Teaching the Holocaust and Genocide

Book recommendations

Compiled by the Holocaust Education Advisory Committee

Last Updated July 2018

Holocaust: Young Reader

Hana’s Suitcase, by Karen Levine  (Grades 3-5)

This award-winning true Holocaust story, newly updated, connects generations through one woman’s quest to find the truth behind a mysterious suitcase.

In March 2000, Fumiko Ishioka, the curator of a small Holocaust education center in Tokyo, received an empty suitcase from the museum at Auschwitz. On the outside, in white paint, were the words “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Orphan.”

Fumiko and the children at the center were determined to find out who Hana was and what happened to her all those years ago, leading them to a startling and emotional discovery.

The dual narrative intertwines Fumiko’s international journey to find the truth about Hana Brady’s fate with Hana’s own compelling story of her life in a quiet Czech town, which is shattered by the arrival of the Nazis, tearing apart the family she loves. This suspense-filled work of investigative nonfiction draws in young readers and makes them active participants in the search for Hana’s identity. Source 1, Source 2

The Story of the Holocaust, by Clive Lawton (Grades 3-8)

This book traces the terrible story of the Nazi Holocaust, from the political and social background in which it developed to the mass deportations, the concentration camps, and the attempt to carry out the Final Solution.

Readers learn that, although the Jews lived throughout Europe since Roman times, they were never fully accepted by Christians around them. In the Middle Ages the Church developed a false teaching that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ. Anti-Semitism became deeply ingrained, even after the Church formed more moderate views during the 19th century. The author shows how the political and economic climate in Europe in the early 20th century eventually led to Hitler's rise to power, as well as defining events such as Kristallnacht, and the Warsaw Uprising. In a chapter titled "Could it Happen Again?" other 20th-century genocides (Cambodia 1979, Rwanda 1994, and Bosnia 1992) are discussed.

The book's main message is displayed on the front cover: "Those who do not learn the lessons of history will be forced to relive them". Source

Remember Not To Forget, by Norman Finkelstein

Designed as an introduction to the Holocaust, this book presents the origins and history of anti-Semitism, beginning with the year 70 A.D., when the Jews were forced out of Jerusalem, to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Finkelstein uses specific incidents from history to illustrate how anti-Semitism stripped Jews of their rights and dignity. The details of the Holocaust are presented in a factual way, designed to convey the somber nature of the Holocaust without being too frightening for younger children. Dramatic woodcuts accompany Finkelstein’s text. Source 1, Source 2

Elly: My True Story Of The Holocaust, by Elly Gross  (Grades 3-8)

Told in short, gripping chapters, this is an unforgettable true story of survival. The author was featured in Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

At just 15, her mother, and brother were taken from their Romanian town to the Auschwitz-II/Birkenau concentration camp. When they arrived at Auschwitz, a soldier waved Elly to the right; her mother and brother to the left. She never saw her family alive again.

Thanks to a series of miracles, Elly survived the Holocaust. Today she is dedicated to keeping alive the stories of those who did not. Elly appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes for her involvement in bringing an important lawsuit against Volkswagen, whose German factory used her and other Jews as slave laborers. Source

Anne Frank: Life in Hiding, by Johanna Hurwitz (3-8)

Anne Frank loved to play tennis and swim. She enjoyed being with her friends in school and couldn’t resist chattering during class. But, tragically, Anne was growing up in Holland during the Second World War, when all European Jews lived in grave danger. When Dutch Jews were forced to leave their homes, Anne and her family found a hiding place.

Anne kept a diary in which she described the two years of their secret life. After the war ended, the diary was found and published. Her innocent account of the horrors of war was widely read, and it touched readers all over the world.

This biography tells about Anne’s family and their lives before the Second World War, the Nazi persecution of Jews, and Anne’s years in hiding. Johanna Hurwitz’s readable, direct style enables young readers to share Anne’s childhood dreams and to feel the tension of the years that followed. The realistic black-and-white drawings by Vera Rosenberry bring Anne Frank even closer to readers’ hearts. Source

Tutti’s Promise, by Heidi Fishman (Grades 4-12)

Rather than introduce the Holocaust through the enormity of six million murdered Jews, the book approaches it at a personal level — what happened to a single family. We see a German Jewish family leave Germany in 1936 and go to a neutral country where they thought they would be safe. Once the Nazis invade, the family has to deal with tighter and tighter restrictions until they are sent to a transit camp and then deported to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. The reader will understand, from a child’s viewpoint, what it was like to live in the camps.

We also see resistance and sabotage, learn about the meticulous record keeping of the Nazis, and meet many up-standers.

The website has a plethora of resources including videos and lesson plans. https://popjeandme.com/

Holocaust: High School and Adult

Harvest of Hate, by Leon Poliakov

One of the best written narratives on the Holocaust. This book, together with Hausner's book, Justice in Jerusalem, will give the novice student an excellent introduction to the study of the Holocaust. After reading these two books. The student will be able to make good choices from the rest of this bibliography, depending on the students area of interest. In print: U.S. Holocaust Museum. Source

To The Bitter End, by Hans Bernd Gisevius, 1948.

The student of the Holocaust cannot have a complete understanding of the events that led up to it without a thorough knowledge of the opposition to Hitler from 1933 to the July 20, 1944 assassination. Gisevius was a civil service bureaucrat in the pre-Hitler Weimar government, who was kept on after 1933. He never became a Nazi party member, but managed to keep a job because he had influential friends, who like himself were in the underground opposition. Toward the end, with the help of Allen Dulles, American OSS chief in Switzerland he was able to escape across the border, with the Gestapo on his tail. The Wehrmacht Generals all were opposed Hitler's tactics and could have gotten rid of him in 1937. A number of assassination attempts were planned, but were foiled by ineptness. Source

The Devil and the Jews, by Joshua Trachtenberg

The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism. A folklore-demonolgy must! First printed in 1943 and still going! Son.Cty. Lib. First Edition. In print U.S. Holocaust Museum. Source

Warrant for Genocide, by Norman Cohn

A definitive work on the origins of the Czarist forgery, The protocols of the elders of Zion , which to this day is being printed in foreign countries and used to demonize and criminalize the Jews. SSU Source

The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution, by Richard Breitman, 1991.

In most narratives on the Holocaust, Himmler is cast as a shadowy figure. The concentration is usually on Hitler, Heydrich and Eichmann. The author shines a brilliant light on Himmler, the evil, racist believer in the myth of the "World Jewish Conspiracy" - the Jews were supposed to have subverted the Russians through Bolshevism and were a mortal threat to Germany. They were supposed to be brutally wiped off the face of the earth. In print. Sonoma County Library.

Genocide: High School

The Rwandan Genocide, by Zoe Lawry

“In Rwanda, a small but populous country in Africa, a ghastly genocide started on April 6, 1994. Although it lasted only one hundred days, almost a million people were slaughtered by its end. This illuminating resource reviews one of the most horrible genocides in history, explaining the definition of genocide itself. Readers will learn about Rwanda's history, with a focus on the events that led to those terrible days. The book is rounded out with a brief look at post-genocide Rwanda, as the country copes and the people take back their lives after such a terrible tragedy" —Amazon.com. Source

Never Fall Down, by Patricia McCormick

When soldiers arrive in his hometown in Cambodia, Arn Chorn Pond is separated from his family and sent to a labor camp, where he works in the rice paddies until he volunteers to learn to play an instrument--a decision that both saves his life and lands him in battle. Source

Wine to Water, by Doc Hendley

Doc Hendley never set out to be a hero. In 2004, Hendley-a small- town bartender- launched a series of wine-tasting events to raise funds for clean-water projects and to bring awareness to the world's freshwater crisis. He planned to donate the proceeds through traditional channels, but instead found himself traveling to one of the world's most dangerous hot spots: Darfur, Sudan. There, Doc witnessed a government-sponsored genocide where the number-one weapon wasn't bullets-it was water. The Janjaweed terrorists had figured out that shooting up a bladder containing 10,000 liters of water, or dumping rotting corpses into a primary water source is remarkably efficient for the purposes of mass extermination. With limited funds, Doc realized that he couldn't build new wells costing $10,000 a pop, but he could hire local workers to restore a damaged well for a mere $50 each. He'd found his mission. Today, Doc and Wine to Water continue to help stricken peoples repair and maintain water- containment systems in places like Darfur, Cambodia, Uganda, and Haiti. Doc is a regular, rough-and-tumble guy who loves booze, music, and his Harley- but he also wanted to help. Wine to Water is a gripping story about braving tribal warfare and natural disasters and encountering fascinating characters in far-flung regions of the world. It is also an authoritative account of a global crisis and an inspirational tale that proves how ordinary people can improve the world. Source

Other Book Lists

Native American Children’s Literature Recommended Reading List

Teaching Tolerance Book List, Grades 5-12