100 books like They Were Like Family to Me

By Helen Maryles Shankman,

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

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Book cover of Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory

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?

Back in the late ‘80s, I was at a small gathering of daughters of Holocaust survivors and next to me sat Elizabeth Rosner. As we each said something about our family’s history, Liz read a poem about her survivor father that vibrated with such resonance with me, and I knew I was in the presence of a gifted writer. Rosner went on to publish poetry and novels, and in this work of non-fiction that is lyrically and evocatively written, she confronts personal history and its aftermath while also exploring similar legacies of descendants of other atrocities that have left their multigenerational impact. Her “Alphabet of Inadequate Language” is alone worth the price of admission.

By Elizabeth Rosner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As featured on NPR and in The New York Times, Survivor Cafe is a bold work of nonfiction that examines the ways that survivors, witnesses, and post-war generations talk about and shape traumatic experiences.

As firsthand survivors of many of the twentieth century's most monumental events―the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Killing Fields―begin to pass away, Survivor Café addresses urgent questions: How do we carry those stories forward? How do we collectively ensure that the horrors of the past are not forgotten?

Elizabeth Rosner organizes her book around three trips with her father to Buchenwald concentration camp―in 1983, in 1995, and in…


Book cover of Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto

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?

Social worker, Irene Sendler went into the Warsaw Ghetto, her job ostensibly as a public health specialist. The Jewish inmates allowed her to take their children out of the ghetto and to safety. She ultimately rescued several thousand children, down sewers, through abandoned buildings, and sometimes in her large medical bag. She kept the names of all rescued children in a glass bottle under an apple tree so that, at the end of the war, those Jewish mothers who survived would be reunited with their children. Her heroism is inspiring.

By Tilar J. Mazzeo,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Irena's Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For desperate families trapped inside the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 with small children, one name was whispered urgently. It was the name of a young social worker in her thirties with the courage to take staggering risks and to save over 2,000 of those children from death and deportation.

Granted access to the ghetto as a public health specialist, Irena Sendler began by smuggling orphaned children out of the walled district and convincing her friends and neighbours to hide them. Soon, she began the perilous work of going from door to door and asking Jewish families to trust her with…


Book cover of The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

Marissa Moss Author Of Talia's Codebook for Mathletes

From my list on graphic stand outs from the very crowded pack.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm best known for the Amelia's Notebook series which are based on the notebooks I kept as a kid. I started using the notebook format because that's how I thought—sometimes in words, sometimes in pictures. But this was a long time ago, in the 90s when graphic novels weren't a common format. When I submitted Amelia to publishers, they rejected it, saying it wasn't a picture book, it wasn't a novel, so how would librarians know where to shelve it? A small press that didn't know any better took a chance and published Amelia's Notebook. It became a big bestseller, with more than 20 books to follow and started a new trend in kid's books.

Marissa's book list on graphic stand outs from the very crowded pack

Marissa Moss Why did Marissa love this book?

Hendrix tells the incredible story here of how a Lutheran pastor was part of the plot to assassinate Hitler—and almost succeeded.

This is history that's not widely known and the graphic novel format makes it into an accessible adventure story that's actually true. There were many plots to kill Hitler and each failed for different reasons. Yet there were brave people who were willing to keep trying.

Hendricks puts us in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's shoes, while also showing the depth of Nazism's grip on the German public. It took a truly exceptional person to see Hitler for what he was and to decide to act on that understanding.

By John Hendrix,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Faithful Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Adolf Hitler's Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party's evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!

In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of…


Book cover of Tzili: The Story of a Life

Tara Lynn Masih Author Of My Real Name Is Hanna

From my list on the Holocaust: before, during, and after.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a bicultural writer from the U.S. who has always loved reading historical novels, and I recently “found” my writing genre when I published a debut novel, set in Ukraine during the Holocaust. Writing about that horrific time is fraught with difficulty and is often a frightening endeavor. As writers, we’re obligated to get every fact right, as the truth honors the victims and survivors. To that end, I read dozens and dozens of books—history, biographies, art books, memoirs, and fiction. There are many worthy books that could be on this list, but with just 5 to pick, these made a large impact on me beyond just factual research.

Tara's book list on the Holocaust: before, during, and after

Tara Lynn Masih Why did Tara love this book?

Appelfeld is considered one of Israel’s foremost writers. He writes fluidly in beautiful, spare, fable-like prose. Appelfeld himself was a child survivor who escaped a camp and hid in the countryside and woods, making his “faction” all the more authentic and powerful. The title character, Tzili, is a young Jewish girl who hides from the Germans in a country not specified (but is likely Ukraine). This novel brings to light the harsh conditions and horrors that “free” survivors faced, both during and after the war. 

By Aharon Appelfeld, Dalya Bilu (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The youngest, least-favored member of an Eastern European Jewish family, Tzili is considered an embarrassment by her parents and older siblings. Her schooling has been a failure, she is simple and meek, and she seems more at home with the animals in the field than with people. And so when her panic-stricken family flees the encroaching Nazi armies, Tzili is left behind to fend for herself. At first seeking refuge with the local peasants, she is eventually forced to escape from them as well, and she takes to the forest, living a solitary existence until she is discovered by another…


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 Shawl

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?

As one of the most distinguished writers of Jewish fiction, Cynthia Ozick is known for her work that is both linguistically spellbinding and profoundly thought-provoking.

After reading her two-part novella, The Shawl and Rosa, I believe that it stands out as one of her finest. It tells the story of two women whose survival during World War Two is painfully intertwined, to the point that they cannot separate their horrific experiences from the way they view each other. This penetrating psychological portrait of the devastating effects of victimhood is unparalleled in Jewish literature.  

By Cynthia Ozick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A devastating vision of the Holocaust and the unfillable emptiness it left in the lives of those who passed through it.


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 Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation

Ellen Cassedy Author Of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

From my list on hope and understanding after the Holocaust.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ellen Cassedy explores the ways that people, and countries, can engage with the difficult truths of the Holocaust in order to build a better future. She researched Lithuania’s encounter with its Jewish heritage, including the Holocaust, for ten years. Her book breaks new ground by shining a spotlight on how brave people – Jews and non-Jews – are facing the past and building mutual understanding. Cassedy is the winner of numerous awards and a frequent speaker about the Holocaust, Lithuania, and Yiddish language and literature.  

Ellen's book list on hope and understanding after the Holocaust

Ellen Cassedy Why did Ellen love this book?

Steinman reaches out across a cultural divide to seek out Poles who are pursuing the truth about the past, however painful, and recovering the history of their lost Jewish neighbors. She brings to life the ultimately healing process of Polish-Jewish reconciliation. Her journey changed her, and it will change you.

By Louise Steinman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A lyrical literary memoir that explores the exhilarating, discomforting, and ultimately healing process of Polish-Jewish reconciliation taking place in Poland today
 
“I’d grown up with the phrase ‘Never forget’ imprinted on my psyche. Its corollary was more elusive. Was it possible to remember—at least to recall—a world that existed before the calamity?”
 
In the winter of 2000, Louise Steinman set out to attend an international Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau at the invitation of her Zen rabbi, who felt the Poles had gotten a “bum rap.” A bum rap? Her own mother could not bear to utter the word “Poland,”…


Book cover of The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos

Kent Hinckley Author Of Second Chance Against the Third Reich: U.S. Colonel Rescues His Daughter From the Nazis

From my list on World War 2 through the eyes of an individual.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied World War 2 for thirty years not so much about the killing, but to see how the Allies developed strategies to win the battles. So many decisions and so many sacrifices were made which give me pause about how great our leaders were even with their mistakes. They orchestrated the war in a grand panorama as well as focused on tactics to take a key bridge. I served in Vietnam but WW2 was different in almost every way. Recently I have focused on the effects of shell shock (WW1) and battle fatigue (WW2) known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD remains in the forefront from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. I have even counseled soldiers and families about PTSD.

Kent's book list on World War 2 through the eyes of an individual

Kent Hinckley Why did Kent love this book?

This well-researched and well-written book describes the heroism of Jewish women in Poland during the killing of Jews by the Nazis. Usually, the women get overlooked in war, but in Poland, their bravery and deception along with the men sabotaged the Nazis, and saved Jewish people and families because of incredible sacrifices. Even though the story is non-fiction, it reads as a fast-paced novel. The information was taken from old diaries and out of print books in Yiddish which shed light on the unbelievable war in Poland.

By Judy Batalion,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'Original and compelling, an untold story of rare and captivating power' Philippe Sands

'A fascinating history about a little-known group who took on the Nazis . . . The individual tales of these courageous young women are remarkable' Independent

'Rescues a long-neglected aspect of history from oblivion, and puts paid to the idea of Jewish, and especially female, passivity during the Holocaust. It is uncompromising, written with passion - and it preserves truly significant knowledge. ... Judy Batalion has uncovered a trove of unknown or forgotten information about the Holocaust of genuine import and impact.'…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holocaust, Jewish history, and Poland?

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

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