On Holocaust Memorial Day, we remember the millions of people murdered under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
This year’s theme is ‘Be the light in the darkness”; a call to action and affirmation to all those marking the day. It was George Santayana who said:
Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
It’s 76 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, a day the Allies found the rumours they had heard were true and that the true crimes of the Nazis were worse then anyone could have imagined. Tragically we still have not learnt from history, as in those intervening years we have seen not just one, but another four genocides take place.
Technology has gone a long way since 1945, we now receive news of events and disasters as they happen across the world. We are bombarded with images, information, facts and news from different platforms, sources and outlets. It can be hard to know what is true and what isn’t, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, to accept information as truth without looking at the whole picture and to simple turn away as the world becomes too much.
In the darkest of times, it’s easy to get lost, to follow the loudest voice in fear of being left behind. It’s easy to lose ourselves, to lose our path and the sight of truth and what is right and wrong. Looking back at the past, to learn from the mistake of humanity, can light the spark of knowledge that will guide us through the darkness. And as we come together, knowing what mistakes to avoid, the signs to look for to stand against oppression, prosecution and fascism, we will create the light we need to ensure the children walking before us will not be lost in darkness.
We will continue to do our bit for as long as we can, secure in the knowledge that others will continue to light a candle long after us.Gena Turgel MBE, survivor of the Holocaust (1923-2018)
2020 was a long year and as readers it’s understandable we want light-hearted books to read, books that let us escape reality for a short while and leave us feeling good. It can be hard to open a book that deals with prosecution, death and the Holocaust, but if you want to know more about what happened in Nazi occupied Europe during the 30’s and 40’s, we have four books we have read and can recommend.
The first one is The Holocaust by Laurence Rees.
In this book, Laurence Rees tries to answer two questions about the Holocaust: How, and why, did it happen?
Using research and interviews, we are given an in-depth look at not just the monstrosities that were committed, but how they could happen, why they happened and why everyday people committed some of the worst crimes in history.
It would be a lie to say it’s an easy read, but it’s so well written and well researched you can’t stop reading it. It’s not just an insight to the Holocaust and what events lead up to it, but an insight into human psychology, behaviour and needs that is terrifying, yet insightful.
The next book we recommend is Hitler’s Furies by Wendy Lower
This non-fiction book was also written using research and interviews, but instead of looking at the Holocaust as a whole it focuses on the role of women and how most escaped unpunished for their crimes.
Even though the Nazi Government was actively promoting and encouraging women to be mothers and wives who stayed at home, they employed women to work as guards at the women’s camps. It’s an interesting book, not only because it shows another side of the atrocities, but because it shows how sexism, prejudice and presumptions led to most female war criminals escaped justice.
Looking at witness statements and historical documents, this book explores a different side of history and how female guards exploited prejudice to hide their acts of violence, murder and torture.
Our third book is Clara’s War by Clara Kramer
The memoir of 15 year-old Clara, who is forced to go into hiding in 1942, is not an easy read, but one of hope, courage, love and survival.
Cramped into a small bunker to hide from the SS, this heart-braking memoir is a retelling of her experiences as one of many Jewish families trying to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland.
It’s an emotional read to hear of Clara’s survival and life in the bunker, and it’s the book that made me read Anne Frank’s Diary (The Diary Of a Young Girl).
It isn’t a story of the Holocaust in the sense it’s about the camps. Instead it showed the genocide from the view of the prosecuted, from the ones who were hiding. I often did have to remind myself it was a memoir, so Clara had to survive, but it’s hard to fully understand how anyone could have survived what she lived through.
Our fourth and final recommendation, though it’s been hard to only choose four, is The Children’s Block by Otto B Kraus
This is not the only book written about the children’s block at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the one that comes to mind especially is The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. For those of you familiar with Iturbe’s book you may recognise the basic story, but the characters and the way they react to the situations they find themselves in is different.
This fresh point of view provides a different perspective on some of the events and actions that took place in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Children’s Block is written from an adult perspective, which arguably gives us a fuller understanding of the context and outcome of events.
Kraus has written an ‘autobiographical novel’, which mixes his experiences with fictional characters, merged real-life characters and changes to the historical timeline. It’s a powerful book that is hard to read at times, but it will live with you for a long time. This book can be read on its own, or in companion with The Librarian of Auschwitz, you can find both through Hampshire Libraries.
To mark Holocaust Memorial Day we have also put together a collection of titles, which includes the four recommended books, as eBooks and aAudiobooks, on BorrowBox.
If you prefer physical books, you are still able to reserve books to collect from your local library, for a small charge. And you can also sign up to our click and collect service, Ready Reads, where you tell us the kind of books you like and our talented staff select books for you.
What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.Anne Frank