January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day – a day that is marked throughout the world and, in the words of the Holocaust Memorial Trust, “encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide”. It is a day to “remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur”.
The date is significant as it marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, in 1945.
Each year, there is a theme – this year’s is ‘One Day’ and The Holocaust Memorial Trust take a number of different perspectives on this short phrase. They note that it’s ‘One Day’ on which we can all pause to reflect and remember those impacted by genocide as well as looking back into the past at the ‘One Day’ that changed the life of individuals who faced persecution. It can also be a way to live with the effects of genocide – one day at a time – and something for the future. Read more about their interpretations here.
In our Holocaust Memorial Day blog in 2021, we shared some of the resources available online for marking the day from organisations that commemorate the past and work towards ensuring the history of genocide is understood. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust also organise an annual ceremony on Holocaust Memorial Day. This year, that ceremony will take place online – you can register to attend here.
You’ll find resources available in our libraries that cover the history of both the Holocaust and other genocides throughout the world. Our eInformation and Learning online resources likewise provide a wealth of information.
For example, Encyclopaedia Britannica offers summaries, photos, videos and more to explore. Tailor the search results to be for a Junior, Student or Adult reading level- perfect for homework research.
For those who may be studying the subject or interested in academic research, Oxford Research Encyclopedias offer current, peer-reviewed trustworthy research. Search for ‘holocaust’ for over 350 results.
It’s always enlightening to search through the online Times Digital Archive. Reports relating to the first Holocaust Memorial Day in 2001 can be read as well as other interesting content such as this 4 page article about an artist who was ordered to work whilst a prisoner in Auschwitz.
Holocaust Memorial Day supports a day of reflection and remembrance. The Warwickshire eLibrary gives you access to resources should you wish to continue to find out more. As well as subscription services, you’ll also find links to other relevant resources such as Open University free Open Learn courses who currently have ‘War memorials and commemoration’ available to study for free; 4 hours study time, Level 1, rated 4.8 out of 5 stars. You’ll also find books and eAudiobooks in our BorrowBox collection, history eMagazines through the Libby app and news coverage via PressReader.
There have been many books written on the Holocaust and on the topic of genocide throughout the world and history. You’ll find non-fiction and fiction on our library shelves and in our BorrowBox collection.
While historical fiction about the Holocaust can be a point of entry into the topic and authors will have undertaken a wealth of research into the period, they are works of fiction. It can be difficult to establish where historical details have been altered for narrative effect. With this in mind, our reading suggestions here focus on non-fiction.
The Violinist of Auschwitz by Jean Jacques Felstein
Arrested in 1943 and deported to Auschwitz, Elsa survived because she had the ‘opportunity’ to join the women’s orchestra. But Elsa kept her story a secret, even from her own family. Indeed, her son would only discover what had happened to his mother many years later, after gradually unearthing her unbelievable story following her premature death, without ever having revealed her secret to anyone.
Jean-Jacques Felstein was determined to reconstruct Elsa’s life in Birkenau, and would go in search of other orchestra survivors in Germany, Belgium, Poland, Israel and the United States. The recollections of Helene, first violin, Violette, third violin, Anita, a cellist, and other musicians, allowed him to rediscover his 20-year-old mother, lost in the heart of hell.
Holocaust Child by Amira Keider
In 1941 at the height of World War II, in a Polish ghetto, a baby girl named Rachel is born. Her parents, Jacob and Zippa, are willing to do anything to keep her alive. They nickname her Lalechka. Just before Lalechka’s first birthday, the Nazis begin to systematically murder everyone in the ghetto. Her father understands that staying in the ghetto will mean certain death for his child. In both desperation and hope, Lalechka’s parents decide to save their daughter.
Zippa smuggles her outside the boundaries of the ghetto where her Polish friends, Irena and Sophia, are waiting. They take on the burden of caring for Lalechka during the war, pretending she is part of their family despite the grave danger of being discovered and executed. This story is based on the journal written by Zippa during the annihilation of the ghetto, as well as on interviews, rare documents, and authentic letters.
Love With No Tomorrow by Mindelle Pierce
‘Love with No Tomorrow’ shares a spark of light by sharing true love stories of the Holocaust.
This heart-wrenching book uses hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors and their children to present first-hand accounts of the relationships that blossomed in extermination camps, sparking hope in the darkest of times.
The Dressmakers of Auschwitz by Lucy Adlington
At the height of the Holocaust, 25 young inmates of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp were selected to design, cut and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women in a dedicated salon. It was work that they hoped would spare them from the gas chambers.
This fashion workshop – called the Upper Tailoring Studio – was established by Hedwig Hoss, the camp commandant’s wife, and patronized by the wives of SS guards and officers. Here, the dressmakers produced high-quality garments for SS social functions in Auschwitz and for ladies from Nazi Berlin’s upper crust.
Drawing on diverse sources – including interviews with the last surviving seamstress – ‘The Dressmakers of Auschwitz’ follows the fates of these brave women.
The Nazis Knew My Name by Magda Hellinger Blau
In the camps during the Second World War, prisoner Magda Hellinger Blau was selected by the SS as a Jewish prison leader and she eventually rises to the senior position of Lageralteste (Camp Elder). Madga used her proximity to her fellow prisoners and the SS to engage in numerous acts of kindness, bravery and compassion to keep the prisoners alive in frightening and uncertain circumstances.
Now, her daughter Maya Lee tells the definitive story of her mother, a woman who showed great bravery and compassion when stuck between worlds of authority and imprisonment.
The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku
Eddie Jaku always considered himself a German first, a Jew second. He was proud of his country. But all of that changed in November 1938, when he was beaten, arrested and taken to a concentration camp.
Over the next seven years, Eddie faced unimaginable horrors every day, first in Buchenwald, then in Auschwitz, then on a Nazi death march. He lost family, friends, his country. Because he survived, Eddie made the vow to smile every day. He pays tribute to those who were lost by telling his story, sharing his wisdom and living his best possible life. He now believes he is the ‘happiest man on earth’.
Published as Eddie turned a hundred, The Happiest Man on Earth is a powerful, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful memoir of how happiness can be found even in the darkest of times.
The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II by Michael Rosen
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, 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.
You may already know that Anne Frank wrote a diary, but did you know she had a pet cat called Moortje? Or that another cat called Mouschi lived with her in hiding?
This graphic retelling of Anne’s story gives children a visual snapshot of her life and the world she grew up in, while educating them on everything from World War II to the dangers of prejudice.
The Boy Who Said Nothing by Mirsad Solakovic
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 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.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
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.
When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States, where she embarked on another journey, ultimately graduating from Yale. Yet the years of being treated as less than human, of going hungry and seeing death, could not be erased. She felt at the same time six years old and one hundred years old.
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.