The best books about children in the Holocaust

9 authors have picked their favorite books about children in the Holocaust and why they recommend each book.

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No Pretty Pictures

By Anita Lobel,

Book cover of No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

Five years old when the Nazis invaded her homeland of Poland, Anita Lobel spent the war years in hiding. Her memoir is intimate and suspenseful and even occasionally funny.  Here’s a glimpse… through the eyes of a real child…of what survival means, and of those who helped her achieve it.


Who am I?

I’d like to say I have no expertise in this topic. And yet…don’t we all?  We’ve all lived through it. I was born in 1937—in Honolulu, the daughter of a US Army officer. WW II was a pervasive part of my childhood, as my father spent time in the Pacific and then after the war ended, we lived in Occupied Japan for some years.  But war had always been a part of my family’s history, as is true for so many people. My great grandfather left a written account of his capture and imprisonment during the Civil War.  And much more recently, my own son, an Air Force pilot, died in the cockpit of a F-15.  Ironically, he had married a German wife, and he is buried in her village cemetery near her grandfather, who served on the Russian front years earlier.  His child, my granddaughter, puts flowers on both of those graves. All of these pieces of my own history combine, I think, to create this passion I have for the telling and retelling of stories that can make us more aware of the futility of war.


I wrote...

On the Horizon

By Kenard Pak, Lois Lowry,

Book cover of On the Horizon

What is my book about?

Lois Lowry looks back at history through a personal lens as she draws from her own memories as a child in Hawaii and Japan, as well as from historical research, in this stunning work in verse for young readers.

On the Horizon tells the story of people whose lives were lost or forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Based on the lives of soldiers at Pearl Harbor and civilians in Hiroshima, On the Horizon contemplates humanity and war through verse that sings with pain, truth, and the importance of bridging cultural divides. This masterful work emphasizes empathy and understanding in search of commonality and friendship, vital lessons for students as well as citizens of today's world. Kenard Pak's stunning illustrations depict real-life people, places, and events, making for an incredibly vivid return to our collective past.

Nicky & Vera

By Peter Sis,

Book cover of Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued

In 1938, a young Englishman named Nicholas Winton canceled his ski vacation. Instead, he went to Prague to help the Jewish children seeking refuge there from the Nazis. Up until the start of the war in 1939, he made arrangements to send nearly 700 children to safety in England. He did everything from raising funds and locating foster families, to obtaining travel documents—even forging them when necessary. Then he went home and never told anyone what he had done. Fifty years later, his wife found all the records he’d kept and she tracked down as many of those children as she could. A now-famous video clip from a British TV show, “That’s Life,” shows an elderly and very surprised Nicholas as dozens of those he saved stand up in the audience to thank him. Among them was Vera Diamontova, who was just eleven years old when Nicholas saved her life.…


Who am I?

I’m the author/illustrator of over 20 books for children, ranging from whimsical fiction about anthropomorphic cats and rambunctious dogs to serious nonfiction about hidden children, unusual heroes and surprising spies of WWII and the Holocaust. Several of my nonfiction books, including The Grand Mosque of Paris, were created in collaboration.


I wrote...

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

By Deborah Durland DeSaix, Karen Gray Ruelle,

Book cover of The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

What is my book about?

This is a true story that nobody knows about, the hidden history of how the Muslim community of the Grand Mosque of Paris helped to save the lives of Jews and others fleeing from the Nazis. It includes spies and disguises, secret underground passages, and action in the face of grave danger. When my co-author and I discovered this inspiring story of compassion and courage, we knew it needed to be told, so we embarked on years of research to find the truth. And as illustrators, we were inspired by the visual splendor of the mosque, with its colorful mosaic patterns, intricate woodwork, and graceful architecture. It was a joy to paint the illustrations and an honor to unearth this important story and share it with the world.

Chance

By Uri Shulevitz,

Book cover of Chance: Escape from the Holocaust: Memories of a Refugee Childhood

Through his poignant words and stark drawings, Uri—a renowned children’s book author and illustrator—recounts his harrowing eight-year childhood ordeal when he and his Jewish family fled from the Nazis.  The book is an absorbing first-person narrative that describes his constant fear, daily hunger and recurring loneliness as he and his family eluded the enemy at every turn.  Uri’s haunting, imaginative drawings help bring this riveting true story into sharp, emotional focus.


Who am I?

I have penned more than 120 nonfiction books on a broad range of subjects for general audiences and middle-school readers, including five books about the true-life experiences of young people during the Holocaust.  The most heartbreaking, yet inspiring, moments in my decades-long writing career have been my interviews with Holocaust survivors, who, as children, relied on their courage, their faith, their smarts—and sometimes their luck—to endure years of unbelievable terror.


I wrote...

Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

By Allan Zullo, Mara Bovsun,

Book cover of Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

What is my book about?

It tells the incredible true stories of nine brave young Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, whose riveting accounts are based on the personal, lengthy interviews with the author. These children each found a way to make it through the nightmare of genocide. Some hid, some fled, some fought. Others suffered unbearable agony in ghettos, death marches and concentration camps.

Although it’s hard to imagine that anyone that young could bear so much agony from so much cruelty, this book is a celebration of the human spirit — of the will to overcome unspeakable horrors, the will to triumph over evil, the will to live. In fact, these survivors all shared a common trait: They believed in their hearts that they would live even when so many around them were dying. 

The Twins of Auschwitz

By Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany,

Book cover of The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

In this engrossing first-person account, Eva Mozes Kor tells the horrifying story of how she and her twin Miriam were ten years old when they lost their family to the gas chambers and were subjected to the sadistic medical experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, the personification of evil. Written for young adults, Eva presents a unique and chilling child’s-eye view of how she and her sister persevered despite suffering under the madness of the Angel of Death.


Who am I?

I have penned more than 120 nonfiction books on a broad range of subjects for general audiences and middle-school readers, including five books about the true-life experiences of young people during the Holocaust.  The most heartbreaking, yet inspiring, moments in my decades-long writing career have been my interviews with Holocaust survivors, who, as children, relied on their courage, their faith, their smarts—and sometimes their luck—to endure years of unbelievable terror.


I wrote...

Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

By Allan Zullo, Mara Bovsun,

Book cover of Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

What is my book about?

It tells the incredible true stories of nine brave young Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, whose riveting accounts are based on the personal, lengthy interviews with the author. These children each found a way to make it through the nightmare of genocide. Some hid, some fled, some fought. Others suffered unbearable agony in ghettos, death marches and concentration camps.

Although it’s hard to imagine that anyone that young could bear so much agony from so much cruelty, this book is a celebration of the human spirit — of the will to overcome unspeakable horrors, the will to triumph over evil, the will to live. In fact, these survivors all shared a common trait: They believed in their hearts that they would live even when so many around them were dying. 

The Boy on the Wooden Box

By Leon Leyson, Marilyn J. Harran, Elisabeth B. Leyson

Book cover of The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible....on Schindler's List

This is the only published memoir by a child on Schindler’s List.  As a scrawny undersized 15-year-old, Leon (born Leib Lezjon) needed to stand on a box to reach the controls of the machine he operated in Oskar Schindler’s factory.  From this unique perspective, Leon weaves a personal, heartrending true story of persecution, bravery, and survival.  He also presents a portrait of a courageous man who risked everything to save the lives of 1,200 Jews.


Who am I?

I have penned more than 120 nonfiction books on a broad range of subjects for general audiences and middle-school readers, including five books about the true-life experiences of young people during the Holocaust.  The most heartbreaking, yet inspiring, moments in my decades-long writing career have been my interviews with Holocaust survivors, who, as children, relied on their courage, their faith, their smarts—and sometimes their luck—to endure years of unbelievable terror.


I wrote...

Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

By Allan Zullo, Mara Bovsun,

Book cover of Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

What is my book about?

It tells the incredible true stories of nine brave young Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, whose riveting accounts are based on the personal, lengthy interviews with the author. These children each found a way to make it through the nightmare of genocide. Some hid, some fled, some fought. Others suffered unbearable agony in ghettos, death marches and concentration camps.

Although it’s hard to imagine that anyone that young could bear so much agony from so much cruelty, this book is a celebration of the human spirit — of the will to overcome unspeakable horrors, the will to triumph over evil, the will to live. In fact, these survivors all shared a common trait: They believed in their hearts that they would live even when so many around them were dying. 

The Diary of Laura's Twin

By Kathy Kacer,

Book cover of The Diary of Laura's Twin

This story effectively unites the present with the past. Two girls anticipate their Bat Mitzvah in very different circumstances. Laura learns to appreciate the freedoms she has to make her own choices through the past life of a girl the same age as her but facing severe limitations. It is a thought-provoking book for young teens.


Who am I?

I am a child of Holocaust survivors. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly appreciated the horrendous circumstances that they lived through. But even more than their plight and will to survive, I was impressed with the heroism of the people willing to sacrifice their lives in order to help others. It is their story, above all else that I want to tell in my books.


I wrote...

Ivan's Choice

By Kathy Clark,

Book cover of Ivan's Choice

What is my book about?

“I’m not Hendrik,” he said. “I am Jakob. Jakob Kohn. And I am a Jew!” Ivan and Hendrik have been best friends for years. Then in the fall of 1944, when they are both 13, Hendrik makes an astounding revelation which forces Ivan to make some very difficult choices - choices that will impact both of their lives, and the lives of their families forever. Ivan must now maneuver through the intricacies of life in Nazi - occupied Hungary and within his own family without giving away his secret allegiance.

Ivan’s Choice is a companion book to The Choice, giving Ivan’s side of the story. It is a story of courage and the inner conflict that many young people confront when establishing the values they want to live by. Ivan's Choice is a novel inspired by real events.

A Wolf in the Attic

By Sophia Richman,

Book cover of A Wolf in the Attic: The Legacy of a Hidden Child of the Holocaust

A Wolf in the Attic by Sophia Richman is a book written by a psychotherapist who was hidden in an attic in Poland as a Jewish child during the second world war. She describes this experience (she was told to never utter a sound) as well as its impact on her relationship with her parents and her life after the war in Paris and then in New York City. She maintained her reluctance to speak in public until very late in life and this book is a kind of coming out for what is now known as a “hidden child” or “child survivor.” I found it fascinating to read how a psychologist analyzes her own childhood and the life choices she makes as an adult.


Who am I?

I am a longtime American journalist and former New York University Professor of Journalism who has written 10 books of non-fiction, several addressing issues of trauma. I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia to two survivors of the Holocaust and was a baby immigrant to the U.S. after the Communist take-over of 1948. Although I have written a lot about the arts (music, books, and theater), I have also had a long-term interest in the psychological effects of psychic trauma in survivors of racism, antisemitism, sexism, genocide, war, illness, and natural disaster. My upcoming book is The Year of Getting Through It about being diagnosed with and undergoing treatment for endometrial cancer during COVID.


I wrote...

The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma

By Helen Epstein,

Book cover of The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma

What is my book about?

As a journalist and the daughter of two sole survivors of the Holocaust, I wrote a trilogy of books about the transmission of trauma between generations. The first was Children of the Holocaust, which was followed by Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation, and many other “second generation” books. The last is The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma, which looks at how the sexual and intimate ramifications of trauma played out in my family.

Holocaust literature does not generally delve into issues of love and sex, though these aspects of life did not disappear either during the Holocaust or afterward. I write about what happened in my survivor family of Czech Jews and the long psychotherapy that helped to unravel its mysteries.

Catherine's War

By Julia Billet, Claire Fauvel (illustrator), Ivanka Hahnenberger (translator)

Book cover of Catherine's War

I chose this story to illustrate the plight of Jewish people during the Nazi occupation in France. Catherine's War is based on the true story of a Jewish girl named Rachel Cohen who had to leave her boarding school near Paris and find somewhere safe to live. Rachel has to change her name to Catherine Colin and hide her Jewish identity in order to survive. She was sustained by her beautiful camera, which gave her a record of all that she had to through.


Who am I?

Two books that I read as a young child were very important to me. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss made me think about riches, poverty, and the power that rich people have to make stupid rules; and poor people have no choice but to obey them. The Japanese Twins from Lucy Fitch Perkins' series on twins from different cultures gave me a life-long interest in cultural differences. Not only did they think differently, depending on their culture, they also had different skin colours. Later I learned about racism when I worked with unhappy displaced children and interpreted for asylum-seekers. I write from a child's perspective, making books accessible to all ages.


I wrote...

Christophe's Story

By Nicki Cornwell,

Book cover of Christophe's Story

What is my book about?

Christophe and his family are asylum-seekers in the UK. Christophe has a story inside him - and this story wants to be told. But with a new country, a new school, and a new language to cope with, Christophe can't find the right words. He wants to tell the whole school why he had to leave Rwanda, why he has a scar made by a bullet from a soldier's gun, and what happened to his baby brother, but has he got the courage to be a storyteller? Christophe must find a way to break through all these barriers so he can share his story with everyone.

Good-Bye Marianne

By Irene N. Watts, Kathryn E. Shoemaker,

Book cover of Good-Bye Marianne

I love historical fiction that reveals little-known elements of real history. That's why I loved this book so much. It tells the story of the Kindertransport - an initiative to save thousands of Jewish children by sending them to England just before the outbreak of the war. The protagonist of this book is modeled on the real-life story of the author. Irene Watts was only 7 1/2 years old when she was sent to England by Kindertransport. I could feel this young child's fear and uncertainty oozing from every page of this book.  


Who am I?

I'm the child of Holocaust survivors. I grew up with parents willing to talk about their survival experiences and do so in a way that wouldn't terrify me. I asked a million questions that my parents willingly answered. I grew up passionate about this history and determined to write their stories and the stories of other survivors. I'm aware that this generation of survivors is aging and passing away. Their "voices" will soon be gone. I feel a responsibility to capture these stories and write them for the next generations. I'm about to have my thirtieth book about the Holocaust published! And I've got more book ideas on the go.


I wrote...

Under the Iron Bridge

By Kathy Kacer,

Book cover of Under the Iron Bridge

What is my book about?

It's 1938 in Germany, and Paul is under pressure to join the Hitler Youth. Just when he's starting to despair, he meets a group of teenagers working to undermine the growing power of the Nazis. They are called the Edelweiss Pirates. But brave choices have consequences, and during the terrifying violence of Kristallnacht, Paul must step out of the shadows and make a life-changing decision.

Inspired by the true story of the rebel group that declared "Eternal War on the Hitler Youth," Under the Iron Bridge is a tale of courage in the face of adversity.

Survivors

By Rebecca Clifford,

Book cover of Survivors: Children's Lives After the Holocaust

I first had the privilege of reading Survivors when we were searching for a new professor of transnational history in my department at Durham University; Rebecca is now a treasured colleague, and her ability to tell these child survivors’ stories is second to none! Her writing is humane, passionate, and exquisite. I would recommend this book to anyone who truly wants to understand the impact of the Holocaust on those who survived it as children.


Who am I?

Why did I end up spending almost a third of my life researching Nazi boarding schools, and childhood under the Third Reich more generally? I sometimes wonder if it was because I myself was sent to boarding school at the age of nine – somehow, I can sympathise with what these children had to endure, as well as knowing full well from a historian’s perspective which hardships were truly unique to a National Socialist elite education, and which were simply the kind of heart-ache that’s common to any institution which takes children away from their parents at a young age… 


I wrote...

The Third Reich's Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas

By Helen Roche,

Book cover of The Third Reich's Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas

What is my book about?

The Third Reich’s Elite Schools tells the story of the Napolas, Nazi Germany’s state training academies for the future elite. Modelled on the English public schools, the Prussian cadet corps, and the harsh educational practices of ancient Sparta, these boarding schools took pupils from the age of ten upwards, moulding them into potential future leaders of the Third Reich. 

Fusing original research from eighty archives worldwide and eyewitness testimonies from over 100 former pupils, the book provides the first in-depth account of everyday life at the schools, while also shedding fresh light on the history of the Third Reich.

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