The Holocaust is a difficult but necessary subject to learn and teach. Here is a detailed list of 50+ books about the Holocaust for middle school, including a mix of fiction and nonfiction.
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Holocaust Books – Fiction
My top favorites are marked with an asterisk *. All of the following books are written with children/young adults in mind and are free of heavy adult content. There is no sexual content or profanity and violence is present and accurate, but not overly graphic unless otherwise noted.
I do not recommend The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as Holocaust literature. I explain the reasons why more in detail here.
Daniel’s Story by Carol Matas*
Part Elie Wiesel (Night) and part Anne Frank, this is one of my favorite Holocaust fiction books. Although it has obvious historical violence, this is a fantastic story of a teenager’s journey through two concentration camps, the infamous Auschwitz Birkenau and Buchenwald.
Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura Williams
Young Hitler Youth member Korinna discovers her parents are hiding Jews in her bedroom wall! During a time when Hitler Youth children are required to report any “suspicious” activity to their Hitler Youth leaders, Korinna must decide what she will do.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry*
Number the Stars is a classic story about a Danish girl, her family, and her Jewish friend she helps save. It was written for elementary students but is a great introduction to the Holocaust. It is also a Newbery winner. Grab the novel study here.
The Island on Bird Street by Uri Orlev
In this semi-autobiographical novel, a Jewish boy must survive on his own in the Warsaw Ghetto, waiting for his father to return. I really enjoyed the book and the under-rated movie, which I’d recommend to students ages 12+.
In My Enemy’s House by Carol Matas
Although Marisa is Jewish, her blond hair and blue eyes allow her to pass as Aryan. To save her life, Marisa ends up working in a Nazi family’s household. It has great characters, a great plot, and is easy to follow.
13-year-old Michael is the son of the Irish ambassador in Germany. To gain access to top-secret blueprints, he joins the Hitler Youth as a spy. This book is action-packed and fast-paced (to a point the ending is 100% unrealistic). Still, I’d recommend it. It gives a great background on the Hitler Youth and brings up a great morality and ethics discussion. Grab the book study here.
Escape From Warsaw by Ian Serraillier*
Originally titled The Silver Sword, this was one of the first Holocaust books I read and remains one of my favorites. Partially based on a true story, it tells the adventure-filled tale of three Polish siblings who are separated from their parents. The three siblings’ mission is to get to free and neutral Switzerland.
Felix is a Jewish boy living in Germany in 1942, living in a Catholic orphanage. He is oblivious to the war around him, which turns dangerous when he goes out to warn his parents when he believes they are in danger. This is the first in a quartet. This is a popular book for middle schoolers, but I felt it wasn’t as good as many others I’ve read. It also showed the horrors more than others on this list.
The Book Thief by Markuz Zusak
Narrated by death, this story follows eleven-year-old Liesel, a young foster girl living in Munich, Germany. As a self-proclaimed “book thief,” Liesel uses books to bond with neighbors during bombing raids and the Jewish man hiding in her basement. This bestseller was also turned into a movie and is recommended for high school students especially.
Holocaust Books – Non-Fiction
The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson*
This memoir is written by one of the youngest Jews on Schindler’s List. 10-year-old Leon Leyson, both of his parents, and two of his siblings survived the war. This is one memoir I keep coming back to, and one I would highly recommend! You can read my full review here.
Beyond Courage by Doreen Rappaport*
A common myth is Jews did very little to resist the Nazis and went like sheep to the slaughter. Rappaport includes many little-known stories about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. She covers several acts of Jewish resistance including escapes, the Sondorkommando uprising, the Jewish partisans, and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. This book is included in my Holocaust Unit Study for grades 6-8, Tell Them We Remember.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
This classic, bestselling memoir has been read by millions across the globe. Anne Frank is a young girl who wrote this memoir while hiding from the Nazis.
This may be a bit too young for this age group, but Survivors a fantastic little book with 9 children survivor’s stories. Their stories are each different and unique, ranging from life in hiding to a few who survived the concentration camps.
My Survival: A Girl on Schindler’s List by Joshua Greene and Rena Finder
Rena Finder was only eleven-years-old when she and her family were forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. Rena and her mother were saved by working for a man named Oskar Schindler, a Nazi who rescued over one thousand Jews by employing them in his factory. This wasn’t as engrossing as some of the others on the list in my personal opinion, but it’s still a good readm. The horrors of the Holocaust are explained but subdued. Grab the book guide at my store or Teachers Pay Teachers.
Four Perfect Pebbles by Lila Perl
For six years, Lila and her family moved across a variety of refugee, transit, and prison camps, before finally emigrating to America after the war. The story isn’t as detailed or graphic as some books.
Corrie ten Boom (Christian Heroes Series) by Janet Benge
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who hid several Jews in her home, called The Hiding Place. She and her sister were ultimately arrested and taken to a concentration camp. Despite their struggles, Corrie and her sister remained faithful in this inspiring story. Students may also enjoy The Hiding Place, which is appropriate for this age range.
I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson*
This is one of my favorite Holocaust memoirs, mostly because I related a lot to Livia’s pre-war life. This made the story a lot more real. Thirteen-year-old Elli’s life changes forever when the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944. We see Elli’s sense of normalcy begin to unravel as Jews are stripped away from their rights. Through hope, Elli survives the horrors of Auschwitz. There are also two follow-up stories, but I haven’t read them yet.
Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren
This amazing story is about 12-year-old Jack Mandelbaum’s journey and survival through a concentration camp. It is a short read and a touching story with many lessons for today.
Things We Couldn’t Say by Diet Eman*
Although very similar to The Hiding Place, I enjoyed Diet’s memoir much better. Diet (pronounced deet) Eman was a young Dutch woman during WWII, and actively fought in the Resistance. Despite being arrested and taken to a concentration camp, Diet Eman’s faith led her through. This is the only adult book I have on here, however it has Christian themes and no profanity or sexual content and is appropriate for middle school students.
Surviving the Angel of Death by Eva Kor
When only a little girl, Eva Kor faced the Angel of Death – Josef Mengele. Mengele was a Nazi scientist obsessed with twinning, as he wanted to create a perfect blond-haired blue-eyed race. Kor and her twin Miriam miraculously survived. Despite harboring many years of hatred, Kor later went back and forgave the Nazis.
Hiding to Survive by Maxine Rosenberg
This is a collection of biographies of hidden children during the Holocaust that I quite enjoyed. 99% of France’s Jewish children survived the Holocaust, mostly due to the brave men and women who cared for them.
Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti*
Hitler Youth is an absolute must-read. I believe every child should learn about the Hitler Youth. This informational book is a great way to start, as it introduces readers to the roots of Nazi Germany, Hitler Youth, and this effective brainwashing. I also enjoyed how Bartoletti also included some stories of teenagers who resisted Hitler. This was a Newbery Honor book. Grab the book study here.
This book is included in my Holocaust Unit Study for grades 6-8, Tell Them We Remember.
I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman
This young adult memoir is written by one of “Schindler’s Jews,” Hannelore. There’s a tear-jerking love story in the midst and shows how love can prevail in the midst of dark times.
Irena’s Children by Mary Cronk Farrell
Catholic social worker Irena Sendler smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She and all of the children survived. Here is her incredible story. There is an adult and a young adult version. There’s also a Hallmark Hall of Fame film about Irena.
We Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman
Freedman offers an in-depth look at the White Rose, a German resistance group led by college students. The story of the White Rose is powerful since the group was counter-cultural and ultimately sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. The story shows how even teenagers are not too young to make a difference.
Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayers*
Parallel Journeys follows two journeys during the Holocaust; a female Jewish Holocaust survivor, Helen, and a male Hitler Youth, Alfons Heck. They were born miles away from each other but had drastically different experiences during the war. I loved this dual perspective. After the war, Helen and Alfons traveled together to tell their story in schools.
The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
After WWII, the world wanted the most notorious Nazi criminals caught, tried, and executed. This thrilling story tells the true story of spies and survivors who hunted Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust. This story was turned into a movie, Operation Finale.
I Never Saw Another Butterfly by Hana Volavkova
This haunting collection of artwork and poetry was created by the children in the Terezin concentration camp. 15,000 children passed through Terezin, but fewer than 100 survived. Their stories live on through the pages of this book.
The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal
Often used in college history or philosophy classes, the actual story of the Sunflower is only about 100 pages long. The second half of the book is commentary on the book from notable individuals including scholars, genocide survivors, and more. This story explores the limits of forgiveness and makes excellent discussion.
Perhaps the most famous Holocaust memoir, 15-year-old Elie Wiesel describes his experience in Auschwitz and Buchenwald in this haunting memoir. Despite its short length, it is gut-wrenching and brutal at times. I would recommend it for ages 15+.
A memoir about the author’s escape out of scarred Europe after the war to a new life in Brooklyn, New York. When the war ended, Ruth and her family were thrilled to come out of hiding, ready to live lives in the open once more. But waiting for the proper paperwork to go through took forever, and when they finally reached America, land of promise, it seemed like the opposite. Navigating a new language, school, and country while dealing with painful memories tested Ruth’s will. Her story of perseverance is one that will inspire and amaze.
Grab the book study here.
Based on a True Story
This based-on-a-true-story tells the tale of an 8-year-old Jewish orphan who lives in the forest and in Polish farms hiding from the Nazis, loses his arm, and survives the war. The only downside of this amazing novel was the profanity and some sexual content, which I think was a little too much for the target range. Other than that, fantastic, thrilling story. The movie is available on Netflix and is great for middle school students.
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Based on the true story of Helmuth Hubener, The Boy Who Dared is written in flashback. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing style, but it tells the inspiring story of three brave teenagers who spoke out against Hitler by writing illegal anti-Nazi pamphlets.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
Inspired by the author’s life, a nine-year-old girl and her family must flee to Switzerland in pre-WWII. It offers an introduction to why they were forced to move and shows their struggles adapting to a new land.
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz*
In this true story, we follow along the journey of a teenager who survives ten different concentration camps and two death marches. It’s a gripping, amazing story that will leave your heart aching during several parts. Jack had a sense of humanity that I found incredible, which really sets this apart from other Holocaust stories. This book is included in my Holocaust Unit Study for grades 6-8, Tell Them We Remember.
If you have students interested in the Holocaust, they may be interested in the Tell Them We Remember Unit Study, a comprehensive, eight-week unit study about the Holocaust.
A few more:
- Alicia by Alicia Appleman
- Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys (This focuses more on Stalin’s labor camps but was very well written. It is a young adult novel best for high school students.)
- The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
- Shadows in His Hand by Wendy Lawton
- The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
- Waldek by Blanca Miosi
I would highly recommend you read the novel “Alicia: My Story” by Alicia Appleman-Jurman, the true story of a young Polish girl’s life both during the Holocaust and after the war.
Thank you, Rebecca! It’s on my to-read list, but it keeps getting shoved to the bottom! I’ll have to make it a top priority! 🙂
I highly recommend Hana’s Suitcase. I have used it in literature circles with my grade 6’s, it is an amazing inspirational story of hope with a great movie/doco and web resources.
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The movie “Le Rafle” deals with the deportation of Jewish families from the 11th arrondissement in August of 1942. It is harrowing and haunting but well worth the time spent watching.
The book “Beach Music” a work of fiction by Pat Conroy, deals with holocaust experiences in the latter portion of the novel. Superb.
Thank you! I will have to look into those.
I have to add The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Powerful true story of a Christian family in Holland hiding Jews in their home, then trying to survive in concentration camps. My favorite book other than the bible.
THANK YOU X 1,000 for this WWII post! I’m doing WWII for this school year and do not use textbooks either. I just checked with my local library and all but two of your recommendations can be checked out through an inner library system.
Yay Kristen! I hope you enjoy them!!
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This is really helpful for us teens thank you for your hard work Samantha
Facing the Lion by Simone Leibster