10 Holocaust Books: Turn Back Time And Relive History

The Holocaust was one of the darkest events in human history, a horror that millions suffered through. The genocide cost six million Jewish people their lives across Europe. The following ten books are tales either from survivors or relatives of survivors of the holocaust.

Each book will give you an insight into the plight of the victims of this period in history. Gone but never forgotten, these 10 best holocaust books will shed light on that inhumane occurrence.

10. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron

First Published: 1979

What It’s About:

This heartbreaking and shocking novel follows a young writer from the American South, Stingo, who has just moved into a boarding house in Brooklyn with several other inhabitants. Here, he meets and becomes friends with Sophie, a beautiful Polish immigrant and her lover Nathan, a young Jewish man who is passionate and volatile. Stingo finds out that Sophie is a Holocaust survivor and has stayed at concentration camps. As Sophie begins opening up to Stingo about her past, he learns of her disturbing tales of life in the concentration camp.

Why You Should Read It:

William Styron’s depiction of a concentration camp and the effects of the Holocaust made waves when this book was first released in the 1970s. The explicit description of life in a concentration camp as seen through Sophie’s eyes is disturbing, and by the end of the book, heartbreaking.

Best Quote:

“I have learned to cry again and I think perhaps that means I am a human being again. Perhaps that at least. A piece of human being but yes, a human being.”

9. Boy In The Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne

First Published: 2006

What It’s About:

Set in 1942 Berlin, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas follows Bruno, a nine-year-old boy as he changes homes with his family from Berlin to a faraway location. In this new, isolated location, Bruno has no one to play with, but has plenty of spare time on his hands. Bruno discovers a tall fence that runs along the area where he lives for as far as he can see. In the distance, on the other side, Bruno is able to see thousands of people wearing striped caps and pajamas. One day while wandering near the fence, Bruno meets a little boy who is also wearing striped pajamas and happens to share the same birthday as Bruno. The two become secret friends and what ensues is a tragic string of events.

Why You Should Read It:

Seen from the point of view of a little boy, this memorable and powerful tale of life at one of the most horrific places on earth, Auschwitz, is a must-read for understanding the horrors of the Holocaust.

Best Quote:

“Despite the mayhem that followed, Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel’s hand in his own and nothing in the world would have persuaded him to let go.”

8. Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer

First Published: 1969

What It’s About:

Albert Speer entered the Nazi regime as a driver and by the end of his career, became known as one of the highest ranking Nazi officials to survive the Nuremberg trials. Speer was one of the most intelligent people in the Nazi regime and this autobiographical account of his work and life is known as the definitive guide to the inner workings of Germany under Nazi rule. At the Nuremberg trials, Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The book also contains fascinating accounts of Nazi leaders themselves as well as Hitler’s wife, Eva Braun.

Why You Should Read It:

This book was written by Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, the person responsible for keeping Germany fighting in the aftermath of Hitler’s reign. It’s as behind-the-scenes an account of the Nazi state as it can get.

Best Quote:

“Though it seems obscene to pity one individual human being with so many millions dead, I do believe that Eva Braun was the loneliest woman I ever knew.”

7. The Holocaust, by Martin Gilbert

First Published: 1978

What It’s About:

Not an easy book to read by any means, this is an extremely thorough account of the Nazi Holocaust, with accounts from both men and women who suffered at the hands of Nazis in their attempt to exterminate the Jewish race. The book takes readers through the events of the Holocaust with the slaughter of six million Jewish men, women and children during the Second World War. The book retells the ghastly tales recounted in documents written by Jews, along with several eye-witness testimonies. Gilbert is able to bring forth the horrific human tragedy that was the Holocaust.

Why You Should Read It:

Martin Gilbert is an acclaimed historian who gathered information starting from the days Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 until Germany’s defeat in 1945. He utilized documents that were used in the Nuremberg trials along with interviews that he personally conducted as well as the testimony of survivors and eye-witnesses in writing this book.

Best Quote:

“Neville Chamberlain, commented in a private letter on the persecution of German Jews: ‘I believe the persecution arose out of two motives: a desire to rob the Jews of their money and a jealousy of their superior cleverness.’ Chamberlain continued: ‘No doubt Jews aren’t a lovable people; I don’t care about them myself; but that is not sufficient to explain the Pogrom.”

6. The Third Reich In Power, by Richard J Evans

First Published: 2005

What It’s About:

Evans discusses the rise of the Nazi rule in Germany and its subsequent effect on all aspects of the country including its religion, culture, literature, arts, and science. The book shows how Germany was fast preparing for war while explaining how the Nazis attempted to reorder every part of the German society, and despite resistance, won over the Germans. Those found to be ‘unfit’ to be living among the Germans were met with a terrible fate by the Nazis. The rise of Hitler culminated in the 1939 war when he touched the pinnacle of his power, leading to the genocide of millions of Jews.

Why You Should Read It:

The book is one the most in-depth accounts on the Holocaust, taking an unflinching look at the rise of the Nazi regime and the atrocities committed by them. It is said to be the most detailed explanation of the Holocaust ever written, which makes it a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about this tragedy.

Best Quote:

“Of all the things that made the Third Reich a modern dictatorship, its incessant demand for popular legitimation was one of the most striking.”

5. Letters to Freya, by Helmuth James von Moltke

First Published: 1990

What It’s About:

This is a heartfelt and true rendition of a German intelligence officer of aristocratic descent who was a devout Christian and a pacifist. He struggled against everything the Third Reich stood for. The book, which is a collection of letters that he wrote to his wife, creates an amalgamation of love, fear, anger and despair. Moltke initially starts by taking the legal route against Nazi actions through reasoned protest. But, with the worsening situation, coupled with the horrors of the Holocaust in 1941, Moltke plots to overthrow the Nazi regime. Moltke did everything he could to reduce the atrocities around him, even if it meant stopping an execution every now and then.

Why You Should Read It:

Read it to catch a rare glimpse of a man who worked with the Nazis, but did not agree with their beliefs.

Best Quote:

“In order to endure death and horror one tends to kill one’s own humanity, which is a much greater danger than not being able to bear it.”

4. The Diary Of A Young Girl, by Anne Frank

First Published: 1942

What It’s About:

Possibly the most famous book to be written about the Holocaust tragedy, Anne Frank’s diary was found in the attic where the girl spent the last few years of her young life. Written from a 13-year-old’s point of view, the diary recounts Anne’s family escaping Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in 1942 and moving to an abandoned office building for the next two years. Anne discusses her life and how her family survived in the harsh conditions. Anne and her family were ultimately discovered by the Gestapo and the diary offers a moving insight into the nightmare she was living, yet never succumbing to self-pity.

Why You Should Read It:

Read it to experience the hardships that so many went through in their attempt to escape the horrors living in a concentration camp. The fact that the book is written by a young girl who could have had a bright future is what makes it all the more moving.

Best Quote:

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

3. Yellow Star, by Jennifer Roy

First Published: 2006

What It’s About:

Written by the niece of one of the twelve child survivors of the Lodz ghetto in Poland, Yellow Star is a story that describes what happened in 1945 when the war ended. Out of a quarter of a million people, only 800 had survived in the ghetto and out of those twelve were children. The author’s aunt was one of those twelve. Like most survivors, for years after the Holocaust ended, Syvia did not discuss her experiences in the Lodz ghetto. She needed to forget the horrors she saw, but finally she recounted her experiences to her niece. The startling true story contained in these pages is heartbreaking and above all, a tale of survival.

Why You Should Read It:

Read it to get a child’s perspective on what she saw happening all around her in increasingly dangerous and horrifying surroundings.

Best Quote:

“Bright colors don’t exist in the ghetto, except for the yellow stars and puddles of red blood that we carefully step around.”

2. I Have Lived A Thousand Years, by Livia Bitton-Jackson

First Published: 1997

What It’s About:

Written by a young girl who survived the Holocaust, but unfortunately witnessed the horror as a 13-year-old. When the Nazis invade Hungary in 1944, Elli Friedman’s life is turned upside down. She is not allowed to attend school, talk to her neighbors or even have any possessions. Forced to leave her home and moved into a crowded ghetto, her life becomes a living nightmare. Unfortunately for Elli this is only the beginning of a far worse fate.

Why You Should Read It:

This memoir of a Holocaust survivor is a must-read as it gives a first-person view of life in hell on earth. The stories are laced with a palpable sense of dread and impending doom. Even though Elli survives the Holocaust, what she saw and experienced in the concentration camps haunts her for life.

Best Quote:

“My hope is that learning about past evils will help us to avoid them in the future.”

1. The Pianist, by Wladyslaw Szpilman

First Published: 1946

What It’s About:

This true story recounts the experiences of a talented Jewish pianist who survived the Holocaust. As a pianist on Polish Radio, Wladyslaw was playing Chopin live when he had to stop because of a German attack. Six years later, the same piece is played by Wladyslaw. What took place in the six years is what The Pianist recounts. The Pianist is a harrowing account of everything Wladyslaw saw and experienced while battling to survive. After penning down his experiences in 1946, he never looked at them again. His entire family was deported and killed, and the only reason Wladyslaw survived is because a music-loving policeman recognized his work.

Why You Should Read It:

Wladyslaw’s tale of survival is nothing less than extraordinary and this book shows the true horrors of being alive when all you see around you is death.

Best Quote:

“Lying is the worst of all evils. Everything else that is diabolical comes from it.”

Conclusion

These 10 holocaust books are memorable, heartbreaking and enlightening all at once. Not only do they shed light on a horrific crime that was committed against humanity, they also lend voice to the faceless millions who lost their lives and were unable to speak for themselves.

Keeping sharing simple