It’s been 78 years since the end of the Holocaust. But the Jewish community around the world experiences its ripples to date. It is true, unfortunately, the world still doesn’t feel entirely safe for the community. Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to commemorate those who lost their lives and those who survived the Holocaust through shining a light on select books about the Holocaust experience.
Trigger Warning: The mention of certain content and topics in this article may be triggering to some readers.
Regardless of one’s culture, stories about the atrocities partaken by the Nazi regime against the Jewish community during the Holocaust can provide perspective on the human condition. Today, there are Holocaust survivors whose earliest memories are of concentration camps and mass genocide. Their lives were irrevocably changed by the actions of monstrous men and their fanatical ideals. Though seven decades have passed since the liberation of the Jewish community during World War II, their stories are still fiercely told by not only themselves but also their descendants.
Literature, whether fiction or non-fiction, has been a way to reflect on the sociological issues of the contemporary era in which it was written. What better way to pay tribute to and remember those lost than by recording the truth so that it may live on in perpetuity? Below is a list of novels that bring tribute to those who went through this horrific era. These stories are records, personal reflections on an event so atrocious one can only hope that the collective consciousness of humanity will never allow it to happen again.
The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir
In this uplifting memoir in the vein of The Last Lecture and Man’s Search for Meaning, a Holocaust survivor pays tribute to those who were lost by telling his story, sharing his wisdom, and living his best possible life.HarperOne
Jaku begins his memoir from the hopeful naivete of childhood innocence and leaves no stone unturned as he recounts the sevens years he spent thinking he would die at the hands of the Nazi regime as he was moved from one camp to another. His outlook on life as a result is the dogged perseverance of one who chooses happiness despite the horrors he has endured.
Lily’s Promise: Holding On to Hope Through Auschwitz and Beyond—A Story for All Generations by Lily Ebert and Dov Forman
Genre: Non-Fiction / Biography
In this life-affirming intergenerational memoir, Lily Ebert, a Holocaust survivor, and her great-grandson, Dov Forman, come together to share her story—an unforgettable tale of resilience and resistance.HarperOne
Hoping to stop the same from happening to anyone else, ever again, Lily fulfills the promise she made to herself after her liberation from Auschwitz by American soldiers to share her experience with the world.
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Bloom
An estranged mother and daughter reunite to confront their family’s role in World War II in this harrowing, unforgettable novel about lost love and inherited shame.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Trigger Warning: this book placed emphasis on the graphically described situations one mother endured to ensure not only her survival but that of her daughter. This is a story of truths unveiled which have been hidden for decades; a silence that split the bond between mother and daughter.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Genre: Fiction based on true events
This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.Harper Large Print
While set in fiction, this story tells the true tale of forced tattooist Ludwig, his experiences, and his perseverance to risk his life for his fellow prisoners and his future bride.
Anatomy of a Genocide: The Holocaust Under the Microscope of History by Omer Bartov
In Anatomy of a Genocide, Omer Bartov explains that ethnic cleansing doesn’t occur as is so often portrayed in popular history, with the quick ascent of a vitriolic political leader and the unleashing of military might. It begins in seeming peace, slowly and often unnoticed, the culmination of pent-up slights and grudges and indignities. The perpetrators aren’t just sociopathic soldiers. They are neighbors and friends and family. They are also middle-aged men who come from elsewhere, often with their wives and children and parents, and settle into a life of bourgeois comfort peppered with bouts of mass murder.
Bartov brings to light the centuries of discrimination and bigotry that lead to the Holocaust, through one small town, enlightening readers to the faded historical events that helped Hitler and the Nazis gain control and convince friends and neighbors to both participate and look the other way as they slaughtered innocents for their heritage.
This Holocaust Remembrance Day, and every other day of the year, we urge you to be kind and hold space for your friends and family that may be Jewish. To feel safe at all times is a basic human right; let’s work to make this world physically and mentally safe for everyone.
If you or someone you know is Jewish and is battling with depression, mental health in general, or feeling low/experiencing anxiety, here are some Jewish Mental Health Organizations to consider connecting with for support:
- Gelt Charitable Foundation, a not-for-profit organization raising awareness and providing support for those who feel alone.
- Amudim, a New York-based organization serving as a confidential resource center provides assistance, support, and direct referrals for individuals and families impacted by crisis-related matters.
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255
Teen Lifeline 800-248-8336
For more books about Holocaust Remembrance Day, click here.