Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis by Susan Hood with Greg Dawson is a novel about the Holocaust told in verse and organized into seven parts. The story rings with Zhanna’s love for her Ukrainian homeland, sorrow for her lost family, and fury for both Stalin and the Nazis. The story opens with the insatiable curiosity of Zhanna Arshanskaya, a born explorer. Until 1935, Zhanna and her sister, Frina, live a candy-coated life in Berdyansk, Ukraine, nestled near the Sea of Azov. When Stalin begins to devour their country and imposes “death by hunger,” the family is forced to seek refuge inRead More →

In his newest book, A Rebel in Auschwitz, Jack Fairweather tells the true story of a resistance hero who fought the Nazis from inside the tortuous prison camp.  The book opens with an introduction to Witold Pilecki, a young Polish underground operative. Once readers have a sense of this man’s values, we read about Hitler’s goal to obliterate the Polish people as well as their nation—“to drown the people in blood” (12). Feeling it is imperative to face down evil, Witold accepts a mission to infiltrate Auschwitz so that he can pass on any intelligence to the resistance group and rally the power of theRead More →

Not just another Holocaust survivor’s story, Bluebird by Sharon Cameron is both fascinating and horrifying.  It prompts readers to consider along with Cameron’s protagonist: “Is this the world? Where nothing is fair? Where it is impossible not to cry? Where wars are not glorious or noble, just dirty and blood-soaked” (94)? It also prompts us to ask: Is it always better to know the past and the things that have happened? Cameron’s protagonist decides, “If you don’t know, then you can’t understand what justice is” (105). After experiencing the atrocities in Berlin during Hitler’s reign, Inge von Emmerich concludes that she has survived for aRead More →

Deborah Hopkinson’s nonfiction book We Must Not Forget joins other powerful stories of survival and resistance during the era when an act of defiance carried a risk and a price. Hopkinson tells the stories of lesser known Jewish children and teens whose courage and strength enabled them to survive the Holocaust. To give the dead a voice and to call the world to action, Hopkinson provides key dates, people’s harrowing stories, and photographs to illustrate their lives. Most chapters also end with grey shadow boxes that share Look, Listen, Remember resources and information for further exploration. Furthermore, like most nonfiction books, We Must Not ForgetRead More →

Told in 33 chapters by seven voices, Linked by Gordon Korman shares the story of a swastika that sets in motion a series of unintended consequences.  Because the administration at Chokecherry Middle School believes that information is the best antidote to the poison of prejudice, the 600 students who attend are subjected to tolerance education. Still, the swastikas continue to show up. What initially seemed to be a sick joke turns into something more sinister. The persistence dredges up 40-year-old memories of the Ku Klux Klan in Shadbush County and the Night of a Thousand Flames.  Soon, the quiet town of Chokecherry, Colorado, is madeRead More →

With her recent autobiographical account in Out of Hiding: A Holocaust’s Survivor’s Journey to America, Ruth Gruener (aka Luncia Gamzer) tells her story of survival. Her memoir joins those stories told by other survivors of this unimaginable time in history. This was a time when anxiety turned to cold, raw fear as the Nazis burned synagogues and committed murder without regard for the sanctity of human life—a time when choice was taken, freedom was scarce, and normal took on an entirely different definition. Gruener tells of her feeling like a nonperson, “a body that took up space” (27). She describes hunger, loneliness, hiding, and aRead More →

The fourteen true stories of survival in Hidden Like Anne Frank are emotionally charged and moving.  Editors Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis have collected incredible accounts of what it means to live in hiding, when a ticking clock can remind a survivor of the darkest days of his life. Storytellers not only reveal what it means to be Jewish, but what it means to be a survivor.  They tell of the “years of tears” and the difficulty of loss—the loss of possessions, loved ones, family bonds of affection, and one’s very identity.  At a time when people were persecuted for even looking Jewish, manyRead More →