20 Holocaust Books for Children and Teens

On Monday, I wrote about  Johanna Reiss’s Holocaust memoir The Upstairs Room. As a follow-up I pulled together a list of 20+ Holocaust books for children and teens.


  • Adler, David A.  The Picture Book of Anne Frank.
  • Bishop, Claire Huchet.  Twenty and Ten.
  • Bunting, Eve. Terrible Things. This picture book is subtitled “An Allegory of the Holocaust.” Illustrations by Stephen Gammell.
  • Drucker, Malka and Michael Halperin. Jacob’s Rescue, a Holocaust Story.
  • Frank, Anne.  The Diary of a Young Girl. Most important text for adolescents by a girl who dies in the camps after writing the diary; the diary, though, is coming of age and doesn’t continue after they are in hiding and into the camps. Note that the PLAY written about Anne’s story is called Diary of Anne Frank.
  • Greene, Bette.  The Summer of My German Soldier.
  • Hurwitz, Johanna. Anne Frank: Life in Hiding. Anne Frank for younger readers.
  • Goldston, Robert.  Sinister Touches: The Secret War Against Hitler.
  • Heuve, Eric. A Family Secret. A graphic novel, shared by blogger Ian in a comment on my last post.
  • I Never Saw Another Butterfly.  Poetry and art from actual concentration camp children.
  • Ippisch, Hanneke.  Sky
  • Isaacman, Clara.  Clara’s Story. (Actual memoir of Jewish Holocaust survivor)

  • Kerr, Judith.  When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. This is a true Holocaust story—but the protagonist barely knows she’s Jewish.
  • Levitin, Sonia.  Journey to America.
  • Lowry, Lois.  Number the Stars. Non Jewish protagonist.
  • Meltzer, Milton.  Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews in the Holocaust.
  • Mochizuki, Ken. Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki. A picture book that describes how a Japanese official helped save Jews during the Holocaust.
  • Orlev, Uri.  The Island on Bird Street. Fictional Holocaust story by actual Holocaust survivor who now lives in Israel.
  • Reiss, Johanna.  The Journey Back.
  • Reiss, Johanna.  The Upstairs Room.
  • Rogasky, Barbara.  Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust.
  • Siegal, Aranka. Upon the Head of the Goat:  A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944. Memoir of actual survivor and description of being carted off to a camp; for adolescents.
  • Tene, Benjamin.  In the Shade of the Chestnut Tree.
  • Yolen, Jane.  The Devil’s Arithmetic. Fiction about an American child who goes back in time to the Holocaust.

I did a little search online, and here is a website that has another list of books–some are the same that I have on my list, and some are different. She shares some good info, too.

And here is another great list of books about the Holocaust for kids!

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

After posting on Monday and “chatting” with readers, I started thinking more about the subject.

What is the difference between a book about the Holocaust for children or teens and one for adults? Is it the reading level? Is it the maturity level regarding violence, sex, and even despair?

How can the Holocaust, by its very nature an obscenity and atrocity, be written for kids?

How is this weighty subject handled in these books?

I’ve noticed that stories of the death and concentration camps written for adult readers focus on feelings of intense guilt on the part of the survivors. The mere act of eating means that each bite taken is one bite less for someone else.

In books for children the horrors are less chilling, the guilt tangible, but less complex.  In Clara’s Story, Clara worries, “I felt guilty about the plans our family was making, wishing that, somehow, we could take everyone with us who wanted to come.”

What seems to be most important in Holocaust books written for children is that family members are often kept together. Family life, of some sort, usually continues throughout the course of each story.  For instance, in The Upstairs Room, Annie and Sini stay together and Johann functions as a father figure to the girls.

In Holocaust stories written for adults, the singular aloneness that occurs at the camps is palpable. Family ties equate to responsibility for adults, a very heavy burden in the camps, whereas for children, family ties are a comfort.

Another difference is that adult books often delve into the protagonists’ religion or spirituality, while the children’s memoirs do not.  I suspect that this is because it’s less likely that the books will be read in public schools if they mention much about religion. Maybe writers are self-censoring. Maybe publishers are censoring.

Have you noticed any other differences between a story about the Holocaust for children and one for adults?

Enhanced by Zemanta


Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

39 responses to “20 Holocaust Books for Children and Teens

  1. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    I am so impressed with the service you are offering us by this collection and analysis. I did know of “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” but not the extensive list. Thanks for doing this.

    • Luanne

      Thanks, Ellen. When I was teaching I was shocked at how many college students knew nothing about the Holocaust. Many of the books were on the recommended lists by the State of California, but my students had never encountered them. Very distressing.

  2. Luanne, what an extensive and useful list. You should teach a class on this. How interesting that in the children’s books families are kept together through the story. Very Sound of Music, I must say. The greater realities were probably worse, but interesting that Children’s Lit approaches it this way. Wonder what that says about culture? Authors? Children’s Lit?

    • Luanne

      I actually wondered if it’s possible that publishers have steered survivors who have written about the Holocaust into writing for adults (even if they were children themselves) if they were separated from their families. There are other good memoirs for adults where the protagonist is a child during that period. I do feel that publishers have had a big hand in what gets published, but then so are schools and state education boards.

  3. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    It is important that everyone read about the Holocaust. It wasn’t just Jews. This genocide targeted Jews, Poles and Gypsies. My grandfather taught me at nine that if the world ever forgets it will happen again. You are doing wonderful work.

    • Luanne

      Barbara, thank you so much for the reblog and for passing this information on to others by sharing with your readers. Your grandfather was a wise man. I am scared by how many people don’t know about what happened.

  4. Thanks for including this book list and your insights on the differences between Holocaust books for adults and children.

    • Luanne

      You’re welcome, WJ. I think it’s possible that survivors who were separated from their families as children have written memoirs for adults, rather than for children. The question would be, why? Did they feel that their story was too desolate for contemporary kids? Did publishers or editors re-direct them?

  5. Such a necessary post. thank you!

  6. What a great list. It is so important children learn about the Holocaust in ways they can understand. Thank you for posting this.

    • Luanne

      Mungai and the Goa Constrictor, what a lovely blog you have! I used to teach children’s literature, so it’s a subject close to my heart. Thank you for reading and your comments!

  7. I lived in Germany for two years once and it was true, there were no birds singing and I don’t remember any butterflies either. It’s like death took over and never left. The world needs to remember this forever. There were many Jews but there were Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays and others too. This left a smudge on humanity that can never be removed.

    • Luanne

      Jackie, thank you for your comments. My goodness, that’s a sad reflection. Yes, when I hear stuff on the news about Russia and some of the African countries about their treatment of gays, I am really worried. That’s because I do know history. But there are too many who do not know history–or care to know it. Thank you so much for your comments.

  8. Jackie, I agree with you, but I would call it more than a smudge. I would call it a shame, grief and fear that (it will happen again) and that can never be removed. No birds singing, no butterflies either. And I remember a war survivor saying there was no colour. I asked ‘No colour? Surely the sun was yellow and the grass green’. ‘I can not remember any colour from that time’. Imagine how depressive that time must have been in occupied countries.

    Luanne, I like to add;
    Hana’s Suitcase
    Charlotte Salomon Life of Theatre (her books with paintings of her life)

    • Luanne

      Paula, that is such a memorable anecdote: no colour. Just horrible. As an artist the thought of a colorless world must really affect you. I will look up the books you’ve mentioned! Thank you so much for weighing in here.

  9. Yes, we must never forget! Thanks for sharing.

    • Luanne

      secretangel, thank you so much for reading and your comment: never forgetting must mean that the world as a whole should not forget because we have moved on and too many younger people and even many older people do not even know what happened in the past.

      • It is sad.. Just like we should never forget the events of 911, the holocaust, slavery and many other events of our past so that we do not repeat them. Then we look at our current events… Human trafficking is a “modern day slavery”. Many babies are aborted every day. Terrorist are still attacking everyday and just like back then, many truths are hidden so the public does not know or even believe it is happening. The cycle continues… Thanks for your support Luanne. I really appreciate it.

  10. Shared on homeschool discussuon list.

  11. Ian

    A very interesting discussion, Luanne! I guess I can’t comment too much on holocaust books for children as I haven’t read very many. I recently read Richard Rashke’s, Escape from Sobibor, which is based on survivor interviews (and became a popular made for TV movie in 1987). A few of these survivors were children when they arrived in this extermination camp, so it was unusual that they were not immediately sent to the gas chambers but were instead selected for jobs such as “shoe-shine boy” or “goldsmith”. The Nazis needed a certain number of labourers or people (even kids) with special skills just to help keep the camp running. Because the Nazis were trying to keep the true purpose of the camp secret, they told these poor children and young teens that their parents and siblings were doing fine and had jobs as farm labourers nearby, and they would even be able to join them soon (a dark euphemism). I guess I find it interesting that even the SS recognized that these children needed to know (believe, hope) that their families were still alive and that they would be together again, which is something you mentioned in the books written for children, this elemental theme that family life will somehow continue…

    • Luanne

      Ian, what you say here about the SS recognizing that the children needed to think that they would be together with their families again just gave me chills. You are right. They used the children’s humanity to get them to work for them. It makes me weep.

  12. Interesting analysis! When I taught 8th grade we did a unit of the Holocaust, so I do recognize some of these books.

  13. I never had an opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, before I moved. Your recent posts are drawing me back to D.C.
    Unfortunately I’m not able to comment on books for children regarding the Holocaust, but good stuff here, Luanne!

    • Luanne

      Jill, I will tell you that if you can’t get there but get to LA that the Museum of Tolerance is also a good museum. That is the one I have been to.

  14. I also recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for 12-up. Narrated by death it’s a glimpse of the horror of growing up in Nazi Germany with all of its horrors. It’s a wonderful mix of prose, poetry and even has a bit of artwork sprinkled in. It’s a very accessible, artistic book that speaks to the power of language as an agent for good or evil.

    • Luanne

      Regenia, thank you so much for that suggestion! I will check it out, and I hope others do, too. It sounds very accessible for everyone because of the genre bending!

  15. I too wanted to suggest The Book Thief. A wonderful book for teens and adults as well. This month I am reading it with a book club I run at a local senior living facility.Thanks for the list!

    • Luanne

      Thank you for recommending it, Susan! The book club sounds wonderful! So you run a club for the seniors who live there? And how do you go about choosing books for them? Do they suggest books, too?

  16. This is a great post and you did quite a bit of research to compile this list, Luanne. I wish I had more time… Smiles, robin

  17. This is very interesting. Thanks for putting together such an excellent resource.

  18. Pingback: In a Land Far Away, a Long Time Ago, There Was The Shoah | Writer Site

Leave a Reply