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39 Haunting Holocaust Books for Kids

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.

Honorable Mentions

What The Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Ms. Yingling Reads has a review:

Gerta lives with her father, a viola player, and her step mother, who is a famous singer. For reasons she doesn’t fully understand, she no longer goes to school, but is tutored at home. Eventually, her father stops going to work, and he and Gerta are sent to a concentration camp. The father manages to keep his viola, but it ends up in Gerta’s care, which helps her to survive, since she plays in various prison orchestras. Her real love is singing, but the horrors of life in the camps makes it difficult for her to sing. Once the camps are liberated, she meets Lev, a young man who wants to get back to newspaper work, and Micah, who wants to go to Israel to start over. As Gerta starts the slow process of recovering physically and mentally from her travails, she must decide the direction her life will take. While she has a crush on Micah, she eventually realizes that he is not good for her, and marries Lev. The two head to Israel and build a life for themselves.

The illustrations are very lovely, the writing poetic, and the horrors of the Holocaust fully explained without being too much for a middle school reader to process. A good addition to middle and high school collections. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

To Look a Nazi in the Eye: A Teen’s Account of a War Criminal Trial by Kathy Kacer with Jordana Lebowitz
Great review by Children’s Books Heal:

Kathy Kacer sensitively weaves a format for this compelling and dramatic nonfiction narrative that reads like a story. The chapters alternate between Oskar Groening’s life story and testimony, Jordana’s experiences of the trial, and her relationships with the courageous survivors she has come to love and respect. Kacer shares the survivor’s gut-wrenching stories with compassion, dignity and grace. Her pacing will keep readers glued to the story.

There are interesting dynamics at play throughout the story. Seeing the trial through Jordana’s eyes  (two generations removed) offers readers an open-minded and contemporary perspective. Jordana is loyal to the survivors she has journeyed with to Germany. Their painful stories are etched in her heart and mind. But she has trouble seeing Groening as a monster. She wants to hate him, but she sees a frail and sad man who admits he’s morally guilty for his role in the process. Yet she is disturbed by the details of his actions. [nonfiction young adult, ages 14 and up]

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

Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:

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).

Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Review from Ms. YingLing Reads:

Lida and her sister Larissa are taken from their home in the Ukraine and sent to a camp. Their parents are dead, and the girls are soon separated. Lida ends up in a camp where she is lucky enough to work in the laundry, where she is at least warm and gets to wear a clean smock during the day. The conditions are horrible, the food scanty, but the other girls in her barracks help each other. Eventually, Lida is sent to town to make bombs, but after the plant is bombed she is placed elsewhere. Eventually, the Allies come to fee the prisoners, and she is reunited with a friend, Luka. The two of them move from relocation camp to relocation camp, trying to find Lida’s sister. At one point, Luka decides to go home, but it is a Soviet trick, and he returns to Lida. Eventually, the two are found by Lida’s sister and go to Canada. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]

Seeking Refuge: a graphic novel by Irene N. Watts, illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker

Review by Randomly Reading

Seeking Refuge is the graphic form of the second book in the trilogy, which is called Remember Me, and picks up where Good-bye, Marianne leaves off.  Marianne has just arrived in London, where she is sent to live with the very wealthy and very snobbish Mr. and Mrs. Abercrombie Jones. Once the war begins, however, Marianne is evacuated out of London with the rest of her school and away from the Mrs. Abercrombie Jones.

From London, Marianne finds herself in Wales, but has a hard time finding a family that wants her. Finally, she finds herself in the home of a couple who have recently lost their daughter and expect Marianne to take her place – almost literally. When that doesn’t work out, she is taken to another place, where she is met with a wonderful surprise. [graphic novel, ages 8 and up]

The Holocaust: Racism and Genocide in World War II (an Inquire & Investigate Book) by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Tom Casteel

Review by The Children’s War:

The Holocaust: Racism and Genocide in World War II is not a book where the student passively receives information. This is an interactive book that helps readers understand the Holocaust using the Inquire and Investigate section found at the end of each chapter. Students are taught the use and value of primary sources, and there are activities for them that pertains to the particular chapters being studied. [nonfiction chapter book, for ages 12 and up]

More Great Lists of Holocaust Books for Kids

Blackhen Education’s Top 5 Children’s books about the Holocaust

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

 Emery Jacoby is a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who recently participated in a question-and-answer session on Reddit. After receiving a huge and deeply supportive response from Germany’s youth, Jacoby made  this brilliant video for his young friends.

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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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Alexandra

    This is one of the best lists on this subject that I have seen! Luckily my kids are still too young (I say luckily cause Holocaust is not easy for me, either. Here, in Poland, almost everyone has a heart-breaking story of it and take it extremely personally. I am no different) and I still have some time to grasp it and then listen to questions “But…why? How?” that I don’t have answers for…
    Anyway, thanks for this, you have done an amazing job, as usual!
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  2. What a fantastic list – I’m going to make a note of it. Thank you researching the area so thoroughly and providing options for every age group – that must have been gruelling work.

    Have you come across My Secret War Diary by Flossie Albright? It’s actually about the second world war, but I thought you might be interested in it. It’s densely written, very thick book, but has a scrap book feel with so many tiny flaps, pullouts and pictures that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. My daughter (now eleven) was given this by her grandmother last year and it’s a book that she often pulls out to read in bed. Not only is it an amazing insight into what living through the second world war was like from a child’s perspective, but it’s also a general source of inspiration for diary-writing.

  3. This is a carefully researched list. Thanks for putting it together. In high school, my daughter took a class in holocaust studies and I would have to check whether she read all of them. I do remember that she was profoundly affected by that course as there were so many life lessons to be learned.

  4. Thank you for this list – all are new to me except “The Book Thief” and of course “The Diary of a Young Girl.” I’m pinning this so I remember when my girls are older.
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  5. Maria Gianferrari

    I love The Book Thief–it’s amazing and powerful.

    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.

  6. Have you read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom? I highly recommend it.
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  7. Great list! The Book Thief is one of my all-time favorite novels.

    If you haven\\\’t listened to the audio version, it\’s really amazing.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.
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  8. I am with you, I avoid this subject when choose books, but it is necessary to read something about it. Thanks for putting together a wonderful list.
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  9. Quite a collection there. I agree Holocaust issue is not a very common discussion but its good for kids to know about it.

  10. Wonderful post Mia. I have read Anna Olswanger’s GreenHorn and sobbed for the last half of it. It was so moving to read that simple story about a young child and his struggle during that time. It is a very important topic I agree. Many years ago I read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. It opened my eyes to this horrific period in time but also demonstrated to me that amongst vast evil and oppression, there are brave everyday heroes who will defend the weak and infirm regardless of the risk to their lives. For this reason I want my daughter to one day understand about this period in history, so thank you for this fantastic list.
    Great to have you back on the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Cheers Julie Grasso
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    • Hi Julie,
      I haven’t read Greenhorn yet but the two blog reviews stopped me in my tracks and I could not stop thinking about that poor little boy with his Altoid tin can full of soapy fat that represents the only physical memory of his mother. So sad and yet such a powerful and true image of what happened.

      MaryAnne of Mama Smiles told me about The Hiding Place too! Great minds think alike. I will add all these great suggestions to the list! Thank you!
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  11. Ann

    Bookmarking this list. I am both drawn to and repelled by stories of the Holocaust. I have only read The Diary of Anne. I want to read some others here like The Hidden Room and Number the Stars. I just recently saw a repeat of a 60 minute segment about a man who escaped from a work camp in North Korea. There is a book about him called Escape From Camp 14. It is horrifying what is still happening in the world.
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  12. Renee C.

    Oh, Greenhorn is so haunting, so beautiful. I really enjoyed it as well. The Book Thief is in my top 5 books of the last 10 years. I just LOVED that book. I get chills everytime I think of the story The Word Shaker from the book. It’s rare to have a book elicit such a strong emotional reaction, but The Book Thief did that to me.

    Such a difficult topic, but definitely not one to be avoided or swept under the rug. I’ve pinned your list – great resource!

    Thanks for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
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  13. “Great post on a very tricky subject for children. I’d add in E.H. Gombrich’s “A Little History of the World” for an intelligent explanation.”

    From Alex in my LinkedIn network.
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  14. Thanks for this compilation! As an intermediate reader about age 10+, I was fascinated by many of the books you’ve mentioned – I’ll have to read through them again. Still haven’t gotten to The Book Thief yet, and that’s been recommended to me many times!
    Maus is good; we even used it in a college course on Holocaust literature.
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    • Hi Brittany,
      Please let me know which of the books on this list that you liked the most. There are so many good ones on the Holocaust; I think the bar has to be much higher to get these kinds of books published. I also like how there are so many stories from so many different perspectives on the Holocaust. It makes you realize how this horrific event affected everyone and in so many different ways.
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  15. I loved The Book Thief. Haven’t read any of the others. I recommend Morris Gleitzman’s series Once, Then, and Now for younger readers. I also really enjoyed Code Name Verity… if you’re looking for the kind of book that will break your heart.

  16. Culturebaby

    Fabulous list for us for the future. Thank you. Not about the holocaust but about the Ww2, two other great books are Empire of the Sun (Japan) and Shirley Hughes’ first chapter book Hero on a Bicycle (Italy)…

  17. Christy

    I’m going to look into a few more of these books. I’ve read books to my kids about WWII, but we mainly focused on books where people were hiding other people from the Holocaust. I haven’t dared broach what happened in the actual camps.

    One book I would recommend for older readers is called Tales of a Child of the Enemy. It is a collection of poetry by a German woman, who found out about the Holocaust as an older teen. It includes poems about her childhood in Germany, finding out about the Holocaust and people’s reactions to her knowing, as well as poems about Jewish people’s experiences of the Holocaust.

    Thanks for linking up to the Homeschool Link Up!
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  18. Bonnie

    I know this is an older thread but I am trying to find a book for my daughter (8th grade) to read as an alternative to the book “Night”. I want her to learn about the holocaust, but that book is far too graphic for her. She suffers from extreme anxiety and has PTSD since her brother/my son died by suicide. She can’t read anything with much detail of the atrocities of the holocaust. Her teacher gave me a copy of “Night” to preview and there were several instances where children were hanged and how they looked was detailed. Her brother hung himself and the last thing she needs is those kind of images in her mind. The descriptions of other things would also have been too much for her to handle. Can you recommend a few of the books that would get the concept across but have very little (or nothing) in the way of graphic descriptions and details? Since the rest of the class will be reading “Night” I want to find a book that I can tell the teacher she can read instead. I’m hoping you can help me with this. Thank you!

    • Hi Bonnie,
      I would recommend Number the Stars by Lois Lowry as far as gentle holocaust book. Is this the right level for her though? It’s a middle grade chapter book (ages 9-12)– Danish rescue of Jewish family. She could continue with The Endless Steppe which is also middle grade (Jewish family forced to Siberia but they all survive and even make a new life for themselves during that time). The Upstairs Room is good too but a few innocent citizens get shot and killed by Nazi soldiers in retaliation so that’s a little graphic (two sisters hidden during WWII but no one gets caught). Also there’s a scene where the soldiers search their house and they are hiding in a hidden room but it’s a tense moment.

      I haven’t read all the books on this list — I was also collecting books as I found reviews. The Book Thief is also a good YA one. I read it a few years ago and I don’t remember it being that graphic though it is narrarated by Death but he’s not without a gentle side.

      Pair Number the Stars with this picture book: The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy as it will show that the heroic nature in some during this terrible time.

      The Cats of Krasinki Square by Karen Hesse is also good. Hope this helps!!!
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  19. Thank you for dealing with such a difficult subject for parents to discuss with their children. This is a helpful, amazing list.

  20. Here’s another one you might want to add to your list.

    Whoops. I tried putting a comment that included a link to my book review of the Magician of Auschwitz by Kathy Kacer but the comment box won’t accept the URLs. The book presents a unique viewpoint.
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  21. I am happy to introduce my new novel, Esfir Is Alive. It is a compelling story inspired by a real-life heroine, a 12-year-old survivor of a horrendous massacre of 50,000 Jews in 1942. In moving and vivid detail, the book imagines the protagonist’s life in Poland during the interwar years and afterwards.It has just been selected as a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist.

    For your young adult/adult educational outreach programs and book club, my book features very interesting content, including a unique animated book trailer and a provocative Reading Guide.

    The Jewish Book Council has featured my writing on their blog.

    I would be happy to supply you with more information.

    Thank you.
    Andrea Simon

  22. Julie H

    From a perspective of what was happening in the US at the time, there are 2 books by Patricia Reilly Giff called “Lily’s crossing”, and “Willow Run” about 2 (eleven?) year old girls who are best friends. In “Lily’s Crossing”, her father goes to the war and a refugee child comes to stay next door, her best friend’s brother becomes missing in action. There is light mention, but nothing in detail about what happened in Europe. “Willow Run” occurs the same summer from her best friend’s perspective, who has to move to Willow Run, Michigan with her family so her father can help build b-24 airplane bombers at the Henry Ford plant. Her brother is the one who becomes missing in action on the beaches of Normandy. Some light mention of a war in Europe, fears, Hitler, lack of foods, etc. but mostly safety in the US. My 10 yr old niece recently asked what the Holocaust was when she heard it mentioned. She loves to read, but since she is a worrier by nature I plan to give her 3 books for her birthday with an order to read them in, “Lily’s Crossing” first as it comes first in Patricia Reilly Giff’s books – she will relate to it bc it’s her name, it’s about her age, its in the US. It shows safety in the US with a light introduction to wartime. 2nd – “Willow Run” – it takes place in Michigan where she’s from. Also about her age, also showing relative safety in US. 3rd – “Number The Stars” – I remember reading it around her age and being very affected by it. It goes a step further to show life in Europe at that time, with Jewish people escaping. Everyone makes it to safety, aside from a few members of the resistance, which brings sadness, but not any detailed “in the moment” descriptions. The main character and best friend (who is Jewish) are my niece’s age 10, with a 5 yr old little sister like my other niece (her sister) – who acts surprisingly spunky like her, and they are Lutheran. I was curious to refresh my memory of any books I had read in the past that would be the next step of showing Jewish people in hiding and the camps, but I’m not sure from this list. I think she will still be curious to know more, but she may be too young. I just read one called “Torn Thread” by Anne Isaacs which is a true story and very good, but very in depth. “Night” was very good, but I read it too long ago to remember details. And of course, “La Vita e Bella” is a wonderful film that makes me sob every time, but as an introduction could skew what really happened. “Aux Revoir Les Enfants” is another good film. I also saw “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”, which was good, and I wonder how the book is. From a young age I was fascinated/horrified by the Holocaust, and have read a lot about it, as well as visited some of the locations as an adult. I remember there being a book at the library about Anne Frank with a lot of real photos of her, less of a novel, more for a preteen age, perhaps it was “Anne Frank:Beyond the Diary”. I also recall as a child seeing the film “Empire of the Sun”, which greatly affected me, but then also gave me nightmares of tanks driving down my street. My aim is to introduce the time to my niece in a way that she first sees it was safe in the US and where she lives and then if she has more interest, gradually introduce her to something more in depth about the Holocaust.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you so much for those book recommendations. It’s a topic that my kids learned about in 5th grade through picture books in class. I find it hard to read some of these stories because they haunt me but I am always glad that I did.
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  23. Mary

    I am looking for a book that I believe is a children’s book:I am not sure when the book was published but I read it within the last year or so. It was about a Jewish woman who was telling someone about her experiences as a young girl during the Holocaust. She was wealthy and was going to school, maybe in the country. The Germans attacked the school. She refused to run to the woods with the other children because she was proud of her new shoes and did not want to ruin them. Instead she hid in a bell tower. She heard other students being shot. Then she hear steps coming up the wooden stairs. It was a handicapped boy student that other students had made fun of. He helped her get to his farm where she hid in the barn. She was there for a very long time. The boy’s family fed her, but they could not give her much. The boy who helped her hide was killed because of his handicap. Later in life she married, and gave birth to a son who she named after her rescuer. That is all I remember.

    • It’s the story from R. J. Palacio’s add on books to Wonder. It’s the Julius story. You can get the story as a short story via an ebook or the compilation of the four stories: THE WONDER COLLECTION.

      That was my favorite story of hers also. Haunting and beautiful and hopeful and inspiring. I love her books!
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