• Holocaust Picture Books

    The following picture books are recommended for teaching various aspects of the Holocaust. Because each book approaches the Holocaust in a different way educators should consider the maturity level of their students when selecting a piece of Holocaust literature.

    The books are labeled as (F) for fiction, (NF) for non-fiction, and (BF) for based on fact.

    The Number on My Grandfathers Arm by David A. Adler with family photographs by Rose Eichenbaum. Copyright, 1987. UAHC Press: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This book, illustrated with actual photographs, is about a 7 year old girl who learns about her grandfathers experience during the Holocaust. She notices the numbers tattooed on his arm and begins to ask her grandfather questions. He tells her about the rise of Adolf Hitler and the effects on the Jewish people. The grandfather discusses the Auschwitz concentration camp with her.

    Child of the Warsaw Ghetto by David A. Adler; illustrated by Karen Ritz. Copyright, 1995. Holiday House: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This is a biography of Erwin(Froim)Baum. It is told through the eyes of a young Jewish boy, who had been placed in Janus Korczaks orphanage after the death of his father. The entire orphanage, along with Korczak, was forced by the Nazis to live in the Warsaw ghetto in 1940. A detailed account of the Warsaw ghetto uprising is described. Froim is sent to several death camps, but was fortunate to survive by being liberated by U.S. soldiers at Dachau.

    Best Friends by Elisabeth Reuter. Copyright, 1993. Yellow Brick Press: Germany.

    Brief Synopsis: (BF)

    This book was first published in German under the title: Judith and Lisa in 1988. It is the story of the changes in the relationship of two very close girlfriends, one Jewish and one not, living in Nazi Germany. The story shows the propaganda that infiltrated the schools and the impact on the children. Kristallnacht, "night of the broken glass" is also described.

    The Feather-Bed Journey by Paula Kurzband Feder; illustrated by Stacey Schuett. Copyright, 1995. Albert Whitman & Co.: Illinois.

    Brief synopsis: (Bf)

    This story is that of a Jewish girl and her family in Poland during World War II. It is a composite of the stories that were told to the author as a child. Through this tale, two grandchildren, Rachel and Lewis learn the significance of the "Feather-bed pillow" from their grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. The book introduces children to both Jews and Gentiles that risked their lives to help the Jews who were in danger. The concept of the Displaced Persons Camp is also introduced in this story.

    Rose Blanche by Roberto Innocenti. Copyright, 1985. Creative Education, Inc.: Minnesota.

    Brief Synopsis: (F)

    This story is told through the eyes of a young German girl, Rose Blanche, who is a witness to the immense changes occurring in Nazi Germany. Her curiosity leads her outside her town where she discovers a concentration camp. Rose Blanche secretly brings food to the children behind the barbed-wire fence. The author implies that Rose Blanche is killed by crossfire as the Russian soldiers advance into Germany. The ending of the book is symbolic as spring arrives in the deserted camp. The title of this book is significant because its translation is "White Rose", which was an underground resistance group of young Germans who dared to speak up for freedom.

    Let the Celebrations Begin! by Margaret Wild; illustrated by Julie Vivas. Copyright, 1991. Orchard Books: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (F)

    This book is about a young girl, Miriam, and other women in the Belsen concentration camp preparing for a childs party to be held after liberation. It is really a story about hope and the power that human spirit plays in survival. The women make toys out of scraps of materials and even their own clothing so that each child will receive a toy of their own. The British liberators arrive and the party really does begin.

    Hilde and Eli: Children of the Holocaust by David A. Adler; illustrated by Karen Ritz. Copyright, 1994. Holiday House: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This book is actually two true stories, which parallel one another. The first story is about Hilde Rosenzweig and her family living in Germany during the Holocaust. The story explains Hildes childhood and the political changes that occurred in Germany. Hilde and her mother were being taken to a ghetto in Latvia and both died in the freight car. The second story is about Eli Lax, who grew up in a small village in the Carpathian Mountains in Czechoslovakia. His childhood was very different from Hildes. However, Eli, his brother, and father all died at Auschwitz.

    One Yellow Daffodil: A Hanukkah Story by David A. Adler; illustrated by Lloyd Bloom. Copyright, 1995. Gulliver Books - Harcourt Brace & Co.: California, New York.

    Brief synopsis:(F)

    This is a story about two children, Ilana and Jonathan, who help Morris Kaplan, a Holocaust survivor to rekindle his religious traditions again. He is a flower shop owner who sells flowers to these two children each week for the Sabbath. They invite him to their home to celebrate Hanukkah, which he hasnt thought about since he was in Auschwitz. It is a story about remembering the childhood traditions he once loved and the importance of religious traditions.

    The Lily Cupboard: A Story of the Holocaust by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim; illustrated by Ronald Himler. Copyright 1992. A Charlotte Zolotow Book. Mexico.

    Brief synopsis:(F)

    This is the story of a young Jewish girl, Miriam, who is sent to live with a non-Jewish family in the countryside of Holland. She needs to hide in a cupboard with lilies painted on it to be safe from the Nazi soldiers.

    Dont Forget by Patricia Lakin; illustrated by Ted Rand. Copyright, 1994. Tambourine Books: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (F)

    Sarah, a young girl living in a Jewish neighborhood, feels very uncomfortable around Mr. and Mrs. Singer, who own the grocery store. Both of them were Holocaust survivors with tattoos on their arms, which frightens this 8 year-old girl. After Sarah stares at the numbers, the Singers explain to her that what the Nazis did should never be a secret. Sarah learns from them the importance of remembering so that something like this can never happen again

    A Picture Book of Anne Frank by David A. Adler; illustrated by Karen Ritz. Copyright, 1993. Holiday House: New York.

    Brief synopsis:(NF)

    This book is an excellent introduction to any study of Anne Frank. It is the story of Anne Frank, born in Germany, but hidden in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. She was in hiding for more than two years with her family and four others. They are eventually discovered by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. Both Anne and her sister, Margot died at Bergen-Belsen shortly before the camps were liberated.

    The Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting; illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Copyright. 1980 (originally published by Harper & Row). Copyright, 1993. The Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia.

    Brief synopsis: (F)

    This allegory is probably the most widely used picture book to introduce children to the Holocaust. It is the tale of animals living in the forest peacefully until the "Terrible Things" come. Each group of animals is taken away one by one by these "Terrible Things", who represent the Nazis. None of the remaining animals speak up for the victims, and even begin to rationalize about their demise. It is truly a story about speaking up for what is right, and not to be a bystander.

    Hiding From the Nazis by David A. Adler; illustrated by Karen Ritz. Copyright, 1997. Holiday House: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This story is about a young girl, Lore Baer, from Holland who is sent away to Amsterdam to live with another couple for safety from the Nazis. The Izaak couple decide that it is too risky to keep Lore and send her to the Schouten family in the Dutch farm country of Hoorn. The story is about the years that Lore spent in hiding and the difficulty faced when her natural parents return for her.

    Promise of a New Spring (Subtitled: The Holocaust and Renewal) by Gerda Weissman Klein; illustrated by Vincent Tartaro. Copyright, 1981. Phoenix Folios: Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Brief synopsis: (F)

    This book describes the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, the war that follows, and the Holocaust through photographs, drawings, and a minimal amount of text. It is a metaphor comparing the horrific events of the Holocaust with that of a forest fire in nature. Some life is able to survive and spring comes again. In comparison, those who were able to survive the Holocaust need to remember what the world was like before the destruction, and continue to tell the story.

    Miracle in the Glass by Ruthann Crosby; illustrated by Richard A. Cook. Copyright, 1998. Frozen Chosen: Anchorage, Alaska.

    Brief synopsis: (F)

    This is the tale of a devoted mother and her daughter and what a mother sacrifices to save her child. The two are in a concentration camp and the mother, heroically, sends her daughter, Sasha, into a lice bunker to hopefully keep her child from perishing in the gas chambers. The book is illustrated in beautiful black and white drawings. The sensitivity of this book has brought tears to the eyes of many of my students.

    Sleeping Boy by Sonia Craddock; illustrated by Leonid Gore. Copyright,1999. Atheneum Books For Young Readers of Simon & Schuster: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (F)

    This book is a modern allegory of the Holocaust, with a similar story to Sleeping Beauty. Herr and Frau Rosen celebrate the birth of their son, Knabe. The evil Major Krieg takes the sleeping baby from the nurses arms and predicts that when Knabe turns 16 he will go to war and never return. However, Knabes Aunt Tante Tabe softens the curse with her blessing that "Knabe will only sleep...sleep through poverty and war, bad times and sadness, until PEACE comes to Berlin." The family sleeps through the Holocaust and continues to sleep through the dividing of Germany. They awaken when the Berlin Wall comes down. The illustrations appear to be faded photographs. They are extremely thought-provoking and make extremely good classroom discussions.

    The Tattooed Torah by Marvel Ginsburg; illustrated by Martin Lemelman. Copyright, 1994. UAHC Press: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (BF)

    This is the story of Little Torah that is stolen by the Nazis along with hundreds of others, branded with a number and stored in a warehouse, which was once the Michle Synagogue in Prague. The tale is told from the point of view of Little Torah. However, it is based on a true story of the discovery and restoration of a small Czechoslovakian Torah from a Brno synagogue by an American. It is found as this man looks for a torah that is small enough for his son to carry during religious services.

    Nine Spoons: A Chanukah Story by Marci Stillerman; illustrated by Pesach Gerber. Copyright, 1998. Hachai Publishing: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This story takes place during Chanukah when a grandmother shares with her grandchildren her true story about a Chanukah celebration in a Nazi slave labor camp. The tale revolves around the gathering of nine spoons from different prisoners to make a menorah for the holidays, and how the prisoners lit the menorah each night of Chanukah. One of the Holocaust survivors actually kept this menorah and brought it with her to America after the war.

    Passage To Freedom-The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki; illustrated by Dom Lee; afterword by Hiroki Sugihara. Copyright, 1997. Lee & Low Books, Inc.: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This is the true account of Hiroki Sugihara and his family, and how one family showed extreme courage by risking their lives and made a difference during the Holocaust. It is narrated by Hiroki, who was five-years old at the time of this event, in 1940. Chiune Sugihara, Hirokis father, was a Japanese consul in Lithuania. The story is a detailed account of how Sugihara could, and eventually did, write visas for hundreds of Jewish refugees from Poland, saving thousands of lives, while disobeying his own country of Japan. The afterword, written by Hiroki Sugihara takes this event to present day.

    Flowers on the Wall by Miriam Nerlove. Copyright, 1996. Margaret K. McElderry Books: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (BF)

    This story is about a young girl, Rachel, living in Warsaw, Poland in 1938. She is ill and during her illness paints flowers on the walls of her drab apartment in the Jewish ghetto. It shows how important it was for children never keep hope through imagination. The book addresses topics of anti-Semitism, the boycott and forced closing of Jewish businesses, and the occupation of the Warsaw ghetto in 1939. Rachel and her family are eventually sent to the concentration camp, Treblinka, and all of Rachels dreams of being an artist in Paris are over. The author wrote this book based on a photograph she had seen of a child in a flower-painted basement in Warsaw.

    In My Pocket by Dorrith M. Sim. Copyright,1996. Harcourt Brace & Co.: San Diego, New York, London.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This is autobiographical account of the author, Dorrith M. Sims and her escape to Britain from Nazi Germany by the Kindertransport, the rescue operation that saved so many Jewish children. The story recalls her leaving her parents from the train station in Hamburg, and her journey to Holland, then Britain. This young girl meets her adoptive parents in Britain and then settles in Scotland with them. This is a wonderful companion book to the novel Kindertransport by Olga Drucker.

    My Secret Camera-Life in the Lodz Ghetto photographs by Mendel Grossman; text by Frank Dabba Smith. Copyright, 2000. Gulliver Books Harcourt, Inc.: San Diego, New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This is a pictorial essay using 17 black and white photographs taken by Mendel Grossman in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. He secretly took thousands of photos in the ghetto, distributing some and hiding others by hanging his best negatives on the wall of his apartment so the world would know what really happened. Unfortunately, Mendel Grossman died in 1945 just before the end of the war. Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith has written text to accompany these photographs. He has written it in a first-person account as if it was Mr. Grossman speaking. The detailed account of the Lodz ghetto is well-documented, and helps the world to know the truth. This is Mendels legacy.

    One More Border-The True Story of One Familys Escape From War-Torn Europe by William Kaplan with Shelley Tanaka; illustrated by Stephen Taylor. Copyright, 1998. Groundwood Books/Douglas & McIntyre: Ontario.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    The author William Kaplan tells the story of his father, Ingor, as a young boy, and his escape from Lithuania during World War II with his family. This book includes actual photographs, maps, historical sidebars, along with watercolor illustrations, enhancing the storys historical and geographical context. Chiune Sugihara gives visas to Mr. Kaplan and his two children. Mrs. Kaplan obtains hers separately and is able to join her family. The story continues with the detailed account of the familys journey through Russia and Japan, and eventually settling in Canada. After reading this book students will have a better understanding of what war refugees had to do to buy their way to freedom.

    Fireflies in the Dark - The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin. Copyright, 2000. Holiday House: New York.

    Brief synosis: (NF)

    This book tells the story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a remarkable art teacher from Czechoslovakia, who ran secret art classes for the children at Terezin concentration camp. After the war about 5,000 of the childrens drawings, paintings, and collages were discovered hidden in two suitcases. The book has photographs and reproductions of the artwork produced by the children at Terezin. The text describes daily life in Terezin, and then how the Nazis prepared this camp for the arrival of the International Red Cross in 1944 to deceive the world in thinking that Terezin was a wonderful and safe haven for the Jews. This is an excellent companion to I Never Saw Another Butterfly...Childrens Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944, edited by Hana Volavkova.

    The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark  by Carmen Agra Deedy; illustrated by Henri Sorensen. Copyright, 2000. Peachtree Publishers Ltd.: Atlanta.

    Brief synopsis: (Based on some  facts and some legends)

    The Yellow Star tells the famous legend of King Christian X of Denmark. Although much of this story is undocumented in history we do know that the King and the Danes did everything possible to protect the Jews in their country. This story delivers a very strong message about standing up for others and for what you believe in. It would be a wonderful companion piece to Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.

    The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco. Copyright, 2000. PHILOMEL Books: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This book is based on the true story of Marcel Solliage, the authors great-aunt, and her daughter, Monique. Marcel was a member of the French Resistance and was hiding a Jewish family in her basement. Her daughter, Monique, did not know that this was occurring. One day Monique discovers a "ghost" in her home. This "ghost" is actually a young Jewish girl, Sevrine. This story shows the how cruel the Nazis were to the Jews, making it imperative that Monique protect Sevrine and her family by not revealing the secret that they are hiding in the basement. Unfortunately, the family is forced to flee. The theme of this book is not only about friendship. but how the French underground were able to help some of the Jews to escape.

    I am a Holocaust Torah by Rabbi Alex J. Goldman; illustrated by Susanne Berger; photography by Mel Abfier. Copyright, 2000. Gefen Publishing House Ltd.: Jerusalem.

    Brief synopsis: (BF)

    The story of this specific torah begins in Czechoslovakia when it is taken over by the Nazis. As the Nazis take over the various states they destroy the synagogues and take the torahs and their adornments to Prague, the capital city. 1,564 torahs and their adornments had been gathered by the year 1944. These torahs were forgotten for many years. In 1964 an English art dealer worked out a deal with the Czech authorities to take these torahs to London. They were brought to the Westminster Synagogue to be inspected, distributed, and housed. More than 1,000 of these torahs are around the world and the rest remain in London.

    The story is told from the point of view of a 300 year old torah who participated in many joyous Jewish rituals until the night of Kristallnacht. The torah continues to describe what happens to him and the other torahs. Twenty years later he relates being "transported out of confinement" and being carried to the Westminster Synagogue in London. The author has given human-like qualities to these torahs. Some are very sad because they are too damaged to be repaired, but they are placed on display as a reminder of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust. The torah, which is the narrator, is given to a Rabbi to be used in his synagogue.

    Although this story is easy to read, there are many Judaic concepts, rituals, and vocabulary that would need to be addressed before teaching this book.

    Elisabeth  by Claire A. Nivola. Copyright, 1997. Francis Foster Books: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This is a true family story about the authors mother, Ruth, recalling her childhood in Germany with her very special doll, Elisabeth. This simply told first-person account shows how life changes for Ruth and her family, forcing them to flee suddenly in the night leaving all their belongings, including her doll. Years later, Ruth, living in the United States, finds her doll in an antique store while she is looking for a special doll for her own 6-year old daughter.

    The reason she knows that this doll was actually hers was because it had two teeth marks where her dog Fifi had bitten her many years ago. This doll will always be a reminder of the life Ruth lived before and during the Holocaust and will help each generation of her family never to forget.

    Forging Freedom by Hudson Talbott. Copyright, 2000. G. P. Putnams Sons: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    Although this book is not actually a picture book, the illustrations in the book are an integral part of the story. It is a Holocaust memoir of Jaap Penraat, a young architectural student in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. He is not Jewish, but has many neighbors who are, and is a "Shabbos Goy" who turns on lights for them on the Sabbath. Jaap saves hundreds of Jews by forging ID cards and devising an elaborate escape plan to smuggle them over the border to freedom. The book gives a detailed account of historical events that were occurring at that time and describes the plan of escape in great detail. Illustrations of forged documents, maps, and other interesting illustrations enhance this memoir leading to excellent discussions with students. Jaap Penraat has been named as Righteous of the Nations at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

    The Children We Remember by Chana Byers Abells. Copyright, 1986. Greenwillow Books: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This photographic essay is about children who lived and died during the Holocaust. The text is simple, but very powerful as it is supported by actual photographs from the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem, Israel. This is an excellent book which can be used with a younger audience to introduce the Holocaust.

    One Candle By Eve Bunting; illustrated by K. Wendy Popp.  Copyright, 2002. Joanna Cotler Books.

    Brief synopsis: ( f )

    This is a first-person narrative in which Grandma recites her and her sisters experiences at Buchenwald at her familys annual Hanukkah celebration. Grandma makes a candle from a hollowed-out potato in memory of the past. The book begins in present day, with all the pictures in beautiful watercolor, and then the flashbacks of the Buchenwald concentration done in mute sepia tones. It is a wonderful story to show students the importance of remembering the past.

    A Hero and the Holocaust: The Story of Janusz Korczak and His Children By David A. Adler; illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. Copyright, 2002. Holiday House: New York.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    Janusz Korczak was a Polish Jew who cared for hundreds of Polish children in the Warsaw ghetto in his orphanage. This book focuses on his relationship with his children and his ultimate death in Treblinka with them. There are actual quotes from Korczaks diary as part of the text. However, there is little background information in this book it would make a good supplement to other books dealing with the Warsaw Ghetto, such as Child of the Warsaw Ghetto, also by David Adler.

    Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen  As told to Michelle R. McCann by Luba Tryszynska-Frederick; illustrated by Ann Marshall. Copyright, Tricycle Press: Berkeley, California.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This is a true story of a Polish Jew, Luba Tryszynska Frederick who was able to save more than 50 Dutch children in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The story shows how Luba, a camp nurse, was able to feed, clothe, and protect these children saving all but two. It is a good book to help illustrate how some people risked their lives to save others. Included in this picture book is a prologue and very detailed epilogue, which includes photographs, maps, and an extensive bibliography, making this well-suited for a middle school audience. Students really enjoy knowing that 52 of these abandoned children survived and then were reunited 50 years later in Amsterdam.

    Brundibar  Retold by Tony Kushner; illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Copyright, 2003. Michael Di Capua Books/Hyperion Books For Children.

    Brief synopsis: ( f )* However, this story was actually performed as a play during the Holocaust.

    This picture book is based on a Czech opera written by Adolf Hoffmeister and Hans Krasa. It was performed 55 times by the children of Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp. The illustrations are colorful and child-like, but need to be looked at very closely to see all of the symbolism and details. The folktale is about a boy and girl who go to a town to get milk for their ailing mother. They need money but soon realize that Brundibar, an organ grinder, is bullying everyone in town and taking all of their money. The children get help from talking animals and 300 schoolchildren. They sing for the money to buy the milk, defeat the bully, and return with the milk. Although the book is creative and beautifully illustrated more explanation about this opera at Theresienstadt is needed for the reader.

    Erikas Story By Ruth Vander Zee; illustrated by Roberto Innocenti. Copyright, 2003. Creative Editions: Mankato, MN.

    Brief synopsis: (NF)

    This true story is that of Erika, who was an infant thrown from a cattle car in 1944 on her way to a concentration camp. She is taken in and raised by a villager. The realistic pictures by Innocenti (also illustrated Rose Blanche) add so much to this book with minimal text. The star on the cover is very symbolic and makes for great classroom discussion. Students are surprised that it is not a Star of David, rather a 5-pointed star (pentagram). The story does subtly explain why. The story also is great for class discussions on the choiceless choices that so many people had to make. Should her parents have thrown her from the train or kept her with them?

    Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat? Written and illustrated by Nancy Patz. Copyright, 2003. Dutton Books: New York.

    Brief synopsis: ( f )

    This picture book is actually poems written by the author after viewing a womans hat on display at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. She began by sketching the hat, reflecting on who wore the hat and what her life was like. The book uses both photographs and sketches in a collage format which adds so much to the text. At the end the author includes a brief chronology of the Holocaust.

    The Harmonica By Tony Johnston; illustrated by Ron Mazellan.Copyright, 2004. Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.: Watertown, MA.

    Brief synopsis: (BF)

    This is a poignant story based on a Polish Jewish survivor, Henryk Rosmaryn. As a young boy he is given a harmonica from his father and learns to play Schubert while his parents dance. He and his family are captured by the Nazis and sent to separate concentration camps. The harmonica is what keeps him alive. The commandant hears about his playing and orders him to play. In return the boy is given bread. The boy struggles with the fact that he has to play for the commandant in order to survive while others around him are staving to death. The only solace is that the prisoners can also hear this beautiful music and he hopes that he is giving them some pleasure. The illustrations are realistic and enhance the text of this book.