This Saturday, January 27, will mark the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Russian army. As a result, this date has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as “International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” a day to honor the memory of the millions of Jewish people and members of other minorities who were killed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. Here are some fiction and nonfiction books published in the past year that commemorate the lives of those who were lost, and that explore the horrors of the Holocaust in the hopes of preventing additional acts of genocide in the future.
(Descriptions provided by the publishers)
This gripping account of the highest-ranked woman in the Third Reich who, as Head Overseer of the women’s camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, was personally responsible for the murder, torture and suffering of countless prisoners, explores how she became to embody the very worst of humanity.
The Porcelain Maker by Sarah Freethy
An epic story of love, betrayal, and art that spans decades, through the horrors of World War II to 21st century America, inspired by an actual porcelain factory in Dachau. Two lovers caught at the crossroads of history. A daughter’s search for the truth. Germany, 1929. At a festive gathering of young bohemians in Weimar, two young artists, Max, a skilled Jewish architect, and Bettina, a celebrated avant-garde painter, are drawn to each other and begin a whirlwind romance. Their respective talents transport them to the dazzling lights of Berlin, but this bright beginning is quickly dimmed by the rising threat of Nazism. Max is arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau where only his talent at making exquisite porcelain figures stands between him and seemingly certain death. Desperate to save her lover, Bettina risks everything to rescue him and escape Germany. America, 1993. Clara, Bettina’s daughter, embarks on a journey to trace her roots and determine the identity of her father, a secret her mother has kept from her for reasons she’s never understood. Clara’s quest to piece together the puzzle of her origins transports us back in time to the darkness of Nazi Germany, where life is lived on a razor’s edge and deception and death lurk around every corner. Survival depends on strength, loyalty, and knowing true friend from hidden foe. And as Clara digs further, she begins to question why her mother was so determined to leave the truth of her harrowing past behind…
Drawing on oral history and testimony, as well as extensive archival research, this powerful story recounts the transformation of Polish nationalist Aleksander Kulisiewicz after an unlikely friendship with a Jewish conductor in Sachsenhausen who tasked him with a mission: to save the musical heritage of the victims of the Nazi camps.
A riveting historical investigation and family memoir that intertwines the iconic narrative of Anne Frank with the untold story of Bep Voskuijl, her protector and closest confidante in the Annex, bringing us closer to understanding one of the great secrets of World War II. Anne Frank’s life has been studied by many scholars, but the story of Bep Voskuijl has remained untold, until now. As the youngest of the five Dutch people who hid the Frank family, Bep was Anne’s closest confidante during the 761 excruciating days she spent hidden in the Secret Annex. Bep, who was just twenty-three when the Franks went into hiding, risked her life to protect them, plunging into Amsterdam’s black market to source food and medicine for people who officially didn’t exist under the noses of German soldiers and Dutch spies. In those cramped quarters, Bep and Anne’s friendship bloomed through deep conversations, shared meals, and a youthful understanding. Told by her own son, The Last Secret of the Secret Annex intertwines the story of Bep and her sister Nelly with Anne’s iconic narrative.
The Little Liar by Mitch Albom
Eleven-year-old Nico Crispi never told a lie. When the Nazis invade his home in Salonika, Greece, the trustworthy boy is discovered by a German officer, who offers him a chance to save his family. All Nico has to do is convince his fellow Jewish residents to board trains heading towards “the east” where they are promised jobs and safety. Unaware that this is all a cruel ruse, the innocent boy goes to the station platform every day and reassures the passengers that the journey is safe. But when the final train is at the station, Nico sees his family being loaded into a large boxcar crowded with other neighbors. Only after it is too late does Nico discover that he helped send the people he loved–and all the others–to their doom at Auschwitz. Nico never tells the truth again.
The Postcard by Anne Berest
January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest’s maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques–all killed at Auschwitz. Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family: their flight from Russia following the revolution, their journey to Latvia, Palestine, and Paris. What emerges is a moving saga of a family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling that shatters long-held certainties about Anne’s family, her country, and herself.
Roger Moorhouse unfolds this never-before-told history Holocaust resistance, illuminating the remarkable story of Polish diplomats, Jewish activists, Japanese bureaucrats, and ordinary people the world over who systematically forged as many as 10,000 passports and saved hundreds, potentially thousands, of Jewish lives. Drawing upon first-hand accounts and survivor testimony with new research and revelations about the Lados Group, Moorhouse unspools the lives, work, and valor of Aleksander Lados, Stefan Ryniewicz, Konstanty Rokicki, Juliusz Kuhl, Chaim Eiss, Abraham Silberschein, six members of the Polish government-in-exile who seized an opportunity to do good in the face of a world at war.
—Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions