Students should be exposed to survivor/victim narratives with slightly more complex themes and content. Students should be asked to truly analyze the literature of survivors and nonfiction writers as well as engage with films that are nuanced in their explanation of specific Holocaust events.

 

Books:

 

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson: At just 13 years old, Livia Bitton-Jackson, was forced into a life of persecution and horror as the Nazis invaded Hungary. This novel portrays the real life horror that one girl endures from her persecution at school to surviving Auschwitz.

Journal 1935-1944: The Fascist Years by Mihail Sebastian: Romanian Jewish writer, Mihail Sebastian, writes about Romanian society and antisemitism within the country and its people. Published in association with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, this book details life both before and during WWII through music, diaries, and friendships.

Love, Survival, and The American Dream by Gusta and Solomon Berger: Written by two Holocaust survivors, this book follows the love story they share and their survival despite the horrors of the Holocaust. It chronicles their relationship, their impossible survival, and later on their future after the Holocaust.

Night by Elie Wiesel: Wiesel’s autobiographical novel recounts his time in Auschwitz as well as his philosophical and moral questionings of the horrors he bore witness to there. The novel traces through daily life in the camp, the particular horrors Wiesel endured, as well as his own analysis of his actions and those of others in the camps.

On Both Sides of the Wall by Vladka Meed: Meed’s autobiography tells her tale of heroism in Warsaw Poland as she worked as a member of the Resistance. She was able to smuggle weapons, food, and money into the ghetto, and smuggle out children and babies. As a key member of the Resistance, she acted as a courier of items and information, for many both inside and outside of the ghetto.

Righteous Gentile: The Story of Raoul Wallenberg by John Bierman: This biography tells the story of Raoul Wallenberg, and his heroism in saving nearly 100,000 Hungarian Jews through issuing them protective papers. Authorized by the Swedish government, Wallenberg established safe houses for these Jews and granted them protection through issuing them certificates of protection. This novel tells his heroic tale in great detail, and allows readers to not only bear witness to his extreme heroism, but also his extreme sacrifice.

Run Boy Run (Film)/Book by Uri Orlev: This novel, later adapted into a film, follows Srulik Frydman as he runs to the Polish countryside during the Holocaust in the hopes of disguising himself as a Christian and finding someone to take him in. The story follows the lone orphan as he hides out in the wilderness during the cold winter and finds refuge in kind Christian homes.

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi: This classic and highly regarded personal narrative details the author, Primo Levi’s, life in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. A member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance, Levi was caught and sent to Auschwitz where he bore witness to the atrocities committed against the Jews, political prisoners, and countless others in the camp. His descriptive and simplistic style allows readers to understand his experiences and grapple with the immorality within the camps in a unique way. Levi often questions the lack of humanity within the camps and details the weight the atrocities had on himself and other victims.

The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart: This novel follows the fictional centuries old Levy Family. In each generation of the family there is one Levy chosen to bear the suffering of the Jews on himself. The novel starts in 1185 during a medieval pogrom and then follows subsequent generations of Levy men, or the Just Men, through Jewish persecution throughout the centuries. Ernie Levy, the titular character of the novel, bears the suffering of his people during Hitler’s rise and the Holocaust. This novel not only goes through centuries of injustice experienced by the Jewish community in Europe, but also focuses on the particular atrocity of the Holocaust, as Ernie Levy experiences it in the camps.

The Tenth Man by Ida Fink: Fink’s story explores the reactions and sentiments of Holocaust survivors upon their liberation and return to their homes. Through the voices of a number of survivors, Fink establishes a variety of emotional reactions of the returning survivors in a manner which allows readers to explore the implications of survival and readjustment after witnessing an unspeakable horror.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski: This novel follows life inside German concentration camps through multiple short stories sharing a common narrator. Tadeusz Borowski, a political prisoner sent to Auschwitz and Dachau, relies on many of his own experiences throughout the novel. Using his signature simplistic language and direct descriptions, Borowski is able to convey the horrors of camp life and complicity within the camps to his readers.

Two Rings: A Story of Love and War by Millie Werber and Eve Keller: This novel follows the life of Millie Werber as she navigates her early life in a Polish ghetto, a slave labor armaments factory, and later Auschwitz. The novel also recounts Millie’s first greatest love during the most horrific time in her life. This novel is a beautiful narrative about survival, love, and hope despite the most gruesome circumstances.

 

Films:

 

Life is Beautiful (Film): A 1997 Italian comedy-drama about the Holocaust, directed by Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful, is both unconventional and a classic. The story follows Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian shop owner, who uses his quick wit to protect his son using the power of imagination within a Nazi concentration camp. The film brings an unexpected poignancy to the subject matter of the Holocaust, and is able to convey the horrors of the event by employing wit and dark humor.

Run Boy Run (Film)/Book by Uri Orlev: This novel, later adapted into a film, follows Srulik Frydman as he runs to the Polish countryside during the Holocaust in the hopes of disguising himself as a Christian and finding someone to take him in. The story follows the lone orphan as he hides out in the wilderness during the cold winter and finds refuge in kind Christian homes.

Schindler’s List (Film): One of the most acclaimed films of all time, Steven Spielberg’s historical period drama details the life of Oskar Schindler, a German business man who saves thousands of Polish Jews from concentration camps by employing them at his factories. Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, is able to save countless lives after realizing the cruel and atrocious methods the inhumane Nazis use in rounding up and killing Jews. This critically acclaimed film shows the inhumanity of the Nazis while also showing one man’s transformation into a hero.

Shoah (Film): Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 documentary about the Holocaust is one of the most acclaimed films in contemporary history. The documentary is over nine hours long, and features victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of the Holocaust over the course of 11 years of filming interviews. From camp barbers to those who drove transport trains, Shoah captures almost every aspect of the Holocaust through eyewitness interviews.

Swimming in Auschwitz (Film): This documentary follows 6 Jewish women imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau as they navigated life in the camp and started a spiritual resistance to the horrors they saw on a daily basis. Told through a purely female perspective, this film is unique in its tone and narrative.

The Pianist (Film): Directed by Roman Polanski, this 2002 biographical film tells the story of Władysław Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist and composer in Poland. Szpilman lives in a Jewish Ghetto instead of being sent to Treblinka due to a friend’s quick thinking. He is able to help the Polish resistance by smuggling weapons in hopes of a coming revolt. He is then able to escape the ghetto and hide with help from a non-Jewish couple. After the Warsaw uprising, Szpilman is forced to hideout in an abandoned house where a German officer comes to his aid. This film portrays the horrors of ghetto life as well as the tedious survival of a gifted man who survives due to heroic non-Jews and music.

Voices of Holocaust History Films: This series of films follows different survivors in each film as they recount their story of survival. From hiding in attics to concealing their Jewish identities, there are many variations of survivors’ tales that allow for in classroom discussion and reflection.