On April 28, 1945, American troops liberated the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp. In 1978, this date was adopted by the United States to honor the memories of the six million European Jews and countless other minorities who were systematically murdered at the hands of the Nazi regime. Yom HaShoah, the Jewish rendition of the day, is also commemorated on this date, one week after the holiday of Passover.
Now, 69 years after the liberation of the camps, the importance of commemorating the horrific events of the Holocaust will only continue grow as the population of survivors dies. Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known Holocaust survivor, passed away at age 110 on February 27 — three days before the film profiling her life won an Oscar for best documentary short — and those survivors who endured the brutality of the Holocaust as children will be long gone within another generation. As the atrocities of our past recede further and further in our historical rear-view mirror, all that will remain are the stories — and it's up to us to ensure that the tales of both suffering and triumph amidst unprecedented devastation continue to live on.
On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, take up the mantle of Holocaust education and remembrance by immersing yourself in these evocative works of fiction and non-fiction.
THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by ANNE FRANK
Seeing this one on the list won't surprise you. A 13-year-old girl’s diary rarely garners so much global attention — but not many 13-year-olds so artfully describe the experience of hiding in an attic for two years from the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied Holland.
MAUS by ART SPIEGELMAN
At first glance, the Holocaust may be a strange subject to explore through the medium of the conventionally vibrant graphic novel. But cartoonist Art Spiegelman uses it to poignant effect in Maus , which depicts the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats.
NIGHT by ELIE WIESEL
Don’t be fooled by the slim profile of this book — the harrowing tale of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Elie Wiesel’s experience in Auschwitz packs the punch of a an emotional steamroller. Though the death camp scenes described in Wiesel’s account will undoubtedly scar your psyche, the fact of the author’s survival amidst such circumstances is inspiring in its own right — and his myriad accomplishments following the war provides even more proof of Wiesel’s tenacious love for life and humanity.
THE BOOK THIEF by MARKUS ZUSAK
Narrated by Death himself, Zusak’s beloved novel tells the story of Liesel Meminger’s ardent fascination with books, and how her love for the written word brings her closer to her adoring foster father — and to the lonely Jewish man hiding in her basement.
SURVIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ: IF THIS IS A MAN by PRIMO LEVI
One of the best-known Jewish writers of the post-war era, Italian-born chemist Primo Levi describes his year as an Auschwitz prisoner in lucid, delicate prose.
MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by VIKTOR FRANKL
The post-war life-work of Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl took the form of Man’s Search for Meaning , in which he chronicles life in the concentration camps and delineates the psychological mindsets of the prisoners during the war. In this book, he also pioneered the theory of logotherapy, which helps people find the unique meaning in their lives. “In some way,” Frankl writes, “suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”
AUSCHWITZ AND AFTER by CHARLOTTE DELBO
This stunning collection of prose and poetry was written after the war by Charlotte Delbo, a non-Jew sent to Auschwitz for her anti-Nazi propaganda work with the French resistance.
THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by JULIE ORRINGER
The romantic story of a young, Hungarian-Jewish architect student takes on darker significance amidst the historical backdrop of the Holocaust. But at its heart, it is a majestic, sweeping tale of familial love and loss.
THE STORYTELLER by JODI PICOULT
A renowned storyteller in her own right, Jodi Picoult explores the unlikely relationship between an aging former Nazi and the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.
NUMBER THE STARS by LOIS LOWRY
Children’s book stalwart Lois Lowry earned the 1990 Newbury Medal for this memorable tale about a 10-year-old girl whose Jewish best friend is threatened by the rise of Nazism in 1943 Denmark. This'll open the nostalgia gates for you — as well as the tear ducts.