In Germany, every school-age child must visit a concentration camp to learn about the horrors that occurred during Hitler’s reign. Through education, the goal is to prevent a repeat of the hatred and fear that led to the killings of over 6 million Jews, as well as many others considered less than human, by the Nazis. Reading both fictional and true accounts of young people who were impacted by the Holocaust provides a similar educational experience. Below are 13 gripping books about the Holocaust for young readers of all ages.
These titles are perfect for reading at any time throughout the year, especially surrounding the International Holocaust Day of Remembrance on January 27 or the US Days of Remembrance which happen in April or early May. They help deepen awareness of the suffering incurred, as well as the courage and resilience expressed, during this tragic period in our world’s history.
Recommended for ages 7–9
The Butterfly by Patrica Pollaco
Set in a small village in Nazi-occupied France, a young girl named Monique believes that she sees a ghost in her room. She realizes that it’s a real girl, Sevrine, who is hiding from the Nazis. Full of beautiful artwork, this picture book by a prolific and beloved author makes this emotional and challenging topic engaging and relatable for younger readers.
Buy it: The Butterfly on Amazon
I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 (#9) by Lauren Tarshis
This bestselling historical fiction story effectively captures the darkness as well as the glimmers of light from this time period. After the Nazis take their father, Max and his sister Zena become stranded in a Jewish ghetto. This is a heart-pounding tale of survival and resilience.
Buy it: I Survived the Nazi Invasion on Amazon
Lisa of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Music and Survival During World War II by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
Lisa is a young musical prodigy living in Vienna before the start of World War II. As Austria becomes unsafe for Jewish families like hers, her parents make the difficult decision to use their only safe passage ticket to send her to London. Leaving behind her siblings and parents is only bearable because she is able to share her music with the other refugees. This story offers an important perspective on the impact of the Holocaust on those who escaped and shows the power of music to uplift the world.
Buy it: Lisa of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Music and Survival During World War II on Amazon
Maurice and His Dictionary by Cary Fagan and Enzo Lord Mariano
This graphic novel weaves humor and sadness together to share the story of Maurice and his family as they flee from Belgium through multiple European countries, eventually landing as refugees in an internment camp in Jamaica. Maurice keeps his beloved dictionary close to him as he strives to continue his education no matter where he lives. A tribute to the spirit of resilience and determination expressed by those forced to create new lives in new countries due to the terror of the Nazis.
Buy it: Maurice and His Dictionary on Amazon
Recommended for ages 9–13
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, and Greg Salsedo
One night when Elsa and her grandmother Dounia can’t sleep, Dounia shares her experiences as a young Jewish girl living in Paris during the Nazi regime. Neighbors and friends hide her after Nazis send her parents to a concentration camp. Horrific historical events are softened through beautiful illustrations and a gentle, touching writing style in this critically acclaimed graphic novel.
Buy it: Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust on Amazon
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The power of the Danish Resistance to stand up against the darkness of the Nazis is highlighted in this Newbery Award-winning classic. The family of 10-year-old Annemarie offers to care for her Jewish best friend, Ellen Rosen, to keep her from being taken by Hitler’s soldiers. But can they truly protect her? This captivating, suspenseful story shows the trials and trials experienced by young people during this time.
Buy it: Number the Stars on Amazon
Project 1065 by Alan Gratz
In this story, the character Michael O’Shaunessey, the son of the Irish ambassador to Germany, tells the story from his point of view. Like all German youth, the Hitler Youth movement forces him to join them. But he has a secret: he is a spy for the Allies. He risks everything in the hopes of the Nazis not discovering him before completing his mission. This riveting story offers a unique perspective into the horrific actions that Nazis brainwashed young people in Germany to commit under the guise of loyalty.
Buy it: Project 1065 on Amazon
Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen
Chaya, a Jewish teenager living in Poland, loses her siblings to the Nazis. As a result, she wants to make a difference in the fight against the enemy soldiers. She serves as a courier delivering messages between Jews and then joins a resistance cell. She finds herself immersed in the dangerous battles of the Warsaw Ghetto. This is an intense and spellbinding historical fiction book about the Holocaust that shows the power of courage and perseverance, no matter what your age.
Buy it: Resistance on Amazon
Recommended for ages 13 and up
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
First published in 1947, this memoir is one of the most well-known books about the Holocaust. It helps readers understand the horrors of the Holocaust through the lens of a young Jewish girl living in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. This compilation of Anne’s real diary entries from ages 13 to 15 chronicles both her experiences and emotions while hiding in the Secret Annex with her family for two years before the Nazis discovered them. Her memoir captures moments filled with fear. In addition, Anne reflects on the touching and even humorous times of a traumatic situation and the more relatable ups and downs of adolescence.
Buy it: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition on Amazon
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Death itself narrates this timeless classic. A mother gives her young Jewish daughter, Liesel, to a poor German family in an attempt to save her life during World War II. Liesel steals books that Nazi supporters plan to burn. Despite the trauma of her current life, the books become a source of hope for her and those she shares with. A beautifully crafted and emotionally gripping fictional story layered with accurate, historical details, this exemplifies some of the best books about the Holocaust.
Buy it: The Book Thief on Amazon
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
This setting of this narrative nonfiction book is 15 years after the end of World War II. It shares the true story of a group of Israeli spies who captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the most notorious Nazis, who fled to Argentina to escape punishment after the war. This young reader adaptation humanizes the characters and provides a pulse-pounding, unforgettable story about a lesser-known perpetrator of the Holocaust.
Buy it: The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi on Amazon
Night by Elie Wiesel
Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel shares his first-hand account of living in the Nazi death camps as a teenager. His retelling of the horrific experiences he endured is eye-opening. It also shows the depth of emotions, from guilt and shame to gratitude and joy felt by survivors like him. This is one of the most powerful books about the Holocaust and is part of many high school curricula. This is a must-read for any young adult or grown-up as one of the best books about the Holocaust.
Buy it: Night on Amazon
This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke
This is one of the books about the Holocaust that provides a glimpse into the aftermath in Eastern Europe. Csilla is a Hungarian Jew living in Budapest in 1956. Her country was torn apart by the war, by Stalin, by the Soviets, as well as its own people. Yet she loves her city. However, her past is complicated. Her beloved father was persecuted for sins he didn’t commit as a Jew. Then he was exonerated despite the sins he committed as a Communist Party leader. Elements of Jewish mysticism and other fantastical religious figures are woven into this gripping story about rebellion, cultural identity, and life’s purpose.
Buy it: This Rebel Heart on Amazon