The best books about Auschwitz Concentration Camp

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Auschwitz Concentration Camp and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Periodic Table

By Primo Levi, Raymond Rosenthal (translator),

Book cover of The Periodic Table

A bona fide classic of scientific memoir and short stories, Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table has been considered the gold standard of science writing since it was published. Levi writes about different events in his life, linking them with a different elements on the periodic table. There are many great chapters in his book, but it can be a tough read at times: Levi was imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where his skills as a chemist saved him from certain death in the gas chambers at the hands of the Nazis. 

The Periodic Table

By Primo Levi, Raymond Rosenthal (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary kind of autobiography in which each of the 21 chapters takes its title and its starting-point from one of the elements in the periodic table. Mingling fact and fiction, science and personal record, history and anecdote, Levi uses his training as an industrial chemist and the terrible years he spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz to illuminate the human condition. Yet this exquisitely lucid text is also humourous and even witty in a way possible only to one who has looked into the abyss.


Who am I?

I’m an award-winning science journalist at Falmouth University, UK, and have written for just about every major science magazine going. When I’m not teaching, I try and emulate Indiana Jones by going off on incredible adventures – so far, my hunt for stories in the name of science has taken me to 75 countries and every continent. Science writing doesn’t have to be dull: I adore the weird, quirky stories of science history, about humans being brilliant idiots and somehow making our world a better place.


I wrote...

Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Save the World

By Kit Chapman,

Book cover of Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Save the World

What is my book about?

Racing Green is the story of spin-off technologies from motorsport, and how they’ve changed our world in ways we can barely imagine. If we’re going to beat climate change, we need green technologies that are being trialled on professional race circuits around the world. 

From cars made of flax and tyres made of dandelions to electric- and hydrogen-powered racers, to 3D-printing and AI drivers, future technologies are pioneered in a world where the difference between victory and defeat can be a tenth of a second. During the COVID pandemic, race even played a part in protecting the sick and saving lives.  Motorsport has already changed our world. And now it’s going to play a role in saving it.

Book cover of I Was Doctor Mengele's Assistant

So you will need a strong constitution to read this book. I first read it after leaving a museum visit to Auschwitz on a train heading for Slovakia. It was the most harrowing of reads, but I think, one of the most important of my life. Although we ‘think’ we know about Auschwitz and Polish history, this gives you a personal, often harrowing first-hand account of the camp. Make sure you have a box of tissues ready.

I Was Doctor Mengele's Assistant

By Miklós Nyiszli,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Was Doctor Mengele's Assistant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, they sent virtually the entire Jewish population to Auschwitz. A Hungarian Jew and a medical doctor, Dr. Miklos Nyiszli was spared from death for a grimmer fate: to perform "scientific research" on his fellow inmates under the supervision of the infamous "Angel of Death": Dr. Josef Mengele. Nyiszli was named Mengele's personal research pathologist. Miraculously, he survived to give this terrifying and sobering account of the terror of Auschwitz.


Who am I?

My passion for writing historical fiction set mainly in Poland, or including Polish protagonists is born from my own familial history. My grandfather was forced into the Wehrmacht as a young man, who managed to escape to the UK and join the Polish Army in exile, eventually going back to fight against the Germans. His story set me on a course to become a historical fiction author; reimagining the past and bringing little-known stories to a wider audience. I find that the best way to gain a basic understanding of Polish life during WWII is to read widely – try historical accounts, memoirs, second-hand accounts, and of course, historical fiction. 


I wrote...

All the Courage We Have Found

By Carly Schabowski,

Book cover of All the Courage We Have Found

What is my book about?

As Kasia creeps out of the farmhouse in the dead of night to transmit an urgent message, her heart pounds in her chest. Gripping her radio tightly in her hand, she feels a terrible sense of dread.

Crouching in the shadows, with trembling fingers she turns the dial on her radio and hears the familiar crackle of static. Shaking, she quickly taps out her message and, holding her breath, she waits in the darkness. Suddenly, she sees a quick flash of light out at sea. Her message has been received by the Allied boats; now they know it’s not safe to come ashore tonight. While Kasia knows her messages might save thousands of soldiers, she also knows that her radio signal could bring the Germans terrifyingly close.

The Redhead of Auschwitz

By Nechama Birnbaum,

Book cover of The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story

This gem is the New Kid on the Block (dating myself a bit). At barely a year old, it is quite a find, and the most popular work in Amsterdam Publisher’s house. There’s a reason for that. This work is not Holocaust-by-Numbers. Yes, it follows certain tropes, especially when time-lining the protagonist’s life, but what the memoirist captures with depth is the inner mental state of her grandmother, in her travail and experience. The author is young, but was mature enough, when capturing the story, to ask the necessary and deep questions. Where the manuscript departs from the norm is where the story takes on a Fairy Tale quality. Nature is pulled in frequently to serve as metaphor for emotion, especially in the passages of dream-state hopefulness. This is horrific and beautiful at the same time.

The Redhead of Auschwitz

By Nechama Birnbaum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rosie was always told her red hair was a curse, but she never believed it. She often dreamed what it would look like under a white veil with the man of her dreams by her side. However, her life takes a harrowing turn in 1944 when she is forced out of her home and sent to the most gruesome of places: Auschwitz.

Upon arrival, Rosie’s head is shaved and along with the loss of her beautiful hair, she loses the life she once cherished. Among the chaos and surrounded by hopelessness, Rosie realizes the only thing the Nazis cannot take…


Who am I?

My passion for the topic was an inevitable calling. I knew that my grandfather’s story had to be told in some form, but during his lifetime, I was too young to know how to put it together. As a teenager, I knew his story was a book, but I was not yet a writer. Fate declared that I should get my feet wet in the writing field in myriad ways, as if I was polishing my craft so that when I could put the elements of my grandfather’s life together, I was ready for the task. The reason my list is entitled with its exact name is because it’s a form of penance.


I wrote...

Zaidy's War: Four Armies, Three Continents, Two Brothers. One Man's Impossible Story of Endurance

By Martin Bodek,

Book cover of Zaidy's War: Four Armies, Three Continents, Two Brothers. One Man's Impossible Story of Endurance

What is my book about?

You won't believe this story, told lovingly by the subject's grandson: The tale of a man who served 4 armies, was present for historic WWII battles, refused cannibalism, walked 1,600 miles home, escaped poisoning, emerged with honor, and rebuilt his life.

Book cover of I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors

My 3rd grade teacher told me I had no artistic talent, and since I could not afford to hire an artist for my book- so I have no illustrations. Thus, I envy Eisenstein’s artistic talent in illustrating her memoir. Actually, I admire her double skills, as both a writer and an artist. Her sensitive, astute, and often humorous, analysis of her childhood with her Holocaust survivor parents was incredibly familiar to me. There were times I laughed hysterically, with tears in my eyes. Some of her anecdotes seemed as if they came right out of my own childhood recollection of family stories, such as her story about a gold wedding band that was hidden during dark days in a concentration camp, the parental silences or tears about the past, her “drug-like-addiction” to learning everything about the Holocaust, in order to envision her parents and their lives before the war,…

I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors

By Bernice Eisenstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors distills, through text and drawings, including panels in the comic-book format, Bernice Eisenstein’s memories of her 1950s’ childhood in Toronto with her Yiddish-speaking parents, whose often unspoken experiences of war were nevertheless always present. The memories also draw on inherited fragments of stories about relatives lost to the war whom she never met.

Eisenstein’s parents met in Auschwitz, near the end of the war and were married shortly after Liberation. The book began to take root in her imagination several years ago, almost a decade after her father’s death.

With poignancy and searing…


Who am I?

Born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War 2, Ettie immigrated with her parents to the USA. She grew up and was educated in New York City and Pennsylvania and immigrated to Israel after completing graduate school. After retiring from a career in international schools in 6 countries, she currently resides in Arizona with her husband. She is a Board member for the Phoenix Holocaust Association and devotes much time to giving presentations to youth and adults worldwide.


I wrote...

Book cover of A Holocaust Memoir of Love & Resilience: Mama's Survival from Lithuania to America

What is my book about?

With the Nazi occupation of Kovno (Lithuania), her life changed forever. Zlata Santocki Sidrer was Jewish, but she survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Gone was her normal life and her teenage dream of becoming a doctor. Instead, she witnessed untold deprivations, massacres, imprisonment, hunger, and slave labor before being transported to the Stutthof Concentration Camp. Her story of the death march is a testament to her fighting spirit and the limits of human endurance. Yet the challenges did not end with liberation.

Lovingly compiled from recorded interviews and researched by her eldest daughter, Ettie, this is an account of a remarkably resilient woman who raised herself out of the ashes after unimaginable hardship and sorrow. She found love and happiness where none could be expected — a secret marriage in the ghetto and life-saving friendships. She describes escapes, dangerous border crossings, and reunifications.

The Unwanted

By Michael Dobbs,

Book cover of The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught in Between

The Unwanted is perhaps the best all-around book explaining the crisis faced by Jewish refugees trying to escape to the United States. Dobbs merges the intimate histories of members of the Jewish community in the small German town of Kippenheim, the work of the US State Department officials in Germany and France, American refugee aid workers, and President Roosevelt. By utilizing both personal and official sources, Dobbs allows all the people he writes about to speak for themselves. It’s beautifully written and heartbreaking, and whatever you think about this history when you start the book, those thoughts will be more nuanced and complicated when you’re finished.

The Unwanted

By Michael Dobbs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a riveting story of Jewish families seeking to escape Nazi Germany.

In 1938, on the eve of World War II, the American journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote that "a piece of paper with a stamp on it" was "the difference between life and death." The Unwanted is the intimate account of a small village on the edge of the Black Forest whose Jewish families desperately pursued American visas to flee the Nazis. Battling formidable bureaucratic obstacles, some make it to the United States while others are unable to obtain the necessary…


Who am I?

I’m a historian who specializes in the American response to the Holocaust. Growing up, I remember being confused—it seemed like the United States knew nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Europe’s Jews—or it knew everything!—but either way, the US didn’t do anything to help. And that didn’t make sense with what I knew about the United States, a country that never speaks with one voice on any issue. And as I dug in, I learned that this is a fascinating, infuriating, nuanced history full of very familiar-sounding struggles over whether and how the country will live up to the ideals we claim for ourselves. 


I wrote...

Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe

By Rebecca Erbelding,

Book cover of Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe

What is my book about?

Rescue Board is about a United States government agency tasked with trying to rescue and provide relief for the still-surviving Jews of Europe in 1944-1945. Stick with me, I know your eyes glazed over when you read “government agency.” This is not a story of meetings and memos. The truly inspiring people who ran this agency snuck humanitarian aid into Europe, entered into ransom negotiations with the Nazis, opened a refugee camp in upstate New York and brought the only group of refugees outside of the immigration system to live there, recruited famous rescuer Raoul Wallenberg, leaked detailed information about Auschwitz-Birkenau to the American press (resulting in the first use of the word “genocide” in newspapers), bought speedboats and guns for resistance fighters, and sent 300,000 food packages into concentration camps. If you think the US should do more to help victims of genocide, this history might give us the blueprint and inspiration to replicate their efforts today.

Permafrost

By SJ Norman,

Book cover of Permafrost

This haunting collection of short stories left a faint chill in my bones for weeks—very aptly, given its name. None of the seven tales are conclusive, or wrapped up neatly. It feels as if there is always a kernel inside each one that remains tucked out of sight, no matter how many outer layers are peeled off—or in the case of one of the stories, no matter how much hide is flayed away.

Permafrost

By SJ Norman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Visual and performance artist, and winner of the inaugural Kill Your Darlings Manuscript Award, SJ Norman turns their hand to fiction with spectacular results. Permafrost explores the shifting spaces of desire, loss and longing. Inverting and queering the gothic and romantic traditions, each story represents a different take on the concept of a haunting or the haunted. Though it ranges across themes and locations – from small-town Australia to Hokkaido to rural England – this collection is united by the power of the narratorial voice, with its auto-fictional resonances, dark wit and swagger. Whether recounting the confusion of a child…


Who am I?

When I started writing The Majesties, I wanted the narrative to be a continual excavation of secrets, one after the other. This sort of multi-layered story has always intrigued me and my fascination with it has influenced all my written work so far. I am particularly fascinated by books where characters unconsciously keep secrets from themselves, and where the line between the “real” and the fantastic is blurred beyond recognition. Sometimes it’s not just about solving a mystery, but articulating its mysteriousness—giving it flesh and bone, stitching its parts together, and bringing it to life through words.


I wrote...

The Majesties

By Tiffany Tsao,

Book cover of The Majesties

What is my book about?

Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.

As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?

Field Gray

By Philip Kerr,

Book cover of Field Gray: A Bernie Gunther Novel

Eventually, my travels to understand and write about the times in which I had been born took me to the Auschwitz concentration camp near Krakow, then to its source in Berlin and some excellent walking tours into the heart of its lights and shadows – which is much of the world of Philip Kerr’s fictional Bernie Gunther. A 1930s Berlin detective, Bernie must navigate the attempt to maintain a humanity that is both moral and faulted in a time of brutality and absurdity over the course of fifteen novels that will puzzle through the human dilemma of World War II Europe. Field Gray, which ranges from the Spanish Flu epidemic of World War I to the corruption of 1950s Cuba is perhaps the most comprehensive of the series.

Field Gray

By Philip Kerr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'One of the greatest anti-heroes ever written' LEE CHILD

'A man doesn't work for his enemies unless he has little choice in the matter.'

So says Bernie Gunther. It is 1954 and Bernie is in Cuba. Tiring of his increasingly dangerous work spying on Meyer Lansky, Bernie acquires a boat and a beautiful companion and quits the island. But the US Navy has other ideas, and soon he finds himself in a place with which he is all too familiar - a prison cell. After exhaustive questioning, he is flown back to Berlin and yet another prison cell with a…


Who am I?

I was a misbegotten child of World War II, my father an anonymous stranger on a train returning to war, thus setting me in search of an answer. While driving through rural France one day in my sixth decade I realized I'd been searching for my father through writing, and an understanding of his experience in war. My seventh decade produced Dutch Children of African American Liberators, with co-author Mieke Kirkels, about the puzzling lives of the European children of African American soldiers of World War II. As I got to its final chapters, my own father’s identity was revealed to me through DNA, and that will be the subject of my final book.


I wrote...

A Rendezvous with Death: Alan Seeger in Poetry, at War

By Chris Dickon,

Book cover of A Rendezvous with Death: Alan Seeger in Poetry, at War

What is my book about?

That drive through the region of Amiens, Reims, and Soissons had followed the last year of the American poet Alan Seeger of the French Foreign Legion toward his certainty of “A Rendezvous with Death.” His own search for meaning had begun in the streets of his beloved Paris. I had been able to look over Notre Dame from the open window of his room on Rue du Sommerard, then submerge myself in the geography through which he marched toward his end in the Battle of the Somme, July 4, 1916. On a second journey, I traveled from his statue in Paris to the centennial memorial of his death in Picardy at Belloy-en-Santerre. He had fallen singing a song and urging his fellows forward into the war, a Hero of France.

If This Is a Man and The Truce

By Primo Levi, Stuart Woolf (translator),

Book cover of If This Is a Man and The Truce

This I think is one of the most important first-hand accounts of prisoner life at Auschwitz. It is a quiet, yet determined narrative that makes you feel as though you were there with Levi; experiencing the horrors, finding friends with other inmates, and understanding the true horror that awaited so many in Poland during WWII. If you want to really understand what it was like for camp inmates, this is the book to read.

If This Is a Man and The Truce

By Primo Levi, Stuart Woolf (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked If This Is a Man and The Truce as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the moral stamina and intellectual pose of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, duitful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contempible. What has survived in Levi's writing isn't just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in THE PERIODIC TABLE and THE WRENCH, his delight in what made the world exquisite to him. He was himself a "magically endearing…


Who am I?

My passion for writing historical fiction set mainly in Poland, or including Polish protagonists is born from my own familial history. My grandfather was forced into the Wehrmacht as a young man, who managed to escape to the UK and join the Polish Army in exile, eventually going back to fight against the Germans. His story set me on a course to become a historical fiction author; reimagining the past and bringing little-known stories to a wider audience. I find that the best way to gain a basic understanding of Polish life during WWII is to read widely – try historical accounts, memoirs, second-hand accounts, and of course, historical fiction. 


I wrote...

All the Courage We Have Found

By Carly Schabowski,

Book cover of All the Courage We Have Found

What is my book about?

As Kasia creeps out of the farmhouse in the dead of night to transmit an urgent message, her heart pounds in her chest. Gripping her radio tightly in her hand, she feels a terrible sense of dread.

Crouching in the shadows, with trembling fingers she turns the dial on her radio and hears the familiar crackle of static. Shaking, she quickly taps out her message and, holding her breath, she waits in the darkness. Suddenly, she sees a quick flash of light out at sea. Her message has been received by the Allied boats; now they know it’s not safe to come ashore tonight. While Kasia knows her messages might save thousands of soldiers, she also knows that her radio signal could bring the Germans terrifyingly close.

Schindler's Ark

By Thomas Keneally,

Book cover of Schindler's Ark

My first book pick: Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally is an account of the saving of Jews by a flamboyant, scheming, wily businessman, Oskar Schindler. Not a likable man, Schindler did whatever it took to protect “his” Jews from extermination. For a writer, this book is a master class on how to take historical events and turn them into a riveting story. For a reader, the book races from one fraught event to another, all the while the unheroic hero, Schindler, is only one step ahead of the Germans. 

Schindler's Ark

By Thomas Keneally,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Booker Prize and international bestseller, made into the award-winning film Schindler's List. Chosen as a Big Jubilee Read, celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

In the shadow of Auschwitz, a flamboyant German industrialist grew into a living legend to the Jews of Cracow. He was a womaniser, a heavy drinker and a bon viveur, but to them he became a saviour. This is the extraordinary story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland and who was transformed by the war into a man with a mission, a compassionate angel of…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Dead Before Curfew

By Jenny Harrison,

Book cover of Dead Before Curfew

What is my book about?

This is a novel set in Poland. Matthew Flint, a British soldier is captured in France in 1940. Flint is intoxicated by the romance of war until his first encounter with German invading forces. From that moment he is a man on a mission— revenge. In the bombed-out ruins of Warsaw he joins the Polish Resistance, becomes a courier, blackmailer, and a reluctant assassin. He meets a woman who is burdened by her own tragic past. But can Olivia show him there is more to war than retribution? 

The Power of Forgiveness

By Eva Mozes Kor,

Book cover of The Power of Forgiveness

Eva Mozes Kor was ten years old when she was sent to Auschwitz. As a survivor, she became an eloquent – and controversial – activist on behalf of forgiveness.  Her book tells the gripping story of how she freed herself from the burden of hatred.  Not everyone will agree with her stance, but everyone will be challenged and moved by it.

The Power of Forgiveness

By Eva Mozes Kor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Eva Mozes Kor was just ten years old when she was sent to Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were murdered there, she and her twin sister Miriam were subjected to medical experiments at the hands of Dr. Joseph Mengele. Later on, when Miriam fell ill due to the long-term effects of the experiments, Eva embarked on a search for their torturers. But what she discovered was the remedy for her troubled soul; she was able to forgive them.

Told through anecdotes and in response to letters and questions at her public appearances, she imparts a powerful lesson…


Who am I?

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.  


I wrote...

Book cover of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

What is my book about?

Can we honor our diverse heritages without perpetuating the fears and hatreds of the past? Ellen Cassedy set off into the Jewish heartland of Lithuania to study Yiddish and connect with her Jewish forebears. But then her personal journey into the old Jewish heartland expanded – into an exploration of how a land scarred by genocide is – and is not – engaging with the complex history of the Nazi and Soviet eras. Probing the terrain of memory and moral dilemmas, Cassedy shines a spotlight on fragile efforts toward mutual understanding, and offers a message of hope.

Or, view all 32 books about Auschwitz Concentration Camp

New book lists related to Auschwitz Concentration Camp

All book lists related to Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Bookshelves related to Auschwitz Concentration Camp