Holocaust Memorial Day – Adult non-fiction booklist


The choice
by Edith Eger

In 1944, 16-year-old Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. There she endured unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. Over the coming months, Edith’s bravery helped her sister to survive, and led to her bunkmates rescuing her during a death march. When their camp was finally liberated, Edith was pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive. In ‘The Choice’, Dr Edith Eger shares her experience of the Holocaust and the remarkable stories of those she has helped ever since.


The volunteer: one man, and underground army, and the secret mission to destroy Auschwitz
by Jack Fairweather

This is untold story of one of the greatest heroes of the Second World War. In the Summer of 1940, after the Nazi occupation of Poland, an underground operative called Witold Pilecki accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interred at a new concentration camp on the border of the Reich. His mission was to report on Nazi crimes and raise a secret army to stage an uprising. The name of the detention centre – Auschwitz. It was only after arriving at the camp that he started to discover the Nazi’s terrifying designs. Over the next two and half years, Witold forged an underground army that smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities to the West, culminating in the mass murder of over a million Jews.


Women’s experiences in the Holocaust: in their own words
by Agnes Grunwald-Spier

This title brings to light women’s experiences in the Holocaust. It explains why women’s difficulties were different to those of men. Men were taken away and the women were left to cope with children and elderly relatives and obliged to take on new roles. Women like Andrew Sachs’ mother had to deal with organising departure for a foreign country and making choices about what to take and what to abandon. The often desperate hunt for food for themselves and those in their care more often than not fell to the women, as did medical issues. They had to face pregnancies, abortions and, in some camps, medical experiments. Many women wrote diaries, memoirs, letters and books about their experiences and these have been used extensively here.


But you did not come back
by Marceline Loridan-Ivens with Judith Perrignon

Marceline Loridan-Ivens was just 15 when she and her father were arrested and sent to concentration camps. He prepared her for the worst, telling her that he would not return. The three kilometres between her father in Auschwitz and herself in Birkenau were an insurmountable distance, and yet he managed to send her a small note via an electrician in the camp – a sign of life. Here, Marceline writes a letter to the father she would never know as an adult, and the man whose death enveloped her whole life. Her testimony is a haunting and challenging reminder of one of the worst crimes humanity has ever seen, and an affecting personal story of a woman whose life was shattered and never totally rebuilt.


The Holocaust: a new history
by Laurence Rees

This text answers two fundamental questions about the Holocaust. How, and why, did it happen? Laurence Rees’s answer, based on the latest academic research and 25 years of exploring the subject, reveals three themes. First, it was not just about the Jews – the Nazis would have murdered many more non-Jews – and it was not just about Germans. Second, there was no single ‘decision’ to start the Holocaust – there was a series of escalations, most often when the Nazi leadership interacted with their fanatical grassroots supporters. Third, it took longer than we might think for the world to recognise the importance of what happened – only in the mid-1970s did the word ‘Holocaust’ enter the popular consciousness. Through a chronological narrative, featuring the latest historical research and compelling eyewitness testimony, this is the story of the worst crime in history.


The boy who said nothing: a child’s story of fleeing conflict
by Mirsad Solaković with Cass Pennant

Mirsad Solaković survived a war in which some 300,000 people died, but was left with psychological damage. Mirsad lived through the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian civilians, until his family escaped to the UK. Following his experiences, he became difficult and untractable, and refused to speak English – until dedicated and sympathetic teachers at his school in Birmingham brought him back into contact with those around him. This thought-provoking account of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian tragedy paints a uniquely intimate portrait of survival, revealing pain that has never faded, yet has not crushed the human spirit. It is also an uplifting account of just how effective good teachers can be when faced with deeply troubled pupils.


Renia’s diary: a young girl’s life in the shadow of the Holocaust
by Renia Spiegel

Renia is a young girl who dreams of becoming a poet. But Renia is Jewish, she lives in Poland and the year is 1939. When Russia and Germany invade her country, Renia’s world shatters. Separated from her mother, her life takes on a new urgency as she flees Przemysl to escape night bombing raids, observes the disappearances of other Jewish families and, finally, witnesses the creation of the ghetto. But alongside the terror of war, there is also great beauty, as she begins to find her voice as a writer and falls in love for the first time. She and the boy she falls in love with, Zygmunt, share their first kiss a few hours before the Nazis reach her hometown. And it is Zygmunt who writes the final, heartbreaking entry in Renia’s diary. Recently rediscovered after seventy years, ‘Renia’s Diary’ is already being described as a classic of Holocaust literature.


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