10 books like Surviving the Fatherland

By Annette Oppenlander,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Surviving the Fatherland. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr,

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

My father was a teenager when he fought in World War II. All my life I have tried to reconcile the dichotomy of my gentle father with the boy who joined the German military when he was 15. Werner Pfennig, the novel’s teenaged German protagonist, illustrates simply and powerfully that, even in a war, our moral compass allows us to make decisions to preserve our humanity.   

In one of the book’s final chapters, Marie-Laure, the blind French protagonist, admits to Werner she is not brave: “I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” Werner implies that we all have a choice when he replies, “Not in years. But today. Today maybe I did.” 

All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2015 PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR FICTION

A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic…


A Mad Desire to Dance

By Elie Wiesel,

Book cover of A Mad Desire to Dance

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.

A Mad Desire to Dance

By Elie Wiesel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Mad Desire to Dance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in paperback, Wiesel’s newest novel “reminds us, with force, that his writing is alive and strong. The master has once again found a startling freshness.”—Le Monde des Livres
 
A European expatriate living in New York, Doriel suffers from a profound sense of desperation and loss. His mother, a member of the Resistance, survived World War II only to die soon after in France in an accident, together with his father. Doriel was a hidden child during the war, and his knowledge of the Holocaust is largely limited to what he finds in movies, newsreels, and books. Doriel’s parents and…


A Boy in Winter

By Rachel Seiffert,

Book cover of A Boy in Winter

I loved this beautifully written novel which embraces and honours the Ukrainian spirit. It is 1942 and the Germans have arrived in a small town in Western Ukraine. When the schoolmaster and his wife are rounded up and murdered along with all the other Jews, Yaisa, a local peasant girl, instinctively hides their two young sons away. The massacre is witnessed with horror both by a Ukrainian Auxiliary, now remorseful at having joined the German police, and by a German engineer who is building roads with forced Ukrainian labour. Now the hunt is on for the Jewish boys – and for Yaisa too. An incredibly moving read that both hones in on one small town and pans out across the vast and varied landscape of Ukraine. 

A Boy in Winter

By Rachel Seiffert,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Boy in Winter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Early on a grey November morning in 1941, only weeks after the German invasion, a small Ukrainian town is overrun by the SS. Deft, spare and devastating, Rachel Seiffert's new novel tells of the three days that follow and the lives that are overturned in the process. Penned in with his fellow Jews, under threat of transportation, Ephraim anxiously awaits word of his two sons, missing since daybreak. Come in search of her lover, to fetch him home again, away from the invaders, Yasia must confront new and harsh truths about those closest to her. Here to avoid a war…


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

By John Boyne,

Book cover of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

This middle grade book takes place during WWII. The story takes the reader from Berlin to Poland, told through the eyes of a young German boy who encounters a Jewish boy on the other side of a tall fence. I loved this book because we who know about the depravity and horror of Auschwitz can see the bleak reality from a perspective of an innocent child: a boy who thinks his thin Jewish friend is dressed in pajamas.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

By John Boyne,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about.

If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.

We hope you never have to cross such a fence.


Every Man Dies Alone

By Hans Fallada, Michael Hofmann (translator),

Book cover of Every Man Dies Alone

Based on a true story, this novel focuses on Anna and Otto Quangel, a working-class married couple who begin to resist the Nazis after losing their only son in the fighting. The novel is dense, immersive, and rich with characters, ranging from rabid Nazi members to those opposing the murderous goals of the party and those in the middle trying to survive the regime. “Most people today are afraid, basically everyone, because they’re all up to something forbidden, one way or another, and are worried someone will get wind of it,” Quangel thinks to himself. Fallada wrote the novel in just twenty-four days while in a mental institution, and he died before it was published. A compelling read with characters that linger in the imagination.

Every Man Dies Alone

By Hans Fallada, Michael Hofmann (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Every Man Dies Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This never-before-translated masterpiece—by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble when he wouldn’t join the Nazi Party—is based on a true story.

It presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front. With nothing but their grief and each other against the awesome power of the Reich, they launch a simple, clandestine resistance campaign that soon has an enraged Gestapo on their trail, and a world of terrified neighbors and cynical…


Why? Explaining the Holocaust

By Peter Hayes,

Book cover of Why? Explaining the Holocaust

Even after years of studying the Holocaust, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of the horrors, and there are still times when I find my faith in humanity wavering and all I can think to ask in anger and confusion is “Why?” I know I’m not alone. Peter Hayes’s masterful book is the result of an entire career centered on asking that very question.  The outcome is an incredibly readable, insightful, and thought-provoking account of the Holocaust that doesn’t shy away from answering the big questions. After reading it, one might still ask “why,” but it won’t be out of frustration, anger, and confusion, but rather out of a desire to keep learning more about one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of humanity.

Why? Explaining the Holocaust

By Peter Hayes,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Why? Explaining the Holocaust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Peter Hayes has been teaching Holocaust studies for decades and Why? grows out of the questions he's encountered from his students. Despite the outpouring of books, films, memorials, museums and courses devoted to the subject, a coherent explanation of why such carnage erupted still eludes people. Numerous myths have sprouted, many to console us that things could have gone differently if only some person or entity had acted more bravely or wisely; others cast new blame on favourite or surprising villains or even on historians.

Why? dispels many legends and debunks the most prevalent ones, including the claim that the…


Beneath a Scarlet Sky

By Mark Sullivan,

Book cover of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

One of the first Italian WWII Historical Fiction books that I read, and still one of my favorites. I was initially intrigued by this novel because it was based on a true story. One forgotten to time. Mark Sullivan does a remarkable job of bringing to life the incredible courage of a young man as he is faced with the unimaginable reality that the war has brought to his family and village. The innocence of youth, dreams of a young man, and hope for the future are challenged because of the Nazi invasion. This story is emotional, entertaining, and reminds the reader that despite the war, young lives still held dreams and were the reason that humanity survived.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

By Mark Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Beneath a Scarlet Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major television event from Pascal Pictures, starring Tom Holland.

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, the USA Today and #1 Amazon Charts bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man's incredible courage and resilience during one of history's darkest hours.

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He's a normal Italian teenager-obsessed with music, food, and girls-but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape…


The Honest Spy

By Andreas Kollender, Steve Anderson (translator),

Book cover of The Honest Spy

This is the improbable story of a true underdog who will stop at nothing to fight fascist evil, even when he has no idea what he’s doing and no one to help him. It’s also a true story. In WWII, Fritz Kolbe was a nondescript German official in the Berlin Foreign Office who made himself into a crucial spy against the Nazis yet for years remained an unknown and unsung hero. Kolbe’s dark drive and passion are fictionalized brilliantly by Andreas Kollender. I was so taken by this tale that I translated it myself from the original German. 

The Honest Spy

By Andreas Kollender, Steve Anderson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During one of history's darkest chapters, one man is determined to make a difference.

In the tradition of Schindler's List comes a thrilling novel based on the heroic true story of Fritz Kolbe, a widowed civil servant in Adolf Hitler's foreign ministry. Recognizing that millions of lives are at stake, Kolbe uses his position to pass information to the Americans-risking himself and the people he holds most dear-and embarks on a dangerous double life as the Allies' most important spy.

Summoned from his South African post to return to Nazi Germany, Kolbe leaves behind his beloved fourteen-year-old daughter, a decision…


Thomas Mann's War

By Tobias Boes,

Book cover of Thomas Mann's War: Literature, Politics, and the World Republic of Letters

Most of us are familiar with or have at least heard of the novelist Thomas Mann, the author of Buddenbrooks (for which he received the Nobel Prize) and The Magic Mountain. He is less remembered for his important work as a public intellectual, as a formidable defender of liberal democracy and bold critic of Nazism during World War II. Tobias Boes’s lucid and well-researched study focuses on Mann’s critical contributions to the public discourse in the United States from 1938 until 1948, first as a refugee and later as an American citizen, through public lectures, numerous essays, and radio addresses. This is the fascinating story of a writer who started out as a German conservative and turned into Hitler’s most vocal critic. Thomas Mann’s War is a timely book, reminding us of what it meant to stand up for democracy and defeat Fascism in the 1940s and what it takes…

Thomas Mann's War

By Tobias Boes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Thomas Mann's War, Tobias Boes traces how the acclaimed and bestselling author became one of America's most prominent anti-fascists and the spokesperson for a German cultural ideal that Nazism had perverted.

Thomas Mann, winner of the 1929 Nobel Prize in literature and author of such world-renowned novels as Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain, began his self-imposed exile in the United States in 1938, having fled his native Germany in the wake of Nazi persecution and public burnings of his books. Mann embraced his role as a public intellectual, deftly using his literary reputation and his connections in an increasingly…


A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet

By Rita Gabis,

Book cover of A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet: My Grandfather's SS Past, My Jewish Family, a Search for the Truth

The author, a daughter of an uncommon ‘mixed marriage’ between a Lithuanian-Jewish Holocaust survivor and a Lithuanian-Christian immigrant family. Both sides of her families were kept separate, except for rare special occasions. As a child, she was told wonderful stories about how her Lithuanian grandfather helped save Jews. As an adult and as an historian, she began to investigate the true activities of her grandfather, during those dark days in Lithuania. Like, Silvia Foti, she was emotionally fractured when she learned the truth. 

There were very few Jewish survivors from Lithuania, and Gabis’ book helps me understand why.

A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet

By Rita Gabis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In prose as beautiful as it is powerful, Rita Gabis follows the trail of her grandfather’s collaboration with the Nazis--a trail riddled with secrets, slaughter, mystery, and discovery.

Rita Gabis comes from a family of Eastern European Jews and Lithuanian Catholics. She was close to her Catholic grandfather as a child and knew one version of his past: prior to immigration he had fought the Russians, whose brutal occupation of Lithuania destroyed thousands of lives before Hitler’s army swept in.

Five years ago, Gabis discovered an unthinkable dimension to her family story: from 1941 to 1943, her grandfather had been…


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