Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated every year on 27th January. In the words of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, it is a day that “encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide” that remembers the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The significance of the date is that it marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau – the largest of the Nazi concentration camps.
The Holocaust Memorial Day website has a vast number of resources for all age groups to explain the background to the day, its history and the events that it commemorates. Each year, there is a theme around which activities are built. For 2021, the theme is ‘Be the light in the darkness’ – encouraging us “to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide”. Events take place throughout the world – this year, many will be virtual so you can find out more about what’s happening here.
You can also find out more about commemorations at sites such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum who post daily commemorations of individuals who lost their lives during the Holocaust as well as exploring the history of the camp and its place in our societal memory. You can also find resources aimed at younger people and virtual events happening in the coming weeks through The Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre, while The British Library and The National Archives also preserve and present the history of these past events.
You’ll also find an extensive bibliography of books suggested by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust that explore the subject. Below are a selection of titles you’ll find on our library catalogue and in our BorrowBox collection (as eBooks or on eAudio). We’ve included their blurbs to give you an idea of what each title is about. You can find more suggestions on our ‘Inclusive Reads’ page.
‘The Journey’ by Abdul Musa Adam with Ros Wynne-Jones (physical copy)
At the age of 7, Abdul was rounding up animals with his 3-year-old brother, Yusuf, when their village in Darfur was bombed. He lost his entire family. Abdul and Yusuf fled over the border to Chad, where they lived for two years in an inhospitable refugee camp. What followed was a remarkable journey across the world’s most brutal warzones, as Abdul suffered unimaginable violence and slept on the streets. Eventually, he stowed away in a lorry to the UK, where he was picked up by police and diagnosed with PTSD. Abdul was helped by Greatwood, a charity that uses ex-racehorses to help disadvantaged children, which finally gave him a lifeline. This is the remarkable story of one boy’s journey around the globe in a desperate search for a safe place to live.
‘When The Clouds Fell From The Sky: A Daughter’s Search For Her Father In The Killing Fields of Cambodia’ by Robert Carmichael (physical copy)
During the Khmer Rouge’s four-year rule of terror, two million people, or one in every four Cambodians, died. In describing one family’s decades-long quest to learn their husband’s and father’s fate and the war crimes trial of Comrade Duch (pronounced ‘Doyk’), who ran the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, ‘When the Clouds Fell from the Sky’ illuminates the tragedy of a nation.
In 2012, Duch was sentenced to life imprisonment, having been found responsible for the deaths of more than 12,000 people. He was the first Khmer Rouge member to be jailed for crimes committed during Pol Pot’s catastrophic 1975-9 rule during which millions were executed or died from starvation, illness and overwork as Cambodia underwent the most radical social transformation ever attempted.
‘Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street’ by Barbara Demick (physical copy)
20 years after the siege of Sarajevo, BBC Samuel Johnson Prize winner Barbara Demick revisits her compelling account of living in a city under fire
In Amsterdam, in the summer of 1942, the Nazis forced teenager Anne Frank and her family into hiding. For over two years, they, another family and a German dentist lived in a ‘secret annexe’, fearing discovery. All that time, Anne kept a diary.
An intimate record of tension and struggle, adolescence and confinement, anger and heartbreak, Anne Frank’s diary is one of those unique documents, famed throughout the world. It portrays innocence and humanity, suffering and survival in the starkest and most moving terms.
‘The Righteous’ by Martin Gilbert (physical copy)
This is a record of and special tribute to the thousands of ordinary non-Jewish individuals who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis and who stood up against the most barbaric genocide in history.
‘We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families’ by Philip Gourevitch (physical copy)
This text is a first-hand account of a people’s response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity. Gourevitch chronicles what has happened in Rwanda since 1994.
‘Against A Tide Of Evil’ by Mukesh Kapila (physical copy)
In this no-holds-barred account, the former head of the United Nations in Sudan reveals for the first time the shocking depths of evil plumbed by those who designed and orchestrated ‘the final solution’ in Darfur.
A veteran of humanitarian crisis and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, Dr Mukesh Kapila arrived in Sudan in March 2003 having made a promise to himself that if he were ever in a position to stop the mass-killers, they would never triumph on his watch.
Born in Prague to a Jewish family in 1929, Dita Kraus has lived through the most turbulent decades of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Here, Dita writes with startling clarity on the horrors and joys of a life delayed by the Holocaust. From her earliest memories and childhood friendships in Prague before the war, to the Nazi-occupation that saw her and her family sent to the Jewish ghetto at Terezín, to the unimaginable fear and bravery of her imprisonment in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and life after liberation.
Dita writes unflinchingly about the harsh conditions of the camps and her role as librarian of the precious books that her fellow prisoners managed to smuggle past the guards. But she also looks beyond the Holocaust – to the life she rebuilt after the war: her marriage to fellow survivor Otto B Kraus, a new life in Israel and the happiness and heartbreaks of motherhood.
Part of Dita’s story was told in fictional form in the Sunday Times bestseller The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. Her memoir tells the full story in her own words.
Rape and war have a long and painful history, stretching back from Alexander the Great through the ‘comfort women’ of the Imperial Japanese Army and the rapes of German women by the Red Army during World War Two. Today, the story hasn’t changed. Rape is an insidious, growing part of war used against hundreds of thousands of women – often as part of barbaric military strategy. This book is the first major account to address the terrible scale of sexual assault in modern conflict. It is also a biting condemnation of the way rape is accepted and ignored.
‘Necropolis’ by Boris Pahor (translated by Michael Biggins) (physical copy)
Boris Pahor spent the last fourteen months of World War II as a prisoner and medic in the Nazi camps at Bergen-Belsen, Harzungen, Dachau and Natzweiler-Struthof. Twenty years later when he visits a camp in the Vosges Mountains that has been preserved as a historical monument, images of his experiences come back to him: corpses being carried to the ovens; emaciated prisoners in wooden clogs and ragged, zebra-striped uniforms, struggling up the steps of a quarry or standing at roll call in the cold rain; the infirmary, reeking of dysentery and death.
‘Necropolis’ is Pahor’s stirring account of his attempts to provide medical aid to prisoners in the face of the utter brutality of the camps – and of his coming to terms with the ineradicable guilt he feels, having survived when millions did not.
By turns charming, shocking and heart-breaking, this is the true story of Michael Rosen’s search for his relatives who “went missing” during the Second World War – told through prose, poetry, maps and pictures. When Michael was growing up, stories often hung in the air about his great-uncles: one was a clock-mender and the other a dentist. They were there before the war, his dad would say, and weren’t after.
Over many years, Michael tried to find out exactly what happened: he interviewed family members, scoured the internet, pored over books and travelled to America and France. The story he uncovered was one of terrible persecution – and it has inspired his poetry for years since. Here, poems old and new are balanced against an immensely readable narrative; both an extraordinary account and a powerful tool for talking to children about the Holocaust.
In 1937, as the Nazi Party tightened its grip on the city of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), Justus Rosenberg’s parents made the wrenching decision to send their son to Paris, where he would have the hope of finishing high school and going on to university in safety.
He was sixteen years old, and he would not see his family again for sixteen years more. Even after war broke out in 1939, life in France was peaceful for a time—but when the Nazis pushed toward Paris in the spring of 1940, Justus was forced to flee south to Toulouse. There, a chance meeting put Justus in contact with Varian Fry, the American journalist who ran a refugee network that aided several thousand Jews in escaping Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. With his German background, understanding of French cultural, and fluency in several languages, including English, Justus was ideally positioned to thrive in Fry’s network, coming to master an underworld of counterfeit documents, whispered passwords, black market currency, opportunistic gangsters, and clandestine mountain passes.
Mirsad Solakovic 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 intractable, 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.
‘Auschwitz – A History’ by Sybille Steinbacher (physical copy)
At the terrible heart of the modern age lies Auschwitz. In a total inversion of earlier hopes about the use of science and technology to improve, extend and protect human life, Auschwitz manipulated the same systems to quite different ends. In Sybille Steinbacher’s terse, powerful new book, the reader is led through the process by which something unthinkable to any European in the 1930s had become a sprawling, industrial reality during the course of the world war. How Auschwitz grew and mutated into an entire dreadful city, how both those who managed it and those who were killed by it came to be in Poland in the 1940s, and how it was allowed to happen, is something everyone needs to understand.
Selma van de Perre was 17 when WWII began. Until then, being Jewish in the Netherlands had been of no consequence. But by 1941 this simple fact had become a matter of life or death. Several times, she avoided being rounded up by the Nazis. Then, in an act of defiance, she joined the Resistance movement, using the pseudonym Margareta van der Kuit.
For two years ‘Marga’ risked it all. Using a fake ID, and passing as Aryan she travelled around the country delivering newsletters, sharing information, keeping up morale – doing, as she later explained, what ‘had to be done’. In July 1944 her luck ran out. She was transported to Ravensbruck women’s concentration camp as a political prisoner. It was only after the war ended that she was allowed to reclaim her identity and dared to say once again: my name is Selma. Now, at 98, Selma remains a force of nature.
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbours began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Clare, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries, searching for safety—perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive.
In ‘The Girl Who Smiled Beads’, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of ‘victim’ and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.
‘Survivors of the Holocaust’ by Zane Whittingham and Ryan Jones (physical copies)
Based on a series of a BAFTA-nominated animated documentaries, the artwork in ‘Survivors of the Holocaust’ has been reinvented to bring together six different real-life survivors’ account of the Holocaust. Every word rings with truth, whether it describes the bleak fear of arriving at Auschwitz or the sheer terror of Kristallnacht, and is complemented by dazzling, clever artwork. This unique children’s graphic novel aims to bring the survivors’ stories to a new audience. It is an important, timely reminder of the horrors that can be inflicted on innocent people and a reflection of the Holocaust’s legacy today.
Born into a Jewish ghetto in Hungary, as a child, Elie Wiesel was sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
This is his account of that atrocity: the ever-increasing horrors he endured, the loss of his family and his struggle to survive in a world that stripped him of humanity, dignity and faith. Describing in simple terms the tragic murder of a people from a survivor’s perspective, Night is among the most personal, intimate and poignant of all accounts of the Holocaust. A compelling consideration of the darkest side of human nature and the enduring power of hope, it remains one of the most important works of the twentieth century.
For more reading suggestions, visit our previous blog ‘Reading and Empathy‘. The organisations mentioned above have lots of reading suggestions too – some have their own blog, while others will provide links to resources for more about the topic.
If you’re just getting started with BorrowBox, or need any help at all, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or we have two videos – one about getting started which you can view here and a second with tips and tricks for making the most of BorrowBox, available to view here. This includes the all-important ‘hit return’ – when you’ve finished with a title, please hit the return link in your ‘My Loans’ list so that the next reader can enjoy the title.
You can also read our earlier blog post about getting the best out of BorrowBox, including finding out how to adjust the font, font size and background when reading eBooks and change the playback speed when listening to eAudio books to ensure you get a reading/listening experience that suits you.