All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. ~ Edmund Burke
I will be the first to admit that I avoid children’s books about war. They depress me. I even get nightmares. So you can imagine that I don’t go seeking out books on the Holocaust. The very idea of man’s inhumanity turns my stomach. And yet … it’s such an important event in this lifetime to remember and seek out whatever lessons possible to prevent a reoccurrence. Right?
Some of these books beckoned and drew me in, reluctant reader that I was, on this subject. Jerry Spinelli’s Milkweed is a perfect example. I had checked out a pile of his books and brought this last unread one on a train ride. I didn’t want to read it, honestly. I wanted something lighter and uplifting. But as soon as I opened his book, I wasn’t able to put it down.
In creating this list, my question is simply, “Can a single ordinary person make a difference in the face of such abject horror?” There are unsung heroes in all these books, both real and imagined. I would suggest these books, even the picture books, for ages 10 and up. The Holocaust is a subject for an older child.
It goes without saying that any book for kids that gets published on the topic of the Holocaust is worthy of accolades and children’s literature awards. The bar is set high since this is a tough subject to sell. It’s no coincidence that many of these books have won prestigious awards.
What are the books you read with your child about the Holocaust that you recommend? Please share!
Holocaust Books For Kids
Holocaust Picture Books for Kids
10. Greenhorn by Anna Olswanger
I first read about this picture book on The Fourth Musketeer and the story haunts me. A little orphan boy arrives in New York City with a tin box he won’t ever be parted from. Why? Inside is a remnant of soap possibly made from the fat of his mother who died in a concentration camp. This is the only piece of her that he has. Haunting, right? Beyond tragic.
The author tells why she published this story here because it’s a story of hope. “The little boy, who wouldn’t speak when he came to America, who wouldn’t let the tin box out of his sight, made a friend. Later, he agreed to live with his friend’s family. And then he let go of his box. The little boy moved on. The story had hope.”
9. One Candle by Eve Bunting
Eve Bunting can tell the story of any outsider, whether it’s a Japanese American who was forced to relocate in So Far From the Sea or a muslim girl who feels alienated on a school field trip (One Green Apple).
On the first night of Hannukkah, Grandma tells of her experience as a twelve-year-old in Buchenwald concentration camp including their Hannukkah experience.
8. Anne Frank by Josephine Poole, illustrated by Angela Barrett
This advanced picture book does a good job in filling in the background information about Nazi Germany as well as Anne Frank’s personal history. I didn’t realize that her father fled Frankfurt for the relative safety of Amsterdam, with Anne joining them later for example. For anyone who’s read The Dairy of a Young Girl, this picture book tells her story with illustrations that are both realistic and timeless.
Holocaust Chapter Books for Kids
7. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
My 5th grader highly recommends this historical fiction chapter book about the Danish king who saved his Jewish subjects during German occupation. The idea of a king who stands up to Hitler feels like a fairy tale but is, in fact, true.
Here are some facts from the back pages of The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy
- Among the Nazi occupied countries, only Denmark rescued the overwhelming majority of Jews.
- Over 7,000 Danish Jews were smuggled to Sweden in fishing boats, 12 to 14 at a time, by a group of Danes called the “Helsingor Sewing Club.”
- Of the almost 500 Jews deported to Theresienstadt, all but 51 survived due in large part to the Danish government’s intercession on their behalf.
And some think … “The Danish people and their elected officials showed that with a minimal amount of resistance to Nazi programs and deportations, their plans for genocide could have been thwarted.”
6. The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
This is the flip side of The Diary of Anne Frank. Two Jewish sisters, also from Amsterdam, are hidden away by a farmer and his wife during German occupation WWII. Narrowly escaping surprise German raid, they miraculously survive thanks to a hidden room in the attic. Imagine if Anne Frank has been so fortunate. The farmer and his wife are the unsung heros of this true story.
I always think about the unknown citizens who went out of their way to rat out a Jew. The ex-employee who tried to extort money from Anne Frank’s saviors. What happened to him? Does he feel good about himself for doing this? The flip side to the unsung hero; the unknown villain. I’d like these people to come forward if they finally feel remorse.
5.The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Rudomin Hautzig
I remember this book from my childhood and the story has never left me. This is author Esther Hautzig’s true story. Her family was forced to relocate to Siberia which turned out to be the least horrible option though life wasn’t easy.
In the book, Esther has one day to pack for the trip to an unknown destination before the Nazis remove her family from their mansion and move themselves in. At the last moment, she decides to stuff in her winter coat. It’s so bulky that she’s unsure she should include it. Thank goodness she does.
Though her father is forced to work in a gypsum mine, the family prevails during their time in Siberia, even befriending some Russians. This is the best case scenario for Jews during WWII but still a compelling story.
I wonder if the Nazis who took over her house knew that relocation to Siberia was the kindest option. How did her family end up here instead of a death camp? I wonder.
4. The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
The use of flashback for 12-year-old Hannah from modern times into the horrors of a concentration camp makes this story less terrifying since you know that our young character will somehow survive. The details of life in a death camp are frighteningly realistic though. I am reading this myself very gingerly though anything written by Jane Yolen is excellent.
Young Adult Holocaust Books for Tweens
3. Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
I don’t know how you got me to read this book, Mr. Spinelli, but it’s testimony to your powers as a storyteller. What is amazing is that this story is told from the point of view of a young orphan boy who’s will to fit in and survive defines the human spirit. This boy wants to be a Nazi, with shiny jackboots, so willing is he to fit in. And yet, he ends up in a concentration camp where survival is the ultimate challenge with a price that is heart breaking.
Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli takes us to one of the most devastating settings imaginable-Nazi-occupied Warsaw during World War II-and tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival through the bright eyes of a young Holocaust orphan.
2. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A must read that speaks to all tweens and teens about the universality of annoying parents, boy questions, and discovering yourself despite her tragic circumstances of hiding out during occupied WWII Amsterdam. Her death is a tragedy that defines the horror of the Holocaust.
1.The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Mom friends of tweens who read this for a mother/daughter book club raved about this book. In particular, that it was narrated by Death. I was impressed too. I liked that it was a story of an ordinary German girl who befriends and hides a Jewish man before he is forced to march to Dachau. I always wondered about the German citizens and how they dealt with the Nazis if they actually disagreed with their politics. This YA book won a pile of well deserved awards.
Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Emma Carlson Berne
Ten thousand children escaped the Nazis traveling alone without their parents on the Kinderstransport from Germany to the United Kingdom. Stories of individual children are highlighted in this early chapter book about young refugees and their experience of losing their homes and families during WWII; an experience that is more relevant than ever today with modern day child refugees. [early chapter book, ages 8 and up]
The Cats of Krasinki Square by Karen Hesse
Can cats outsmart the Gestapo? In Warsaw during WWII, the Gestapo have forced all Jewish men, women and children into a ghetto where they are being ravished through disease and starvation. Those who can escape and pass for Aryan must use their ingenuity to find a way to bring food to their friends. The cats of Krasinki Square can help outfox the Gestapo. In this story of courage amid horrific inhumanity, Hesse celebrates the Jewish Resistance. [advanced picture book, ages 7 and up]
The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy
If you want to learn more about the Danish king who saved his people from the death camps, this picture book is the perfect (gentle) place to start.
Odette’s Secrets by Maryann McDonald
Novel in verse! Review from Ms. YingLing Reads: This is a gentler Holocaust book for more sensitive students– there are some scary moments, but not as much of the sheer brutality found in other books. Another review from The Children’s War. She says, “There a a number of photographs throughout the novel of the real Odette, her mother and the family she lived with.” Great interview with author Maryann McDonald from The Fourth Musketeer.
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
Another review from Ms. YingLing Reads on YA Holocaust book:
Gratz does excellent historical fiction, and this novelized version of Gruener’s life has a wealth of sobering details. From run-ins with people like Mengele, to descriptions of celebrating bar mitzvah’s under Nazi rule (even one in a camp), to a harrowing description of him trying to save another boy on a death march, this is an excellent addition to the body of young adult holocaust books.
The Fourth Musketeer describes Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz, “Written in short chapters and sparse prose, the novel is filled with narrow escapes from death. Yanek manages to survive work details in salt mines and rock quarries, only to wind up at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he survives the infamous showers and the deadly Death March from the camp at the end of the war. Like with other Holocaust stories, the reader is overwhelmed by the ability of the human spirit to survive under indescribably inhumane conditions, and likewise by the power that an individual’s will to live can have.”
In researching this list, I found this at Carol Hurst’s blog:
For those in 8th and 9th grade, I’d start with Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegeman
Don’t let the comic book format fool you, this is not easy reading. It’s an allegory in which Jews are mice; the Germans are cats. These and other animals tell the story of Spiegelman’s father, a concentration camp survivor. The skill of the artist is such that the device of dehumanizing the characters does not create emotional distance. Because of its format, you can’t read it aloud.
The Search by Eric Heuvel, Rund van der Rol and Lies Schippers
The Children’s War has a great review on this Holocaust graphic novel:
The Search is a sensitive yet dynamic and informative graphic novel. Heuvel doesn’t hold back on the plight of Esther to survive or atrocities Bob describes which were inflicted on the Jews in concentration camps by the Nazis, but he does temper it by framing the story in the present, and including the sons and grandsons of Esther and Helena. And even though the story jumps back and forth between past and present, it is not confusing in the least.
More Great Suggestions from My Awesome Readers!
From Bonnie at Bonnie Ferrante: Books for Children:
Magician of Auschwitz by Kathy Kacer
Here’s a great review from The Children’s War.
From Maria G.:
I have a few others, two nonfiction books: Beyond Courage by Doreen Rappaport (about the Jewish Resistance)–great book & photos.
I haven’t read either of these, but Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is supposed to be very good as is a fictionalized book based on the author’s aunt’s experience–that would be Jennifer Roy’s Yellow Star.
One of the most powerful, heart-wrenching and harrowing books I’ve ever read was Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray. It’s not about the holocaust directly, but it’s about Stalin’s mass murder and deportation of millions of Lithuanians. Definitely for older teen readers.
Another is equally horrific–it’s Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, a sort of historical dystopia which re-imagines a world where Hitler might have won the war, where the main character, a bright dyslexic boy lives in a completely totalitarian regime called the Motherland. The MC Standish Treadwell has great voice, but it’s violent and intense and so effective–again for older teen readers. This book would be a great companion book for holocaust studies.
MaryAnne from Mama Smiles: “Have you read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom? I highly recommend it.” Julie G. also recommends it!
Mary from Sprout’s Bookshelf: “An interesting title for teens is Kathryn Lasky’s Ashes. It’s told from the perspective of a German girl who refuses to join the Hitler Youth.”
Alex from my LinkedIn network recommends A Little History of the World: Illustrated Edition by
E. H. Gombrich
Le Chaim (on the right) from Pinterest says, “other Holocaust fiction favorites of mine include: Prisoner B-3087 (Gratz) The Boy Who Dared (Bartoletti) I Am David (Holm) Escape from Warsaw (Serraillier)”
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell BartolettiA Newbery Honor Book author has written a powerful and gripping novel about a youth in Nazi Germany who tells the truth about HitlerBartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, HITLER YOUTH, and fleshed it out into thought-provoking novel. When 16-year-old Helmut Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he’s tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmut’s story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times , to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself. [chapter book ages 9 and up]
Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier
Warsaw 1942 – Dad’s in prison. Mother’s about to be arrested. Edek, enraged, shoots one of the Nazi Storm Troopers. Now Edek and his two sisters must escape – and fast! Leaving their bombed house, they flee across rooftops, the Secret Police already on their trail. A harrowing story of three young fugitives and their Nazi pursuers . . . taken from true accounts. [Young Adult, ages 12 and up]
Nerdy Book Club has a great list of Holocaust Picture Books for kids. These are the books that are not on this list so far:
Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II by Marisabina Russo
Rachel’s Oma (her grandmother) has two picture albums. In one the photographs show only happy times — from after World War II, when she and her daughters had come to America. But the other album includes much sadder times from before — when their life in Germany was destroyed by the Nazis’ rise to power.
For as long as Rachel can remember, Oma has closed the other album when she’s gotten to the sad part. But today Oma will share it all. Today Rachel will hear about what her grandmother, her mother, and her aunts endured. And she’ll see how the power of this Jewish family’s love for one another gave them the strength to survive.
Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin
Covers the years during which Friedl Dicker, a Jewish woman from Czechoslovakia, taught art to children at the Terezin Concentration Camp.
The Cat with the Yellow Star Coming of Age in Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin with Ela Weissberger
Ela Stein was eleven years old in February of 1942 when she was sent to the Terezin concentration camp with other Czech Jews. By the time she was liberated in 1945, she was fifteen. Somehow during those horrendous three-and-a-half years of sickness, terror, separation from loved ones, and loss, Ela managed to grow up. Although conditions were wretched, Ela forged lifelong friendships with other girls from Room 28 of her barracks. Adults working with the children tried their best to keep up the youngest prisoners’ spirits. A children’s opera called Brundibar was even performed, and Ela was chosen to play the pivotal role of the cat. Yet amidst all of this, the feared transports to death camps and death itself were a part of daily life. Full of sorrow, yet persistent in its belief that humans can triumph over evil; this unusual memoir tells the story of an unimaginable coming of age.
Brundibar by Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner
When Aninku and Pepicek discover one morning that their mother is sick, they rush to town for milk to make her better. Their attempt to earn money by singing is thwarted by a bullying, bellowing hurdy-gurdy grinder, Brundibar, who tyrannizes the town square and chases all other street musicians away. Befriended by three intelligent talking animals and three hundred helpful schoolkids, brother and sister sing for the money to buy the milk, defeat the bully, and triumphantly return home. Brundibar is based on a Czech opera for children that was performed fifty-five times by the children of Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp.
I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 edited by Hana Volakova
Fifteen thousand children under the age of fifteen passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. Fewer than 100 survived. In these poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates, we see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their hopes and fears, their courage and optimism. 60 color illustrations.
The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco
Ever since the Nazis marched into Monique’s small French village, terrorizing it, nothing surprises her, until the night Monique encounters the little ghost sitting at the end of her bed. She turns out to be a girl named Sevrine, who has been hiding from the Nazis in Monique’s basement. Playing after dark, the two become friends, until, in a terrifying moment, they are discovered, sending both of their families into a nighttime flight.
Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat? by Nancy Patz
This book, a meditation on a woman’s hat on display in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, combines a pensive prose poem with arresting collage artwork. The illustrations, consisting of pencil drawings, subdued watercolors, and old photographs, sometimes suggest a distant memory and at other times bring the reality of the Holocaust into sharp focus. Subtle yet powerful, historical and personal, this book will have a lasting impact on everyone who experiences it.
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
What I love about this book is how accessible it is to middle grade and young adult audiences, while also managing to challenge and interest adult readers as well. There is no dumbing down or sugar coating the material here. And since most history textbooks on World War II don’t go much into the war crimes trials, this book would be good to give to students to supplement and pique their interest further.
This would also be a fantastic book if you read and enjoyed Bomb: The Race to Build – And Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. In fact, the structure and writing style is so similar that, had I not noted the author on the cover, I would have guessed it was Sheinkin. Review from The Nerdy Bookclub.
Review from Randomly Reading. [chapter book for middle grade and young adult]
The Extra by Kathryn Lasky
Lilo and her family live in Vienna, and her father is a respected jeweler. They are Sinti, however, and the Nazis have been rounding up both the Sinti and Roma Gypsies and sending them to concentration camps. Lilo meets a boy who helps her survive the camp, Django, especially when Leni Riefenstahl, the movie director, commandeers a group of Gypsies to be extras in her movie, Tieflander, that she is filming. Review by Ms. YingLing Reads
A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo
Review of a Holocaust GRAPHIC NOVEL for kids by Ms. YingLing Reads.
Like Jablonski’s Resistance trilogy, this offers a slightly different experience of Jews during WWII. The graphics seemed colorful, if out of focus, and this publisher usually does very nice graphic treatments. I like how the boys had some pleasant experiences; their war was not the 24/7 experience that some people had, and that is interesting to read.
The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson
Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, a man named Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon Leyson’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory—a list that became world renowned: Schindler’s List. (August 27)
A true story by a Schindler’s List child, this chapter book by Leon Leyson captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Most notable is the lack of rancor, the lack of venom, and the abundance of dignity in Mr. Leyson’s telling. The Boy on the Wooden Box is a legacy of hope, a memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
Review by Ms. YingLing Reads here.
Where We Once Gathered: Lost Synagogues of Europe by Andrea Strongwater
Review by Sandra Bornstein here.
Odin’s Promise by Sandy Brehl
Odin’s Promise is a historical novel for middle-grade readers, a story of the first year of German occupation of Norway as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Eleven-year-old Mari grew up tucked safely under the wings of her parents, grandma, and her older siblings. When Hitler’s troops invaded Norway in Spring 1940, she is forced to grow beyond her “little girl” nickname and comfortable patterns to deal with harsh new realities. At her side for support and protection is Odin, her faithful elkhound. After she witnesses a troubling event onthe mountainside, truths are revealed: the involvement of her family and friends in the resistance; the value of humor in surviving hard times; the hidden radio in her grandma’s cottage. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
I discovered this book from This Kid Reviews Books.
Hidden Like Anne Frank: Fourteen True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis
Approximately 28,000 Jews went into hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Of those, around 16,000 survived, and 12,000 did not. Fascinated by his own mother’s story of hiding and surviving, Prins collected stories of other children like her, and the result is Hidden Like Anne Frank, fourteen true stories of surviving the Holocaust by Jewish youths, both boys and girls, stories that are all different, all dangerous, all told in their own words. [non fiction, ages 12 and up]
Review from The Children’s War.
The End of the Line by Sharon E. McKay
Great review by The Children’s War.
“The End of the Line is an interesting supplement to Holocaust literature written for young readers by an author who is part of the Canadian War Artist Program and has already written books about child soldiers in Uganda, young girls caught in the war in Afghanistan and short stories dealing with the Holocaust with Kathy Kacer, another Canadian artist who also writes books for young readers about the Holocaust. This should be a welcome addition to any library.”
Children’s Books Heal reviewed Gifts From the Enemy by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Craig Orback.
Trudy Ludwig has treated Alter Wiener’s story about surviving the Holocaust with great compassion and dignity. Since it is a picture book, she doesn’t go into detail about the atrocities that occurred during WW II. Instead she focuses on the fact that not all Germans were filled with the hatred and risked their lives to help the Jews. Gifts from the Enemy is an excellent introduction to the Holocaust for young readers. It also is a timely classroom book for children to understand the dangers of hatred, prejudice and intolerance. It is critical that as a society we begin to encourage kindness, compassion, and goodwill among our children so they will have the tools to stand up to social injustice and make sure genocide is a thing of the past. Craig Orback’s illustrations are breathtaking and realistic. His oil paintings capture the fear and darkness of that time in history.
Rachel’s Hope by Shelly Sanders
Children’s Books Heal has a review:
Rachel’s Hope marks the culmination of the The Rachel Trilogy. You can read my reviews of Rachel’s Secret and Rachel’s Promise here. Shelly Sanders’ fictionalized trilogy is based on a true story about her courageous grandmother who faces persecution as a Russian Jew, escapes from Russia and journeys to America, where she becomes the first Jewish woman accepted into the University of California, Berkeley’s science program.
Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail
Review by Ms. YingLing Reads
Hanna, her parents, and her sister Erika are taken from their home in the Hungarian ghetto and sent to Auschwitz. Their father is separated from them early on, and their mother is unable to take the stress and doesn’t do well mentally, and so is taken “to the infirmary”. Hanna is a good piano player, and manages to secure a position playing music for the head of the camp and his son, Karl.
This was a very good Holocaust book, much like I am Rosemarie in that it follows one girl’s whole experience of the war.
The Magician of Auschwitz by Kathy Kacer
Review from The Children’s War:
Canadian author Kathy Kacer, who has written many books for young readers about the Holocaust, seems to instinctively know how to make a Holocaust book accessible and informative without frightening young readers. And she has done just that in The Magician of Auschwitz, a picture book for older readers.
One night, however, the guards come in and wake Herr Levin up, demanding magic. Giving him a deck of cards, Herr Levin performs all kinds of magic tricks for the guards entertainment. His magic also delights Werner, who thinks Herr Levin might be favored with an extra piece of bread, but his thinking is quickly straightened out by his bunk mate. “This is not a game and it is not a show…if I displease the guards, if I fail in my magic, if I run out of tricks, if they tire of me…my life will be over.” Werner quickly grasps the capriciousness of life in a concentration camp.
The Holocaust: The Origins, Events, and Remarkable Tales of Survival by Philip Steele
The chapters are broken down into a general background of issues facing the world at the time, the events of the war and the persecution of Jews, and the end of the war and the fallout from it. This last section is one that is not given enough coverage, so I was glad to see a great deal of information about Israel, its formation, role in the immediate post war era, and its challenges today.
Each two page spread concentrates on one facet of the general topic– Germany After World War I is an example. The pages will show a panoramic picture; over top of this is place an overview, and then several other topics, each with a paragraph explaining them, a picture, and a description of the picture in a yellow box. This breakdown makes it very easy to understand the general topic, and the pictures are well chosen and informative.
Not only is the book a pleasure to read individually, but the pages would be fantastic for showing to a class, especially since this is a larger format book (10.3 x 0.5 x 11.8 inches).
More Great Lists of Holocaust Books for Kids
Resources for Teaching the Holocaust to Children
The Holocaust Museum
Online teacher workshop offering good support information on teaching the Holocaust. An excellent guide Teaching the Holocaust is available as a free download.
Teaching the Holocaust
FREDDY NAFTEL, a teacher with a family history tragically tarnished by the Holocaust, discusses why it’s important to keep educating the younger generation about the horrors that happened under Hitler.
I have two separate ways of teaching the subject to students in Years 7 and 8 and to older students. While it is absolutely necessary to reveal the truth about what happened, I tend to avoid the more graphic descriptions and photographs when working with younger students. I usually start with the final scene from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the book and film of which is often studied in Years 7 to 9 and thus provides an excellent introduction to the topic. From here, I discuss how the victims ended up in the camps and what it would feel like to be a Jew (and especially a German Jew) in 1930s Germany.
For Year 9 and upwards, I show the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto scene from Schindler’s List and accompany this extract with a comprehension worksheet, which asks students to describe exactly what is happening and how they feel while watching this. What is the overall impression and message the film conveys?
What is of the utmost importance to me, however, is the personal story connected with the subject. I talk about my own family and how my mother and grandparents escaped from Nazi Germany in 1934 and how my great-grandmother survived the camps but would never talk about her experiences. I show family photos and particularly a picture of my great-aunt and uncle, who perished in Auschwitz, an event which affected my grandmother for the rest of her life.
We discuss the crisis of faith that followed the terrible events of the Holocaust. Could one still believe in God or did many people lose their faith completely?
Finally, has the Holocaust taught us anything and have lessons been learnt? In which case, why have acts of genocide been happening since this time and are continuing today in countries such as Egypt and Syria?
A Holocaust Survivor’s Compassionate Message To Germans
Alice Herz is the oldest living Holocaust survivor and the oldest living pianist. The piano saved her life.
She Was 40 When The Nazis Took Her. Now, She’s Outlived Them And Has Something Incredible To Say.
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