The 27th January marks the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz – Birkenau. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) encourages remembrance of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups, and more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

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 JuniorStudent or Adult reading level- perfect for homework research. 

The Holocaust Memorial Day theme for 2023 is ‘Ordinary People’ and in this week’s post we are showcasing a selection of books that focus on the experiences of everyday people. You can find these titles and more in the Holocaust Memorial Day Collection over on our Inclusive Reads page.

The Broken House: Growing Up Under Hitler by Horst Kruger

First published in 1966, Horst Kruger’s memoir of growing up in Berlin during the Third Reich details how some of those closest to him had acted during this period.

Twenty years after the end of the war, Horst Krüger attempted to make sense of his childhood. He had grown up in a quiet Berlin suburb. Here, people lived ordinary lives, believed in God, obeyed the law, and were gradually seduced by the promises of Nazism.

He had been ‘the typical child of innocuous Germans who were never Nazis, and without whom the Nazis would never have been able to do their work’. With tragic inevitability, this world of respectability, order and duty began to crumble.

A Village in the Third Reich – How Ordinary Lives Were Transformed by the Rise of Fascism by Julia Boyd 

Focusing on the Bavarian village of Oberstdorf, providing a snapshot of the rise of fascism on the people living there, and the legacy of the aftermath on the population.

Within its pages we encounter people from all walks of life – foresters, priests, farmers and nuns; innkeepers, Nazi officials, veterans and party members; village councillors, mountaineers, socialists, slave labourers, schoolchildren, tourists and aristocrats. We meet the Jews who survived – and those who didn’t; the Nazi mayor who tried to shield those persecuted by the regime; and a blind boy whose life was judged ‘not worth living’.

This is a tale of conflicting loyalties and desires, of shattered dreams – but one in which, ultimately, human resilience triumphs.

When the Clouds Fell from the Sky: a Daughter’s Search for her Father in the Killing Fields of Cambodia by Robert Carmichael

A daughter investigates what happened to her diplomat father during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the real life nightmare that took place at the Phnom Penh prison.

In 1977, Neary was two years old and living in Paris when her father Ouk Ket, a Cambodian diplomat, was recalled home ‘to get educated to better fulfil [his] responsibilities’. It was to be many years before Neary and her mother Martine were finally able to establish what had happened to Ket, their father and husband.

In this moving memoir, through a tragedy that engulfs a single family, journalist Robert Carmichael, explores with great sensitivity Phnom Penh’s infamous S-21 prison and its commander, Comrade Duch, and Cambodia’s descent into terror.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya

When Clemantine Wamariya was six years old, her world was torn apart. She didn’t know why her parents began talking in whispers, or why her neighbours started disappearing, or why she could hear distant thunder even when the skies were clear.

As the Rwandan civil war raged, Clemantine and her sister Claire were forced to flee their home. They ran for hours, then walked for days, not towards anything, just away. they sought refuge where they could find it, and escaped when refuge became imprisonment. Together, they experienced the best and the worst of humanity. After spending six years seeking refuge in eight different countries, Clemantine and Claire were granted refugee status in America and began a new journey.

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.