April 17-18 will mark Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). In 2018, after experiencing
increased antisemitism and feeling a need to do something about it, I met Eva Kor, who had survived Auschwitz as a child. Normally all children would have been sent immediately to their deaths in the gas chambers, but because she was a twin, she and her sister were taken in as guinea pigs for a Nazi doctor to experiment on.
Eva said Holocaust education in schools, if it happens at all, happens at 12 or older, and that’s too late because the prejudices are already formed. I agree with her, and this led us to work together to get her story down for children. Our book, I Will Protect You, fills a gap in Holocaust and antisemitism education for middle grade readers. Her list today is 10 Children’s Books for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah.
I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz by
Eva and her identical twin sister, Miriam, had a mostly happy childhood. Theirs was the only Jewish family in their small village in the Transylvanian mountains, but they didn’t think much of it until anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in their school. Then, in 1944, ten-year-old Eva and her family were deported to Auschwitz. At its gates, Eva and Miriam were separated from their parents and other siblings, and selected as subjects for Dr. Mengele’s infamous medical experiments.
During the course of the war, Mengele experimented on 3,000 twins. Only 160 would survive–including Eva and Miriam. [middle grade nonfiction history, ages 8 and up]
Each year Eva would travel back to Auschwitz to educate people on what happened there. It was while she was at Auschwitz, 15 days after we secured a publisher for the finished manuscript, that she abruptly passed away, leaving me alone to continue her legacy with this book. She wanted every child to be able to read it.
No one book can cover something as massive as the Holocaust. And I’ve noticed that when adults give kids books on the Holocaust, they often give them fictional novels. (The main exception is Anne Frank.) The novels have their place, and they vary in how good or bad they are in terms of storytelling, accuracy, etc. But nothing is the same as learning what really happened from an actual person who was there. Here is a list of nonfiction Holocaust books for young readers.
We are giving away a signed copy of I Will Protect You. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
10 Children’s Books for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah
We Remember the Holocaust by David A. Adler
We Remember the Holocaust is a great, thorough source for young readers, full of interviews that author Adler conducted with survivors. The book starts before World War II, showing what led up to it, and goes through the whole Holocaust, with photos demonstrating what happened. I originally read this title in elementary school, and its detail and its lack of sugarcoating were major influences on me. Adler has written other Holocaust books for young readers, including Child of the Warsaw Ghetto and The Hero and the Holocaust: The Story of Janusz Korczak and His Children, which are also worth reading. [middle grade nonfiction history, ages 9 and up]
We Are Witnesses by Jacob Boas
Jacob Boas, who survived the Holocaust as a baby, put together a book about five teenagers who did not make it through. Readers get to know Anne Frank, David Rubinowicz, Yitzhak Rudashevski, Moshe Flinker, and Éva Heyman in individual chapters. Boas explains the world around them, and what they were personally going through, and includes many excerpts from their diaries. All of their diaries have also been published as their own books (sometimes with their names spelled slightly differently) and are powerful insights into the world these teens lived and died in. [middle grade nonfiction biography, ages 11 and up]
Hannah Senesh Her Life and Diary by Hannah Senesh
Hannah Senesh (also spelled Szenes) began her diary as a teenager. While born in Hungary, she had safely escaped to the Middle East by the time the Holocaust began, but she returned to Europe to join the partisans against the Nazi regime. Eventually captured, she was tortured but refused to give information. She was executed for her resistance work in 1944, at the age of 23, and this book, which consists of her diary and youthful writing, shows the power of her courage to take a stand no matter the danger. [YA nonfiction biography, ages 14 and up]
Rutka’s Notebook by Rutka Laskier
In 1943, 14-year-old Rutka, a Jewish girl in Poland, kept a diary. In it, she wrote about her love of books, her friends, and her interests in boys, but also about watching the horrors of war coming closer to her, the knowledge she would be sent to a ghetto, and the understanding that Jews in Auschwitz were being gassed. Before being sent to Auschwitz for her own death, she hid her diary and it was published decades later. Along with Rutka’s relatable writings are many helpful pictures and notes to give a deeper understanding of the Holocaust. [YA nonfiction biography, ages 12 and up]
Hidden Child by Isaac Millman
Isaac Millman was a young boy living in France when Nazi Germany invaded the country. After his father was arrested and then went missing, Isaac’s mother managed to get him to safety at the last minute. The short book, which includes photographs and beautiful illustrations, tells how Isaac went from one family to another while hiding through the war. No one else in his immediate family survived. [middle grade nonfiction biography, ages 10 and up]
The Hidden Children by Howard Greenfeld
The Hidden Children is like a cross between Hidden Child and We Remember the Holocaust. It consists of a number of interviews with survivors, and while it explains the history of antisemitism in the beginning, most of the book concentrates on children who were able to hide successfully during the Holocaust. It also talks about the people who risked their lives to protect them. [[middle grade nonfiction biography, ages 10 and up]
The Diary of Petr Ginz 1941–1942 by Petr Ginz
Petr Ginz was a precocious and artistic child who liked to write and create art. He was from a “mixed marriage” — his father was Jewish and his mother was not. Before he was gassed at Auschwitz at age sixteen, he kept a diary, worked on novels, and was even behind a secret newspaper at the Theresienstadt Ghetto, a place where Jews were sometimes kept before being deported to extermination camps. His diary, like those of so many other victims, gives insight into his world and what has been lost. [young adult nonfiction biography, ages 12 and up]
The Promise by Eva Schloss and Barbara Powers
The Promise brings to life one family affected by the Holocaust and is written by survivor Eva Schloss. Schloss, who was neighbors with Anne Frank, went into hiding during the war, but after a betrayal, she, her parents, and her brother Heinz were sent to Auschwitz. They would not all survive, but this book is a homage to the loved ones she lost. [middle grade nonfiction biography, ages 9 and up]
Lonek’s Journey by Dorit Bader Whiteman
Lonek was a young Jewish boy in Poland when the Nazis invaded, and when his family fled to the east, they ended up in a Russian gulag. Amazingly they were able to get out, but their problems were far from over. Lonek moved from one place to another during the war and ended up separated from his parents and brother for a decade. The entire immediate family survived the Holocaust, something almost unheard of. [middle grade nonfiction biography, ages 10 and up]
I Will Protect You Signed Copy GIVEAWAY!
We are giving away a signed copy of I Will Protect You. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. We can only mail to U.S. and A.F.O. addresses.
Danica Davidson is the author of 18 books for young readers, ranging from adventure novels to
serious nonfiction. I WILL PROTECT YOU, which she worked on with Eva Kor, has been released to
critical acclaim and included in the National Council for Social Studies and Children’s Book Council’s Notable Social Studies Selected Titles list, put together by social studies educators on books they recommend in classrooms. Part of the criteria is that the books “present an original theme or a fresh slant on a traditional topic, are easily readable and of high literary quality.” Her other books include twelve Minecrafter adventure novels (starting with Escape from the Overworld), three books on how to draw manga (Manga Art for Beginners, Manga Art for Everyone, and Chalk Art Manga), and comics. In 2018 she was a speaker for #BookTalk in Brussels, Belgium, where she spoke before members of the European Union on how her books can empower kids. Please visit her website at www.danicadavidson.com and follow her on Twitter @DanicaDavidson and LinkedIn.
p.s. Related posts:
My Jewish Children’s Book Lists
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.