories of victims and heroes

Monica Porter Why did Monica love this book?

Anyone who wants to know what a real-life, daring British secret agent looks like (hint: nothing like James Bond) should read about Frank Foley. The son of a West Country railway worker, only 5’2” tall, he wore a tweed jacket and owlish spectacles. Not very sexy. Officially a ‘passport control officer’ at the British embassy in Berlin, in fact he was the ringmaster of a spy network. Following Hitler’s rise to power he focused on saving Jews. As time was of the essence, he dispensed with cumbersome bureaucracy: "I pounded on the desks until I got what I wanted." As well as issuing thousands of life-saving visas, he hid in his own home Jews fleeing the Gestapo and helped them acquire forged documents. With no diplomatic immunity, he could have been arrested as a spy and shot. So often in life the unassuming ‘little guy’ is the greatest hero of…

By Michael Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Foley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the horror of Nazism tightened its grip on Germany, Jews found themselves trapped and desperate. For many, their only hope of salvation came in the form of a small, bespectacled British man: Frank Foley. Working as a Berlin Passport Control Officer, Foley helped thousands of Jews to flee the country with visas and false passports, personally entering the camps to get Jews out, and sheltering those on the run from the Gestapo in his own apartment. Described by a Jewish leader as 'the Pimpernel of the Jews', Foley was an unsung hero of the Holocaust.But why is this extraordinary…


Book cover of Soaring Underground: A Young Fugitive's Life in Nazi Berlin

Monica Porter Author Of Deadly Carousel: A Diva’s Exploits in Wartime Budapest

From my list on the Holocaust and the stories of victims and heroes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was 12 years old when, in Amsterdam on a family holiday, I was taken to see the Anne Frank House. Until then I knew very little about WW2, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. After viewing the ‘secret annexe’ my father bought me The Diary of Anne Frank, which was on sale there, and I started reading it in the car as we drove off. The book sparked my deep lifelong interest in that chapter of history. Many years later I discovered that my own mother also had an extraordinary wartime story. By then I was a journalist and knew I’d have to write a book about it—Deadly Carousel.  

Monica's book list on the Holocaust and the stories of victims and heroes

Monica Porter Why did Monica love this book?

This autobiography showed me that a tale of survival against the odds, in the most dangerous of times, can also be highly entertaining. To avoid deportation to the death camps, Jewish teenager Lothar Orbach assumes a fake Aryan identity and launches into a precarious underground existence in the heart of the Nazi empire, living off his wits, dodging the authorities and mixing with various shady characters. In my favourite episode, he and his hustler pal Tad meet two sex-starved teenage sisters, the daughters of a prominent Nazi family living in the elegant house of a deported Jewish professor. As the parents are away, Lothar and Tad move in and fulfil the girls’ lusty desires in return for homecooked meals…until the day they stuff two suitcases with food, clothes, alcohol and jewellery, and scarper back underground. Marvellous.

By Larry Orbach, Vivien Orbach-Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soaring Underground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in book form, this is the intensely moving first-person account of "the Auschwitz Memoirist's extraordinary manuscript" described in Philip Roth's Patrimony: A True Story.

This is the true story of a young man born at the wrong time in the wrong place. Lothar Orbach's family proudly traces its German heritage back to the fifteenth century, but that is no help to a Jewish boy coming of age in Hitler's Berlin.

At the center of this world gone mad is Lothar, outwardly a cagey, amoral street thug, inwardly a sensitive, romantic youth, devoted son, and increasingly religious Jew, clinging to…


Book cover of The Hero of Budapest: The Triumph and Tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg

Monica Porter Author Of Deadly Carousel: A Diva’s Exploits in Wartime Budapest

From my list on the Holocaust and the stories of victims and heroes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was 12 years old when, in Amsterdam on a family holiday, I was taken to see the Anne Frank House. Until then I knew very little about WW2, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. After viewing the ‘secret annexe’ my father bought me The Diary of Anne Frank, which was on sale there, and I started reading it in the car as we drove off. The book sparked my deep lifelong interest in that chapter of history. Many years later I discovered that my own mother also had an extraordinary wartime story. By then I was a journalist and knew I’d have to write a book about it—Deadly Carousel.  

Monica's book list on the Holocaust and the stories of victims and heroes

Monica Porter Why did Monica love this book?

For me (and not just because my family is Hungarian), Wallenberg’s story is the most heart-wrenching of all accounts of Holocaust heroism. He was the Swedish diplomat in Nazi-occupied Budapest who worked tirelessly to save Jewish lives, despite death threats to himself. He issued thousands of Swedish protection documents and set up Jewish safe-houses. One incident particularly brings a lump to my throat. Hearing of a death march of Jewish deportees, he drove to the Hungarian border to head it off. Clutching a bunch of Swedish passports, he ordered the Arrow Cross guards (Hungarian fascists) to stand aside whilst he searched for the Jews entitled to them. The suspicious guards surrounded him with pointed bayonets, but he shouted above their heads that he had passes for anyone who had ‘lost’ them. Hands were raised throughout the crowd. Wallenberg was so convincing that the SS officer in charge finally relented. The…

By Bengt Jangfeldt, Harry D. Watson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hero of Budapest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of Raoul Wallenberg - the Swedish businessman who, at immense personal risk, rescued many of Budapest's Jews from the Holocaust and subsequently disappeared into the Soviet prison system - is one of the most fascinating episodes of World War II. Yet the complete story of his life and fate can only be told now - and for the first time in this book - following access to the Russian and Swedish archival sources, previously not used. Born into a wealthy Swedish family, Wallenberg was a moderately successful businessman when he was recruited by the War Refugee Board to…


Book cover of Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers

Patrick Hicks Author Of The Commandant of Lubizec: A Novel of the Holocaust and Operation Reinhard

From my list on the concentration camps of the Holocaust.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve dedicated most of my writing career to the Holocaust, and in order to create novels that are historically accurate, I’ve interviewed survivors, as well as done research at many of the camps. It is one thing to study Auschwitz, but it’s an entirely different thing to walk its soil. I give lectures on the Holocaust and do readings from my novels all across the country, and I view my work as a way to open discussion about what happened in Europe between 1933-1945. As I often say, just because we live in a post-Holocaust world, does not mean we have come to understand the Holocaust.

Patrick's book list on the concentration camps of the Holocaust

Patrick Hicks Why did Patrick love this book?

This is a shattering account of a man who was forced to work in the gas chambers of Auschwitz for several years. Not only did he see the serial mass murder up close, but he also witnessed the failed rebellion at Crematorium IV on October 7, 1944. Müller’s writing is sparse and harrowing as he describes daily life in the Third Reich’s largest concentration camp. This is an essential document about the Holocaust and it helps the reader understand what it meant to be part of the Sonderkommando—those unfortunate prisoners who were forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria. This is an unforgettable and vital book.

By Filip Müller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eyewitness Auschwitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Filip Muller came to Auschwitz with one of the earliest transports from Slovakia in April 1942 and began working in the gassing installations and crematoria in May. He was still alive when the gassings ceased in November 1944. He saw millions come and disappear; by sheer luck he survived. Muller is neither a historian nor a psychologist; he is a source-one of the few prisoners who saw the Jewish people die and lived to tell about it. Eyewitness Auschwitz is one of the key documents of the Holocaust.


Book cover of Last Stop Auschwitz: My Story of Survival from Within the Camp

Erik Brouwer Author Of The Fighter of Auschwitz: The incredible true story of Leen Sanders who boxed to help others survive

From my list on Auschwitz you’ve probably never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've written books about Jewish subjects before. A few years ago I published a biography about a Jewish Dutch actress named Jetta Goudal who invented a new life story for herself and became a Hollywoodstar. Before that I wrote a book about my Jewish great-grandfather Emanuel Brouwer who traveled to London in 1908 to compete in the Olympics. He traveled to the UK by boat with his best friend Isidore Goudeket, who was murdered in a German deathcamp. My great-grandfather did not win a medal in Londen (63rd place!), but he had a lot of fun in London, with loads of beer, whisky, and cigars. In 1943 he was sent to a camp as well. 

Erik's book list on Auschwitz you’ve probably never heard of

Erik Brouwer Why did Erik love this book?

This moving memoir is written in 1945, right after the evacuation of Auschwitz and the start of the Death Marches.

It is considered the only book written inside the camp. Eliazer ‘Eddy’ de Wind hid himself in the camp in January 1945 to escape the Death Marches. He wrote about the daily life in the camp while it was still fresh in his memory. The memoir was published in 1946. Nobody was interested and it bombed, but it was rediscovered in 1980 and became a semi-classic.

By Eddy de Wind,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Stop Auschwitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES AND INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

'The ultimate Holocaust testimony.' HEATHER MORRIS, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka's Journey
Afterword by JOHN BOYNE, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
_______________

Eddy de Wind, a Dutch doctor and psychiatrist, was shipped to Auschwitz with his wife Friedel, whom he had met and married at the Westerbork labour camp in the Netherlands. At Auschwitz, they made it through the brutal selection process and were put to work. Each day, each hour became a battle for survival.

For Eddy, this meant negotiating with the volatile guards in the medical…


Book cover of Survival in Auschwitz

Richard Zimler Author Of The Incandescent Threads

From my list on survivors of a horrific trauma.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m originally from New York but have lived in Portugal for the last 33 years. I write my novels in English and my children’s books in Portuguese. As anyone who reads my latest novel will discover, I have been greatly influenced the mythology and mystical traditions of various religions, especially Judaism (kabbalah). Happily, I discovered early on that I adore writing about people who have been systematically persecuted and silenced. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to explore taboo subjects and topics that others would prefer to forget or conceal. When I’m not working on a book, I like to garden and travel. 

Richard's book list on survivors of a horrific trauma

Richard Zimler Why did Richard love this book?

Almost all the survivors of the Holocaust have now died, which makes it more important than ever that we pass on knowledge about this incomparably brutal crime against humanity – and do our best to prevent future genocides.

Survival in Auschwitz is a highly detailed, profoundly disturbing, and, in the end, intensely moving account of Italian chemist Primo Levi’s eleven months in the most notorious of the Nazi death camps, Auschwitz.

If you wish to understand what the Holocaust meant to its victims – and how the prisoners did their heroic best to resist dehumanization, hopelessness, and death – you would do well to start with this important work.  

By Primo Levi,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Survival in Auschwitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true and harrowing account of Primo Levi’s experience at the German concentration camp of Auschwitz and his miraculous survival; hailed by The Times Literary Supplement as a “true work of art, this edition includes an exclusive conversation between the author and Philip Roth.

In 1943, Primo Levi, a twenty-five-year-old chemist and “Italian citizen of Jewish race,” was arrested by Italian fascists and deported from his native Turin to Auschwitz. Survival in Auschwitz is Levi’s classic account of his ten months in the German death camp, a harrowing story of systematic cruelty and miraculous endurance. Remarkable for its simplicity, restraint,…


Book cover of The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944

Jenny Harrison Author Of Dead Before Curfew

From my list on the human cost of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Jenny Harrison and my writing career started in 1997 in South Africa with Debbie's Story, which to my astonishment, became a bestseller. Thinking this was going to be an easy route to fame and fortune, I continued writing after migrating to New Zealand. Alas, the road to a bestseller is rife with disappointment but that didn't stop me from writing a bunch of paranormal and humorous novels. Circumstances led me to writing about families caught up in World War II. I don’t write about battles or generals, I write about ordinary people who face the unimagined cost of war and survive.

Jenny's book list on the human cost of war

Jenny Harrison Why did Jenny love this book?

Forgotten Holocaust is a non-fiction account of the suffering of the Polish people during World War II. Most books on the Holocaust focus on the terrible travail of the Jewish people, which was immense and must never be either underestimated or forgotten. In Poland 3 million Polish Jews died but 3 million Polish Gentiles also died. It is only since the end of Communism in 1989 that the true heroism of the Polish people has come to light. At the Jewish Memorial, Yad Vashem, in Israel, there are more Polish Gentiles listed as Righteous Among the Nations than any other nation. Lukas’s book opened my eyes to this forgotten history. 

By Richard C. Lukas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Forgotten Holocaust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forgotten Holocaust has become a classic of World War II literature. As Norman Davies noted, "Dr. Richard Lukas has rendered a valuable service, by showing that no one can properly analyze the fate of one ethnic community in occupied Poland without referring to the fates of others. In this sense, The Forgotten Holocaust is a powerful corrective." The third edition includes a new preface by the author, a new foreword by Norman Davies, a short history of ZEGOTA, the underground government organization working to save the Jews, and an annotated listing of many Poles executed by the Germans for trying…


Book cover of KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps

Deborah Hopkinson Author Of We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance

From my list on World War II in Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

The books I’ve recommended here range from scholarship, young adult historical fiction, literary fiction, and a good spy mystery—all set in World War II. I’ve read widely in the field since I’ve written several nonfiction books for young readers and teens about World War II. Along with We Must Not Forget, these include Courage & Defiance, about the Danish resistance, Dive!, about the submarine war in the Pacific, D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History, and We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport. I’m currently working on a book about a 1945 POW rescue in the Philippines.

Deborah's book list on World War II in Europe

Deborah Hopkinson Why did Deborah love this book?

To ensure we’ll never repeat the Holocaust, we must understand it. One of the most difficult books you may ever read, KL is a comprehensive and impressive history of the Nazis’ camp system. The New York Times called this nearly 900-page work by Nikolaus Wachsmann, a history professor at London University, a work of “prodigious scholarship.”

Time and again, when researching my own book for young readers, I turned to Wachsmann for nuanced detail, impeccable research, and a better understanding of some of the “choiceless choices” faced by Jewish men, women, and children. Not for the faint of heart, but a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives.

By Nikolaus Wachsmann,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked KL as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize and the Wolfson History Prize

In March of 1933, a disused factory surrounded by barbed wire held 223 prisoners in the town of Dachau. By the end of 1945, the SS concentration camp system had become an overwhelming landscape of terror. Twenty-two large camps and over one thousand satellite camps throughout Germany and Europe were at the heart of the Nazi campaign of repression and intimidation. The importance of the camps in terms of Nazi history and our modern world cannot be questioned.

Dr Nikolaus Wachsmann is the first historian to write…


Book cover of The Long Night: A True Story

Derek Niemann Author Of A Nazi In The Family

From my list on the Holocaust from a variety of perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Scottish writer who discovered at the age of 49 that my grandfather was an SS officer involved in the Holocaust. I wrote my book, A Nazi in the Family, to understand how a dark family secret could remain hidden for so long and I have spent the years since publication talking about my grandfather as an example of an ordinary man who turned to doing extraordinary evil.

Derek's book list on the Holocaust from a variety of perspectives

Derek Niemann Why did Derek love this book?

The author, a keen observer of behaviour under appalling conditions, has an astonishingly wise and humane attitude that bears him through both internment and concentration camps. I have a personal interest in this book, and the writer, because I am the speaking partner of his daughter Noemie Lopian, and we talk at synagogues, schools, universities, and public events to ask for kindness, toleration, and understanding.

By Ernst Israel Bornstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Night lasted five years and eight days. Before the Night began, Ernst Bornstein was a precocious eighteen-year-old¬ who had an ordinary family with three siblings, two parents, and a large circle of friends and relatives. But in the autumn of 1939, decades of anti-Semitic propaganda turned into full-fledged violence. Bornstein's family was subsequently sent to Auschwitz where his parents and siblings were gassed to death. The Long Night is Bornstein's firsthand account of what he witnessed in seven concentration camps. Written with remarkable insight and raw emotion, The Long Night paints a portrait of human psychology in the darkest…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in prisoners, the Holocaust, and Jewish history?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about prisoners, the Holocaust, and Jewish history.

Prisoners Explore 97 books about prisoners
The Holocaust Explore 391 books about the Holocaust
Jewish History Explore 462 books about Jewish history