The best Holocaust books 📚

Browse the best books on the Holocaust as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

By Christopher Browning

Why this book?

In one of the most famous and most important books about the Holocaust, Browning shows that many of the soldiers who perpetrated the Holocaust were not sadists or vicious antisemites by nature. They were ordinary men who were affected by the circumstances of the brutal war, incessant Nazi propaganda about Jews, feelings of group solidarity during wartime, and the power of orders from a higher authority. Once middle-aged policemen in northern Germany, many became hardened killers in Poland.

From the list:

The best books on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

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Book cover of The Complete Maus

The Complete Maus

By Art Spiegelman

Why this book?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel has been hailed 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). For me, Spiegelman’s books are about more than the Holocaust. It is the tale within a tale, about the author’s relationship to his father’s legacy of trauma, that I find most compelling. The Second Generation (children of survivors) didn’t experience the Holocaust and can’t bear witness, and yet growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust impacts everything about their lives. Spiegelman’s Maus I and II…

From the list:

The best books written by children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors

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Book cover of Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

By Helen Epstein

Why this book?

I found this book decades ago symbolically languishing on a remainders table in the back of Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley. I nearly fainted when I read the title. Could this book be about me and others like me, members of a generation that wasn’t supposed to be born? This groundbreaking book, considered the Bible of children of Holocaust survivors, gives voice to the multigenerational impact of the Holocaust which we, the second generation, inherited directly from our parents who were the lucky few to survive while two-thirds of European Jewry was wiped out. As a psychotherapist, I have recommended this…
From the list:

The best books that made the biggest impact on me as the daughter of Holocaust Survivors

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Book cover of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

By Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart

Why this book?

Anne’s diary is the world’s foremost first-hand account of coming of age in a time of peril, and also while in hiding. Anne’s own words are smart, funny, and profound. She bears witness to her plight, her growth, her hardships, and her joy. She embodies the concept of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. Anne is a symbol of the power of the written word to illuminate everything and resound eternally. Anne’s diary is both intimate, personal, and a sweeping testament to the power of a single voice to speak to generations. I love how her daily observations,…

From the list:

The best books with protagonists coming-of-age while facing seemingly insurmountable challenges

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Book cover of Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry

Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry

By Jacob Presser

Why this book?

The late Jacob Presser (1899-1970) was a historian, scholar, and a Holocaust survivor himself. His wife was deported and died, and he survived by going into hiding He spent fifteen years researching the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and the plight of the Dutch Jews.

He speaks movingly of finding small scraps of paper, messages thrown from trains leaving Westerbork (an internment camp and later a transit camp in the Netherlands), noting that “Before me, hardly anyone has read them and, after me, they are locked into the archives and it’s possible nobody else will see them.” They awoke in…

From the list:

The best books on World War II in Europe

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Book cover of Modernity and the Holocaust

Modernity and the Holocaust

By Zygmunt Bauman

Why this book?

This is a profound and disturbing work written after reading his wife’s account of how she, her mother and sister, all of Jewish origin, survived the Nazi/war years in Warsaw (Winter in the Morning by Janina Bauman (1986)). Bauman exposes the popular fallacy that the Holocaust was a singular event, an unfortunate tear in the fabric of civilization, demonstrating with devastating clarity that it was, in fact, a (logical) product of modernism: “Without modern civilization and its most central essential achievements, there would be no Holocaust”.

From the list:

The best books on understanding the human condition

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