Books to Read on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Staff Picks

Books to Read on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Observed on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005, Jan. 27 is recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day which both honors the victims of the Holocaust and supports the development of educational programs to remember the Holocaust and prevent future genocide. The date is significant because it was the date that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. The DC Public Library has selected a few reads for children and teens that can help families learn more about this important topic.

Children

Nicky and Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued, Peter Sis
Caldecott Honoree and Sibert Medalist Peter Sís honors a man who saved hundreds of children from the Nazis. In 1938, twenty-nine-year-old Nicholas Winton saved the lives of almost 700 children trapped in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia-a story he never told and that remained unknown until an unforgettable TV appearance in the 1980s reunited him with some of the children he saved. Czech-American artist, MacArthur Fellow, and Andersen Award winner Peter Sís dramatizes Winton's story in this distinctive and deeply personal picture book. He intertwines Nicky's efforts with the story of one of the children he saved-a young girl named Vera, whose family enlisted Nicky's aid when the Germans occupied their country. As the war passes and Vera grows up, she must find balance in her dual identities-one her birthright, the other her choice. Nicky & Vera is a masterful tribute to a humble man's courageous efforts to protect Europe's most vulnerable, and a timely portrayal of the hopes and fears of those forced to leave their homes and create new lives.

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust, Loic Dauvillier
In this gentle, poetic young graphic novel, Dounia, a grandmother, tells her granddaughter the story even her son has never heard: how, as a young Jewish girl in Paris, she was hidden away from the Nazis by a series of neighbors and friends who risked their lives to keep her alive when her parents had been taken to concentration camps. Hidden ends on a tender note, with Dounia and her mother rediscovering each other as World War II ends...and a young girl in present-day France becoming closer to her grandmother, who can finally, after all those years, tell her story. With words by Loïc Dauvillier and art by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo, this picture book-style comic for young readers is a touching read.

Refugee, Alan Gratz
A tour de force from acclaimed author Alan Gratz (Prisoner B-3087), this timely -- and timeless -- novel tells the powerful story of three different children seeking refuge. A New York Times bestseller! JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America...MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end. This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.

Hero on a Bicycle, Shirley Hughes
In her first novel, beloved author Shirley Hughes presents a World War II adventure proving that in extraordinary circumstances, people are capable of extraordinary things. Italy, 1944: Florence is occupied by Nazi forces. The Italian resistance movement has not given up hope, though -- and neither have thirteen-year- old Paolo and his sister, Costanza. As their mother is pressured into harboring escaping POWs, Paolo and Costanza each find a part to play in opposing the German forces. Both are desperate to fight the occupation, but what can two siblings -- with only a bicycle to help them -- do against a whole army? Middle-grade fans of history and adventure will be riveted by the action and the vividly evoked tension of World War

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...on Schindler's List, Leon Leyson
In the #1 New York Times bestseller, 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. 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. This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler's List child, perfectly 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.

Teens

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The extraordinary #1  New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul. It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, David Safier
Inspired by true events, David Safier's 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto is a harrowing historical YA that chronicles the brutality of the Holocaust. Warsaw, 1942. Sixteen-year old Mira smuggles food into the Ghetto to keep herself and her family alive. When she discovers that the entire Ghetto is to be "liquidated"--killed or "resettled" to concentration camps--she desperately tries to find a way to save her family. She meets a group of young people who are planning the unthinkable: an uprising against the occupying forces. Mira joins the resistance fighters who, with minimal supplies and weapons, end up holding out for twenty-eight days, longer than anyone had thought possible.

They Went Left, Monica Hesse
The New York Times bestselling, Sydney Taylor Honor-winning, critically acclaimed tour de force historical mystery from Monica Hesse, author of Girl in the Blue Coat. Germany, 1945 . The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal, her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else--her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja--they went left. Zofia's last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once. But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her--or help her rebuild her world.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Peterson and the Churchill Club, Phillip Hoose
A Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Winner. At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation's leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys' exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is National Book Award winner Phillip Hoose's inspiring story of these young war heroes. This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.

But I Live: Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust, Charlotte Shallie
An intimate co-creation of three graphic novelists and four Holocaust survivors, But I Live consists of three illustrated stories based on the experiences of each survivor during and after the Holocaust. David Schaffer and his family survived in Romania due to their refusal to obey Nazi collaborators. In the Netherlands, brothers Nico and Rolf Kamp were separated from their parents and hidden by the Dutch resistance in thirteen different places. Through the story of Emmie Arbel, a child survivor of the Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, we see the lifelong trauma inflicted by the Holocaust. To complement these hauntingly beautiful and unforgettable visual stories, But I Live includes historical essays, an illustrated postscript from the artists, and personal words from each of the survivors. As we urgently approach the post-witness era without living survivors of the Holocaust, these illustrated stories act as a physical embodiment of memory and help to create a new archive for future readers. By turning these testimonies into graphic novels, But I Live aims to teach new generations about racism, antisemitism, human rights, and social justice.