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13 books to read this Holocaust Memorial Day

Sophie's Choice by William Styron. Picture: Vintage Classics

Sophie's Choice by William Styron. Picture: Vintage Classics

Vintage Classics

This year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27) is ‘the power of words’. To commemorate this important and poignant day, here’s 13 books concerning the Holocaust to add to your reading list.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Picture:  DefinitionsThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Picture: Definitions

• Touching Evil (1969) - Norman Rosen

Rosen’s novel centres around the televised Eichmann trial. A pregnant woman watches the trial and merges into the lives of the Holocaust victims. When the birth happens, the images of the labour room/concentration camp merge into one.

• Schindler’s Ark (1982) - Thomas Keneally

Perhaps the most famous Holocaust novel since it was adapted into Schindler’s List in 1992. The fact that the story describes actual people and places makes the novel even more compelling.

A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy by Thomas Buergenthal. Picture: Profile BooksA Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy by Thomas Buergenthal. Picture: Profile Books

• Enemies, A Love Story (1972) - Issac Bashevis Singer

A romantic drama which tells the tale of Herman Broder. Although Broder isn’t a Holocaust survivor, his life is governed by the women around him who survived the horrors of the camps.

• The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006) - John Boyne

This heart-wrenching story is told through the eyes of nine-year-old Bruno, the son of a Nazi officer. His childish curiosity leads him to befriend Shmuel - a young camp inmate.

• Sophie’s Choice (1979) - William Styron

Styron’s novel coined the phrase we still use today. Sophie’s Choice is a beautiful book on how one mother’s impossible decision impacted her future and her attitude towards life itself.

• The Book Thief (2005) - Markus Zusak

This book fits perfectly with this year’s theme, for in The Book Thief, Liesel is taught to read by a Jewish man her foster parents are hiding. She then begins to steal books the Nazi party are looking to destroy.

• The Shawl (1980) - Cynthia Ozick

This short story was first published in The New Yorker but soon became an acclaimed piece of writing. Rosa attempts to conceal her baby, Magda, in the camp by wrapping her in a shawl. Madga is tragically killed when her sister, Stella, steals the shawl to warm herself.

• Maus (1992) - Art Spiegelman

A graphic novel that has the ability to completely consume the reader. We jump between past and present as a son records his father recounting his journey through occupied Europe. The power of memory is vital here.

• The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) - Michael Chabon

A complex tale of persecution, secrets, relationships and guilt, spanning an entire lifetime. Two young boys navigate the super-hero mania which swept the nation and together create their own hero - The Escapist.

• Everything is Illuminated (2002) - Jonathan Safran Foer

Two fascinating narratives are told in this novel, both taking very different tones. In one we are taken through the entire history of Trochenbrod, a Jewish shtetl in Poland where Foer’s mother was born. In the other, Foer goes to Ukraine in search of more information about the woman who saved his Grandfather’s life during the Holocaust.

• A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy (2007) - Thomas Buergenthal

A memoir that chronicles the author’s life in Czechoslovakia and his escape from a concentration camp. He eventually arrived in New York in 1951 and dedicated his life to international law following his childhood experiences.

• Night (1960) - Elie Wiesel

Perhaps the most well-known memoir concerning the Holocaust, and certainly the one which kick-started others to write of their experiences. Wiesel spent time in both the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.

• Ordinary Men: Reserve Battalion 11 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992) - Christopher Browning

Many people have often wondered how ‘ordinary men’ were able to carry out the atrocities of the Holocaust. Here, Browning explores just that by discussing one Polish battalion and their actions during the Final Solution. A fascinating account that makes you re-think what you thought you knew.

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