The best books about Lithuania

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Lithuania and why they recommend each book.

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We Are Here

By Ellen Cassedy,

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

The author and I have somewhat similar backgrounds, with ancestry back in Lithuania. We both made the commitment to travel to Lithuania, but for different reasons. Her quest to improve her knowledge and fluency of the Yiddish language, (my native language) brought her to Vilnius, Lithuania to study with a master teacher.  While she was there, she was determined to learn as much as she could about the long history of the Jews of Lithuania, the fate of her ancestors, and why (and how) almost 96% of the Lithuanian Jewish population was murdered- the highest percentage of any European country. Through research, interviews, songs, and Yiddish expressions, the author weaves together a nostalgic, literary, and academic odyssey into the past- and discovers the answer to the percentage question – the Nazis had willing collaborators.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version…


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...

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

By Ettie Zilber,

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.

Lithuania Ascending

By S. C. Rowell,

Book cover of Lithuania Ascending: A Pagan Empire Within East-Central Europe, 1295-1345

This is a look at the evolving Lithuanian state at a key moment in its efforts to fight off western crusaders, expand to the east against Russians and south against Mongols, and accommodate its society and religious practices to its allies and subject peoples.

This was the era when the modern states of Belarus and Ukraine were forming under Lithuanian rule or protection. The cities of those regions, as well as the princes, were all Orthodox Christians, but they preferred being governed by tolerant pagans who lived among them than being heavily taxed by Muslim nomads who despised them.

In the decades to follow, Lithuanians would be deeply influenced by Polish culture and religious thought, so the conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1387 came as no surprise.


Who am I?

I became enthusiastic about the history of the Baltics when my dissertation advisor persuaded me to use my language training in German and Russian to test the American Frontier Theory in the Baltic region. None of the various theories were applicable, but I earned a Ph.D. anyway. Later I taught in Italy, Yugoslavia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic. I've written a number of books and won a Fulbright Hays grant, the Dr. Arthur Puksow Foundation prize, the Vitols Prize, and others. I retired in 2017 after fifty-one years of university and college teaching, but I would still be teaching if my hearing had not deteriorated to the point that I could not make out what shy students were saying. 


I wrote...

Teutonic Knights: A Military History

By William L. Urban,

Book cover of Teutonic Knights: A Military History

What is my book about?

This has proven far more successful than I expected. It was a History Book Club selection in 2003, then translated into Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Swedish, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, and Chinese. Its central story is the crusade from Prussia and Livonia against Lithuanian paganism and Russian Orthodox rivals. Stories from contemporary chronicles are enhanced by wide reading of documents, articles, and modern histories.

A Holocaust Memoir of Love & Resilience

By Ettie Zilber,

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

A beautifully written and compelling true story about the author’s heroine, her mother. The memoir shares with the reader the unspeakable horrors and tragic times that her mother lived through and witnessed – and of course, the impact of those events on the author, herself. The book is a testament to persistence, hope, and strength.

Who am I?

Adena Astrowsky is the grandchild of two Holocaust survivors. Her grandmother often spoke to her about her experiences during the Holocaust, which had a profound impact on her life. She continues to honor her grandmother's life by speaking about her grandmother’s survival and lessons learned from the Holocaust.


I wrote...

Living among the Dead: My Grandmother's Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength

By Adena Bernstein Astrowsky,

Book cover of Living among the Dead: My Grandmother's Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength

What is my book about?

This is the story of one remarkable young woman's unimaginable journey through the rise of the Nazi regime, the Second World War, and the aftermath. Mania Lichtenstein’s dramatic story of survival is narrated by her granddaughter and her memories are interwoven with beautiful passages of poetry and personal reflection.

Many Jews did not die in concentration camps, but were murdered in their lifelong communities, slaughtered by mass killing units, and then buried in pits. As a young girl, Mania witnessed the horrors while doing everything within her power to subsist. She lived in Włodzimierz, north of Lvov (Ukraine), was interned for three years in the labor camp nearby, managed to escape, and hid in the forests until the end of the war. Although she was the sole survivor of her family, Mania went on to rebuild a new life in the United States, with a new language and new customs, always carrying with her the losses of her family and her memories.

Our People

By Efraim Zuroff, Rūta Vanagaite,

Book cover of Our People: Discovering Lithuania's Hidden Holocaust

The partnership of these two authors, one, a Lithuanian national and prominent figure and the other, a Jewish/Israeli Nazi hunter, even surprised them both. While they come from the polar opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, their ultimate research collaboration offers the reader a view into the reason why 96% of Lithuanian Jews were murdered during – and after – the Holocaust – many, before the Nazis fully occupied the country. Travelling together throughout Lithuania, they interviewed non-Jewish eyewitnesses, who told them (on the record) what they saw and what they remembered of those horrible days when the Jews were murdered …by bullets… and who collaborated, assisted, and who pulled the trigger. 

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. There were very few survivors from Lithuania, and the Vanagaite-Zuroff book helps me understand why. I started learning about…


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...

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

By Ettie Zilber,

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.

Words on Fire

By Jennifer A. Nielsen,

Book cover of Words on Fire

In late 1800s Lithuania, young Audra gets caught up in an underground network of book smugglers while fleeing from Russian Cossack soldiers and attempting to save her family. Many of Nielsen’s novels would fit well on this list, but I particularly adore the message in this book about the power of words and storytelling when fighting oppression. 


Who am I?

I’m a part-time professor of English and a full-time admirer of history, fairy tales, and people who fight oppression. I’ve loved stories my whole life, and I believe that the right words can have the power to change the world. That’s certainly an important message in my debut novel, The Story That Cannot Be Told, which is set during the Romanian Revolution of 1989. I primarily write historical fiction for middle grade readers, in large part because I love researching history, but my work also often includes folklore, fairy tales, or the supernatural—and of course, there’s always an adventure on the horizon.


I wrote...

The Story That Cannot Be Told

By J. Kasper Kramer,

Book cover of The Story That Cannot Be Told

What is my book about?

In 1989 Communist Romania, everything is dangerous—reading the wrong kind of books, watching the wrong kind of movies, listening to the wrong kind of music. But the most dangerous thing of all is to write.

Weaving together the real history of the Romanian Revolution and traditional Romanian folktales and fairy tales, my debut novel tells the story of Ileana, a young girl who desperately wants to be a writer—and who will do anything to save the people she loves—no matter the cost.

The One-In-A-Million Boy

By Monica Wood,

Book cover of The One-In-A-Million Boy

I’m recommending this because it will break your heart, and everyone needs that experience now and again with a book. It tells the story of a unique and unlikely love that blossoms slowly between a 104-year-old woman (whom you will learn to adore) and a young boy scout who calls to her house to fulfill one of his tasks. There’s a tragic twist early on that introduces us to the boy’s parents, and there are some lovely subsequent turns in this most magical tale. It’s the first Monica Wood book that I read, but I must hunt her down and read more. 


Who am I?

I’m Irish, writing since 2001. I’m fascinated by the impulses that propel us towards or away from another person, the ways we are hurt or charmed or offended or beguiled by another, and how we react to all of the above. I’m not married or in a relationship myself; somewhere along the way I realised that I’m happier alone, and I think it puts me in a good position to observe the behaviours of friends and family, and sometimes strangers (yes, I’m that person sitting nearby on the train or at the airport or in the cafe, tapping furiously into her laptop as you converse with your partner).


I wrote...

Life Before Us

By Roisin Meaney,

Book cover of Life Before Us

What is my book about?

George and Alice are destined to meet – or are they? Their lives run on different tracks, but now and again there’s a wiggle, a near-miss, an almost-encounter. They might just be one another’s perfect mate – if only they could find themselves in the same place at the same time. A will-they, won’t-they exploration of how fate, serendipity, destiny, call it what you want, plays a part in finding The One. 

The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union 1385-1569

By Robert I. Frost,

Book cover of The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union 1385-1569: Volume I

The first volume of Robert Frost’s trilogy is a superbly researched account and explanation of how two very different realmsthe Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuaniacame together to forge a shared Commonwealth that covered most of east-central Europe. While it supports republican ideas of liberty serving the common good, it steers an impartial course between rival nationalist narratives and offers important lessons for the making and maintenance of unions between states and communities.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by Central and Eastern Europe all of my adult life. Many cruises along the Danube and around the Baltic Sea have allowed me to see the stunning best of the region. Since the early 1990s, I’ve taught the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Habsburg Monarchy, and the Russian Empire to a generation of students. Professor of Polish-Lithuanian History at University College London since 2013, my next challenge is to promote the history of Poland to allcomers via the Polish History Museum in Warsaw, the wonderful city which is my home.


I wrote...

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 1733-1795: Light and Flame

By Richard Butterwick-Pawlikowski,

Book cover of The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 1733-1795: Light and Flame

What is my book about?

I tell the compelling story of the last decades of one of Europe’s largest and least understood polities: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Drawing on the latest research, I explain its turbulent path to destruction by the neighbouring powers: Russia, Prussia, and Austria. But far from seeing the Commonwealth as a failed state, I show the ways in which it reformed itself, drawing on its own civic values and the ideas of the Enlightenment. All too briefly, the Commonwealth threw off the stranglehold of Russia and regained its sovereignty, and on May 3, 1791 it gave itself a modern Constitution, fit for the nineteenth century.

The Nazi's Granddaughter

By Silvia Foti,

Book cover of The Nazi's Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather Was a War Criminal

While the author and I came from different sides of the same fence, I found myself empathizing with her deathbed promise, her fears, her worries, her self-doubt, and her commitment to finding, and eventually exposing, the truth. Setting out to write what should have been a fairly ‘easy’ biographical tribute to her late grandfather – hailed as a Lithuanian hero- she discovered - and uncovered - details and documents which shattered her world and confirmed “the gossip.” She began to doubt the stories she was told as a child and the people who told them- both in her Lithuanian-American neighborhood and back in the old country. What a page-turner…what agony and pain…until she finally made her courageous decision. Bravo, Silvia.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. There were very few survivors from Lithuania, and Foti’s book helps…


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...

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

By Ettie Zilber,

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.

Between Shades of Gray

By Ruta Sepetys,

Book cover of Between Shades of Gray

This is Ruta Sepety’s debut novel and is so powerful, I can still remember the chills it gave me on my first read. While it came out in 2011 its message today seems ever more poignant. History is the story of individuals. Lina’s story of survival in Lithuania during World War Two, against impossible odds, gives voice to the countless thousands who never had a chance to have their stories told. And hopefully ensures that it never happens again.

Caught up in the events of World War Two, Lina and her mother and brother are arrested one night and forced into a harrowing journey from Lithuania to Siberia. Barely fifteen, Lina discovers bravery and courage, as well as the hope and resistance that she’ll need to keep herself and her brother alive. The cold, both in the harsh weather, life, and situation is stark, yet Ruth Sepetys’ writing brings such…


Who am I?

There is something about books set in the cold, you know immediately bad things are going to happen! It may be my early childhood in Scotland, or my English upbringing, but I have always been drawn to the dark side of stories, the things under the bed, the monsters in the closet. I still love to be scared by the twists and chills but also am a sucker for a happy ending. In my novels, I always strive to entertain, to scare, and surprise, but ultimately there needs to be an emotional truth beneath everything. And this is true of the books I read as well. 


I wrote...

Don't Let In the Cold

By Keely Parrack,

Book cover of Don't Let In the Cold

What is my book about?

It was supposed to be one night in the cabin, a chance for Lottie and her new stepsister, Jade, to try to get along. But after a solar flare causes a massive blackout―no power or cell signal―Alex shows up, claiming to be lost and seeking shelter from the storm. When Lottie spies him in the driveway talking to two men in a pickup truck, she’s sure Alex is lying about why he's there.

Before she can find out more, a fire forces Lottie, Jade, and Alex into the blizzard, where they must rely on one another to get to safety. In the remote, Tahoe wilderness, it’s clear that Alex's accomplices are hunting them all down, in a scheme that's taken a chilling, deadly turn.

Scottish Communities Abroad In The Early Modern Period

By Alexia Grosjean (editor), Steve Murdoch (editor),

Book cover of Scottish Communities Abroad In The Early Modern Period

This is just one of several books by these brilliant academics who have done so much to make people aware of the huge Scottish presence in Europe and the incredible influence they had on their host nations. I use many stories gleaned from Steve in my own book. 

Steve points out that while many Scots served in the Swedish army in the 17th century as professional soldiers, they were not merely content to be part of the military élite. Their penetration into the exclusive field of diplomacy is revealed by the negotiations between Sweden and Denmark-Norway to end the Kalmar War in 1613. Representing the Danish side was Robert Anstruther, on the Swedish side was James Spens. No only were they both Scots, they were half-brithers from the East Neuk of Fife! They did quite literally ken each ither’s faither!


Who am I?

Very little Scottish history or culture was taught in school when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. When I began to read books on the subject from the local library and then studied Scottish literature at Edinburgh University, I realised what my brother and sister Scots had missed out on, and was determined to rectify that by writing accessible books which would both inform and entertain as well as enrich their lives and change the way they perceived their culture. I love their reaction to my work and the influence my books have had. 


I wrote...

The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora

By Billy Kay,

Book cover of The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora

What is my book about?

A celebration of the huge contribution the Scots have made in every far-flung corner of the world and the legacy they have created in areas that will surprise and delight—from freemasonry to football and from intellectual enlightenment to the appreciation of fine wine! I made documentaries on the Scottish diaspora over several decades for the BBC, so this is the fruit of that labour combined with a personal account of my own world travels where just being a Scot helped me tremendously in places as far apart as Hawaii, Malawi, Thailand, Poland, the United States, and Canada.

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