100 books like The Shawl

By Cynthia Ozick,

Here are 100 books that The Shawl fans have personally recommended if you like The Shawl. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of They Were Like Family to Me: Stories

Sharon Hart-Green Author Of Come Back for Me

From my list on Jewish survival under the Nazis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about Jewish survival. My mother’s family were Yiddish-speaking Jews from Belarus, and as a child I was often asking questions about what their world was like before it was destroyed. I later studied at Brandeis University where I earned my doctorate in Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, and then taught Jewish Literature at the University of Toronto. When my novel Come Back for Me was published, it felt as though many of my lifelong passions had finally come together in one book. Yet I’m still asking questions. My second novel (almost completed!) continues my quest to further my knowledge of all that was lost.

Sharon's book list on Jewish survival under the Nazis

Sharon Hart-Green Why did Sharon love this book?

When I read They Were Like Family to Me (originally titled In the Land of Armadillos), I came to understand how magic realism can be used to illuminate that which ultimately cannot be described—in this case, the horror of human depravity during the Holocaust.

This technique also reflects the inability of the victims to grasp what is happening around them, causing them to escape into a world of fantasy. The novel is comprised of a series of interconnected tales about victims and perpetrators, with each chapter telling a story that is simultaneously realistic and dreamlike. It is utterly unique and unlike most other books in this genre.

By Helen Maryles Shankman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked They Were Like Family to Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the 2017 Story Prize
Honorable Mention in the 2017 ALA Sophie Brody Medal for achievement in Jewish Literature

“An absolutely dazzling triumph…A singularly inventive collection” (Jewish Book Council) of linked stories set in a German-occupied town in Poland during World War II, where tales of myth and folklore meet the real-life monsters of the Nazi invasion.

1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its monstrous power, Hitler’s SS fires up the new crematorium at Auschwitz and the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival depends…


Book cover of The Passenger

Tessa Harris Author Of The Paris Notebook

From my list on WW2 novels featuring loners we love.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a journalist for much of my life and have been passionate about history since I was a child. Ever since I visited a castle at age five, I’ve loved imagining the past and naturally ended up doing a History degree at Oxford. I love fact-based stories and am always meticulous in my research so that I can bring my readers with me on a journey of discovery. But what always brings history to life for me is focusing on the characters, real or imagined, who’ve made history themselves.

Tessa's book list on WW2 novels featuring loners we love

Tessa Harris Why did Tessa love this book?

Written in just four weeks, this book pulsates with fury and is all the more poignant when you know its young Jewish author died after his ship was sunk in the war.

Otto Silbermann is a Jewish businessman on the run as his world collapses around him, and he slowly realises his homeland is enemy territory. It’s chilling and devastatingly real.

By Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, Philip Boehm (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Passenger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Berlin, November 1938. With storm troopers battering against his door, Otto Silberman must flee out the back of his own home. He emerges onto streets thrumming with violence: it is Kristallnacht, and synagogues are being burnt, Jews rounded up and their businesses destroyed.

Turned away from establishments he had long patronised, betrayed by friends and colleagues, Otto finds his life as a respected businessman has dissolved overnight. Desperately trying to conceal his Jewish identity, he takes train after train across Germany in a race to escape this homeland that is no longer home.

Twenty-three-year-old Ulrich Boschwitz wrote The Passenger at…


Book cover of To the Edge of Sorrow

Sharon Hart-Green Author Of Come Back for Me

From my list on Jewish survival under the Nazis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about Jewish survival. My mother’s family were Yiddish-speaking Jews from Belarus, and as a child I was often asking questions about what their world was like before it was destroyed. I later studied at Brandeis University where I earned my doctorate in Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, and then taught Jewish Literature at the University of Toronto. When my novel Come Back for Me was published, it felt as though many of my lifelong passions had finally come together in one book. Yet I’m still asking questions. My second novel (almost completed!) continues my quest to further my knowledge of all that was lost.

Sharon's book list on Jewish survival under the Nazis

Sharon Hart-Green Why did Sharon love this book?

This is the kind of novel that stays with you long after you finish reading it.

It shows how some individuals can survive even the worst circumstances if they possess tenacity, hope, and perhaps most importantly, the determination to work together as a group.

To the Edge of Sorrow is the story of a disparate group of Jewish partisans during World War Two who use whatever skills they possess to survive Nazi tyranny. This not only involves foraging for food or constructing temporary shelter. Some also devote themselves to spiritual and intellectual pursuits, despite their degraded circumstances.

I found it particularly inspiring to read about the strength and endurance of the Jewish spirit despite the attempt by the Nazi regime to obliterate the entirety of Jewish life in Europe.

Book cover of The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman

Sharon Hart-Green Author Of Come Back for Me

From my list on Jewish survival under the Nazis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about Jewish survival. My mother’s family were Yiddish-speaking Jews from Belarus, and as a child I was often asking questions about what their world was like before it was destroyed. I later studied at Brandeis University where I earned my doctorate in Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, and then taught Jewish Literature at the University of Toronto. When my novel Come Back for Me was published, it felt as though many of my lifelong passions had finally come together in one book. Yet I’m still asking questions. My second novel (almost completed!) continues my quest to further my knowledge of all that was lost.

Sharon's book list on Jewish survival under the Nazis

Sharon Hart-Green Why did Sharon love this book?

Despite the title, this is not so much a story of one woman, but a portrait of several individual Jews and Poles caught in the Nazi web during WWII. 

Each chapter is a finely drawn sketch of a single individual tested by fate and circumstance. The author captures how each of these characters responds to his or her plight in ways that are rarely predictable. I was particularly impressed by how the author displays a broad knowledge of national and political movements which he incorporates into the stories.

This provides a nuanced backdrop to the personal struggles experienced by each of his meticulously crafted characters.

By Andrzej Szczypiorski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Nazi-occupied Warsaw of 1943, Irma Seidenman, a young Jewish widow passes as the wife of a Polish officer, until an informer spots her and drags her off to the Gestapo to await her fate


Book cover of The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders

Michael S. Bryant Author Of Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

From my list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long interest in genocide dating back to my teenage years, when I read Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Murderers Among Us. Wiesenthal introduced me to the idea that governments sometimes murdered innocent people and could elude justice for their crimes. The question of human evil interacted with my theological interest in the problem of evil generally. Both genocide scholars and theologians were posing similar questions: how could people or God permit the occurrence of wanton evil when it was in their power to avoid it? And what should we do about genocide after it has happened? These questions launched my research into genocide and continue to fuel my study of this topic.

Michael's book list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes

Michael S. Bryant Why did Michael love this book?

Where Gitta Sereny talks with people involved in Nazi atrocities, Ernst Klee presents documentary evidence of these crimes. No one has published better or more important compendia of documents on Nazi crimes than Klee. I discovered his books as an exchange student in Germany (1988-89) and quickly found them to be unique. Klee’s spare method is to portray the Nazis’ descent into evil through the medium of their own texts and photographs. Regrettably, few of his books have been translated into English. The one I’m recommending here is a fine introduction to his style of historical writing.  

Klee’s evidence shows the awful arc drawn by Nazi crimes, from German incitement of pogroms against Jews in the east and Einsatzgruppen shootings of Jewish men, women, and children to the development of stationary gassing installations in death camps. Klee has a point of view, but he doesn’t want to convince you with…

By Ernst Klee (editor), Willi Dressen (editor), Volker Riess (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The title "The Good Old Days" ("Schone Zeiten" in German) comes from the cover of a private photo album kept by concentration camp commandant Kurt Franz of Treblinka. This gruesomely sentimental and unmistakably authentic title introduces an disturbing collection of photographs, diaries, letters home, and confidential reports created by the executioners and sympathetic observers of the Holocaust. "The Good Old Days" reveals startling new evidence of the inhumanity of recent twentieth century history and is published now as yet another irrefutable response to the revisionist historians who claim to doubt the historic truth of the Holocaust.


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 On the Borderline of Extermination: A Narrative of Inhumanity

Mirla G. Raz Author Of The Birds Sang Eulogies: A Memoir

From my list on the Holocaust and remembering the world's failure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always known that my parents survived the Holocaust. I often listened in when they, my aunt, uncle, and their survivor friends would sit and talk of their lives during the Holocaust. I am the past president for the Phoenix Holocaust Survivor’s Association (now called the Phoenix Holocaust Association) and am on its Board and the Chair of its Education Committee. During this year of Covid, I have been instrumental in hosting numerous writers from around the world who have spoken, in Zoom, about their Holocaust writings and research.

Mirla's book list on the Holocaust and remembering the world's failure

Mirla G. Raz Why did Mirla love this book?

No one can truly know what life was like for Jews under the Nazis. We cannot feel the constant terror and inhumanity imposed upon their Jewish victims. We cannot hear their constant pleas, moans, and screams. We cannot smell the stench of filth, sickness, and death. Nevertheless, Joseph Gershowitz manages to take us as close as we can to his suffering in his absolutely riveting first-hand account of life in the Nazi’s concentration camps. On the Borderline of Extermination is a must-read for understanding the cruelty, barbarism, and inhumanity of the Germans and their all too willing helpers.

By Joseph Gershkowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Borderline of Extermination as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A true story of strategy and survival as told by Joseph Gershkowitz (AUSCHWITZ HÄFTLING 99310). With this inspiring story of innate knowledge and determination, Mr. Gershkowitz paints a vivid picture of the atrocities of the Holocaust as seen through his eyes. With that, 100% of the proceeds will be split and donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in tribute of Joseph Gershkowitz to ensure the memory of the Holocaust is never forgotten & the Women for Women International organization that works to support marginalized women in countries that have been severely affected by conflict and war.


Book cover of Badenheim 1939

V.S. Alexander Author Of The Taster

From my list on understanding the Holocaust and its ramifications.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a child, I found myself suddenly fascinated by World War II after reading a Classics Illustrated comic that detailed the history of the war. I remember asking myself, “How could this happen? How could Hitler have exerted such control and power?” Years later, I found myself wanting to write a novel about the Holocaust, but I was shamed and awed by the work of those who had lived through it. Despite that, I kept reading about the war and learning its history. The Taster grew out of all the research I’d done over the years.  

V.S.'s book list on understanding the Holocaust and its ramifications

V.S. Alexander Why did V.S. love this book?

A longtime friend introduced me to this novel after he found out that I had some interest in the subject. I’m so glad he did because, after the first reading, I’ve never forgotten it. This slim volume is a masterpiece of deft description and character development. A resort town, somewhere near Vienna, is peopled with colorful residents, tourists, and later the forced resettlement of Jews. “The light stood still. There was a frozen kind of attentiveness in the air. An alien orange shadow gnawed stealthily at the geranium leaves.” Such is Appelfeld’s sparse, beautiful prose. Disaster looms, tension builds, and people disappear...slowly, inexorably. The chilling ending is a tour de force of writing.

By Aharon Appelfeld, Dalya Bilu (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Badenheim 1939 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A small masterpiece of world literature, set in Europe months before the Nazis began their rise.

It is spring 1939. And Badenheim, a resort town vaguely in the orbit of Vienna, is preparing for its summer season. The vacationers arrive as they always have, a sampling of Jewish middle-class life: the impresario Dr. Pappenheim, his musicians, and their conductor; the bubbly Frau Tsauberblit; the historian, Dr. Fussholdt, and his much younger wife; the “readers,” twins with a passion for Rilke; a child prodigy; a commercial traveler; a rabbi.

The list of guests grows longer as the summer goes on. Receiving…


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

Marta Fuchs Author Of Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute

From my list on with impact on the daughter of Holocaust Survivors.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Marta's book list on with impact on the daughter of Holocaust Survivors

Marta Fuchs Why did Marta love 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.”

By Samuel P. Oliner, Pearl M. Oliner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why, during the Holocaust, did some ordinary people risk their lives and the lives of their families to help others--even total strangers--while others stood passively by? Samuel Oliner, a Holocaust survivor who has interviewed more than 700 European rescuers and nonrescuers, provides some surprising answers in this compelling work.


Book cover of Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Matthew Arnold Stern Author Of The Remainders

From my list on Jewish families in crisis.

Why am I passionate about this?

Reseda, California plays an important part in my novels. I grew up there in a middle-class Jewish family, and we experienced the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. My parents got divorced, and my brother and I were raised by our working mom until she became paralyzed by a stroke. I found refuge in writing. I wrote The Remainders in 2016 during a tumultuous time when issues of family conflict, homelessness, and the growing cruelty of society came into focus. Still, I believe decency and compassion will prevail. The books I write and enjoy reading seek to find light in the darkest of circumstances.

Matthew's book list on Jewish families in crisis

Matthew Arnold Stern Why did Matthew love this book?

I read this powerful graphic novel series when the first collections came out in the 1980s.

It shows the horrors of the Holocaust and the impact it has on the families of the survivors. Maus is best known for depicting Jews as mice and Nazis as cats, but Art’s troubled relationship with his father Vladik and the death of his mother Anja by suicide frame the story.

Maus is my favorite graphic novel series and a must-read for understanding the Holocaust and how it shaped Jewish life since.

By Art Spiegelman,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Maus I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling first installment of the graphic novel acclaimed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker) • PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • One of Variety’s “Banned and Challenged Books Everyone Should Read”

A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his…


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