The Butterfly, by Patricia Polacco - Marcelle Solliliage was part of the French underground and resistance from the very beginning of the Nazi occupation of France. Told by her great niece, this is a warm and touching story of how two young lives become intertwined during a very frightening time. Great as a read aloud. I know one fifth grade teacher who reads this book aloud prior to having her students read Jacob's Rescue.
Middle School (5-8)
Milkweed by Newbery Medalist, Jerry Spinelli is a Golden Kite Award Book. I loved it and so did special educator Joe Sullivan who immediately requested a set for his class. Written from the perspective of a very young, Gypsy orphan, living on the streets of Warsaw and trying to survive, when being a Gypsy is as dangerous as being a Jew. This is a fast paced and intriguing fictional story.
Lyn Creegan, fifth grade teacher at LIS handed me a second book which I was unable to put down and able to read in an evening. Six Million Paper Clips The Making of a Children's Holocaust Memorial, by Peter W. Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand. This fantastic recording of real life events begins with a wise principal who understands that the protected students of his white middle class community need to understand tolerance and diversity if they are to successfully navigate the world outside of their community. An introductory lesson on Holocaust Awareness stops short when the children are unable to imagine 6 million anything. Burst from a bubble of brain stormed ideas to conceptualize the magnitude of the number six million, the students at Whitewell Middle School decide to collect paper clips. The story takes the reader on a journey in which a school brings a community and world together in their efforts to honor lives lost in the Holocaust. After building two memorials the students support and encourage continued projects recognizing lives lost in World War II and have paper clips to share. Find out more by reading the book.
Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter is a short novel depicting the life of one Jewish family and how under the power of Hitler’s regime it is destroyed. It brings the reader up close to the horrors a single family endured. I felt angry after reading this book and maybe that is the power of it. It will lead the reader to question much of what transpired during the years of Nazi power.
The Devil in Vienna, by Doris Orgel tells the fictionalized story of two girls, one Jewish and one the daughter of a Nazi and how against the odds they contrive to maintain their friendship. Told via the diary of one of the girls the story starts off a little slow and then gains some momentum as the Jewish family plans their escape from Austria. What I liked most about this book is the way it describes the prewar years and the annexation of Austria. The night of broken glass is briefly alluded to, and the struggle of a family trying to come to terms with what seems most unbelievable is delicately described. The other thing I like is that the story can be found on VHS & DVD as a movie. I was also able to find a study guide.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr - Judith Kerr left Berlin with her family in 1933. Fleeing the Nazis takes them to Switzerland, then France and finally England. The adults loose their jobs and struggle to find work and support their children. The adults and the children have to adjust to new cultures and languages. To the young protagonist the pains of the hardships of her refugee life seem softened by knowing her family can stay together.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen - The sixth grade staff at LIS seem to like this one for their age group. I think it is a little intense and would require much preparation. Told in a sort of Wizard of Oz style, 16 year old Hannah, a typical American teenager, goes back in time to experience some of her family’s history that up until now she had little interest in. Hannah leaves her family’s gathering and winds up in a concentration camp. This novel has also been made into a film with the same name in which Kirsten Dunst star.
Hana’s Suitcase, by Karen Levine, is a true and heartwarming story. In 1998, Fumiko Ishioka is given the job as director of the Tokyo Holocaust Center. It is her responsibility to teach the Japanese children about the Holocaust. She receives support from the Auschwitz Museum in Poland by way of a suitcase, once owned by Hana Brady. There is nothing in the suitcase, but it is labeled in white with Hana’s name, date of birth, and the word Waisenkind, German for orphan. Thus begins the journey of Hana’s Suitcase, from her home in what was once Czechoslovakia, to the Terezin Ghetto, through the gates of Auschwitz and finally to Japan. This is an incredible story and could easily be coupled with the poetry and art book, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.... Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944" Edited by Hana Volavka for some amazing lessons in Language, Art, Poetry, Cultural Diversity and Similarity, Social Studies, and Humanities.... Take your pick. This web site will add to your instructional options.
High and Adult (9 - 12+)
The Nazi Officer’s Wife, How one Woman survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer. Edith Hahn was living in Vienna when the Gestapo forced her into a ghetto and then into a labor camp. With the help of a Christian friend she emerged in Munich with an assumed identity. There she met Werner Better, a Nazi Party member, whom she ultimately married. This story is a remarkable record of survival and is now part of the permanent collection at the USHMM in D.C.
Defiance by Nechama Tec. I learned about Tuvia Bielski just shortly before leaving on the Holocaust Educational Seminar in Europe, July 2004. Tec's fascinating story filled with first person accounts tells his story. Tuvia Bielski and his brothers watched as members of their families disappeared, and then they went into survival mode. I strongly recommend Tec's book "Defiance" if you wish to learn how this man and his brothers, led a small community in the forest and how they conducted rescue and resistance operations. More recently another man, Peter Duffy, has written a book. I offer you a comparative review of two books about the Bielski brothers.
Jack and Rochelle - A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance, by Jack and Rochelle Sutin and Edited by their son Lawrence Sutin is a fine detailed read about life in the Nalibocka Forest among the partisans. I found it to be an excellent companion to the more collegiate, Defiance. It provided a down to earth and personal account of their struggle to survive.
Words To Outlive US - Eye Witness Accounts from the Warsaw Ghetto Edited by Michal Grynberg, is an astounding collection of diaries and memoirs from the time the first bombs were dropped onto the city of Warsaw until there was nothing left. Written in the words of those who experienced it, and in such a way you feel as if you are moving through time, reading it provides a profound experience. A copy of this book can be found in each of the LTPS libraries for your review.
The Shawl, by Cyntia Ozick. "Fierce, concentrated, and brutal, The Shawl burns itself into the reader’s imagination with almost surreal power." - The New York Times. I couldn’t have said it better myself. This book of fiction actually comprises two stories. In the first, we see a mother tragically loose her daughter. The second, takes place thirty years later and we see how that mother has coped with her camp trauma. (Fiction)
Assignment: Rescue An Autobiography by Varian Fry. In August of 1940, American, Varian Fry heads to France to set up a rescue operation that will last for over a year. Knowing not much more then what he has seen in the movies, this editor by profession, describes his efforts to get thousands of hunted men and women out of France to save their lives.
The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal is likely to have much appeal to those who are already reading Night, by Elie Wiesel. Wiesenthal, like Wiesel, is a Nazi concentration camp survivor. While imprisoned, he was summoned to the bedside of a dying Nazi soldier who confessed his own crimes and then asked this Jew for forgiveness. Wiesenthal tells this story and then asks the reader "What would you do?" In response to his question fifty three distinguished men and women give their response, including the Dalai Lama.
On Both Sides of the Wall by Vladka Meed As some of you may know I have a special interest in the Warsaw Ghetto and also in the Resistance. This book is an amazing description of both. Vladka Meed tells her story of life inside the Ghetto, starting with the deportations and life outside of the Ghetto as she slowly finds herself a member of the Jewish Coordinating Committee. This Committee had the primary goal of helping Jews hidden on the Aryan side. Her story is an amazing one of great courage, hope, and of course, loss.
If I Should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan is fiction. Never the less it gives an intimate look into the life of a young women's life in the Lodz Ghetto and then her incarceration in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp in Poland. As the protagonist, Hilary, a New-Nazi initiate, lies in a coma she is transported to Poland at the onset of WWII, into the life of a Jewish teenager. I found this story believable and thought the final message to be key. You will have to read it yourself to receive the message.