BOOKS & FILM

The Holocaust, spanning 12 years, is a complex history that affected dozens of nations and communities in a variety of ways. Teaching students about the Holocaust requires awareness of the complexity of the Holocaust as well as knowledge of the appropriate tools for teaching the event to different age groups. Educators should take the time to consider the historical context and content of their lessons and raise students’ interest in the questions of fairness, justice, and individual identity. Educators should avoid tailoring lessons and education materials strictly to the makeup of their student population, as this will lead to a misunderstanding or trivialization of the Holocaust.

 

Holocaust Museum LA has compiled a list of age-appropriate teaching tools, books and films that will aid teachers in effectively instructing on the Holocaust.

5th & 6th Grade

Students can first be exposed to the Holocaust through short personal narratives, both fiction and nonfiction, that are centered around children of the Holocaust. This allows students to relate to the content in a personal way as well as begin to understand the Holocaust through the lens of a child. Elementary school aged children should be asked about the value of diversity and the dangers of prejudice and bias. These themes will be an important foundation for later Holocaust education.

Books:

 

 

Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter:
This novel examines the persecution of a young boy and his family during the rise of Hitler in Germany. The author is able to condense the mature and complex persecution of the Jews into simpler and more relatable content for smaller children.

 

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine:
This small novel centers around the contents of a suitcase once owned by a small Czechoslovakian girl, Hana. The children’s book includes pictures of the contents found in the suitcase and the story behind the mystery of its owner and her experiences in Auschwitz. The narrative goes back and forth between Hana’s suitcases and the journey of its contents in Japan.

 

I Wanted to Fly Like a Butterfly by Naomi Morgenstern:
Morgenstern tells the story of Hanna Gofrit, a Polish Jew, who survived the Holocaust due to a brave Polish family who concealed her.

 

King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak:
This novel is written by Janusz Korczak, a Holocaust victim, who bravely went with the children of the orphanage in Warsaw that he oversaw into Treblinka where he was murdered. The fictional story of King Matt teaches children the importance of hope and good character despite evil, and when children are given the context of the author and history, the book comes to life as a lesson in the Holocaust.

 

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry:
Lowry’s acclaimed novel about the heroism of the people of Denmark is a classic for young students to read. Told through the perspective of a ten year old non-Jewish girl, whose family takes in her Jewish best friend, the tale of concealment and fleeing German deportation is one of true courage for kids of all ages and backgrounds to relate to.

 

Surviving Hitler:
A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren: Warren is able to combine the narrative of Jack Mandelbaum, a boy in the Nazi death camps, with actual photos from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum archives.

 

The Boy in the Wooden Box:
How the Impossible Became Possible...on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson: This novel tells the story of one of the youngest people of Oskar Schindler’s list of Jews he saved from extermination during the Holocaust. Students who read this book not only get the narrative of a child close to their age, but also are able to understand the historical context of Oskar Schindler’s story of heroism behind the novel.

 

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss:
Reiss’ autobiography about her time in hiding during WWII provides students with a Holocaust narrative about hiding for two years as a child in a cramped space.

 

Films:

 

 

Paper Clips (2004):
This documentary follows a rural Tennessee school as it teaches diversity and tolerance to its student body through a visual project of putting together 6 million paper clips to symbolize the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. The simple school project is a viral success and grows beyond what any involved truly thought was possible.

 

7th & 8th Grade

Students learning about the Holocaust can be exposed to a wider range of Holocaust themes and materials as they grow more able to grapple with the scope and scale of the Holocaust. From classic works like Anne Frank’s diary to modern nonfiction, 7th and 8th grade students should be educated on survival in the camps, hiding in Europe, and Holocaust heroes.

Books:

The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport:

A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen:

This story follows Lisa Jura Golabek as she is sent on the kindertransport to London, where she later lives in an orphanage. Her talent as a pianist leads to an uplifting story about survival, the power of music, and pursuing dreams despite unthinkable circumstances. 

 

How We Survived: 

52 Personal Stories by Child Survivors of the Holocaust by Child Survivors of the Holocaust, Los Angeles: In this 400 page book, there are many personal stories of survival, allowing students to read a variety of survivors’ stories. Students are also able to relate better to the stories of children in their same age range, allowing for broader dialogue about the Holocaust and its victims.

 

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (comic book): 

Maus recounts the real life story of Vladek Spiegelman through his son’s cartoon interpretation of the Holocaust. In this revolutionary comic book, the Holocaust is told through an intergenerational perspective that shows that the Holocaust affects not only the survivors, but also their children.

 

Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder: 

This book is a compilation of various diaries from victims and survivors of many ages and backgrounds, as they narrate their individual plights during the Holocaust in their diaries. This book also contains information about each diarist, the background on their lives, and various other resources that are critical to learning about the Holocaust through an eyewitness perspective.

 

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: 

This Holocaust nonfiction classic is a must read for students. Anne Frank’s story is widely known already, but her deep analysis and clear voice are beyond her years and allow for students to relate to her teenage struggles. Her coming of age is encapsulated with one of the darkest times of her life, hiding during the Holocaust, and through her story, students are able to see not only the story of a family in hiding, but also learn about Anne’s death and the historical context that surround it.

 

 

Films: 

 

 

Anne Frank- Classroom Edition (Director: Robert Dornhelm): 

Based on Melissa Muller’s book on Anne Frank, this TV miniseries captures the life Anne Frank had in the Secret Annex. The series meticulously goes through many aspects of the Frank’s lives in hiding and Anne’s diary. It is also accompanied with an Educator’s guide to teaching about Anne’s life and also showcases other diaries written during WWII and the Holocaust.

 

Into the Arms of Strangers- Stories of the Kindertransport (documentary): 

This Academy Award-winning documentary focuses on the stories of those saved in the kindertransport. Through present day interviews, the documentary is able to convey the humanity behind the heroic act of transporting thousands of children out of many countries in Europe, in an effort to secure their lives.

 

Paper Clips (2004 documentary): 

This documentary follows a rural Tennessee school as it teaches diversity and tolerance to its student body through a visual project of putting together 6 million paper clips to symbolize the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. The simple school project is a viral success and grows beyond what any involved truly thought was possible.

 

The Forger (Times Documentary) by Samantha Stark, Alexandra Garcia, Pamela Druckerman, and Manual Cinema Studios: 

This short film tells the tale of Adolfo Kaminsky, who at just 18, became a forger for a Jewish resistance cell in Paris. He was able to forge false passports for thousands of children and families before they were transported to concentration camps.          

 

Undercover History: Diplomats for the Damned (2000): 

This film delves into the stories of four gentile diplomats  who saved thousands of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. The diplomats, Carl Lutz from Switzerland, Aristides de Sousa Mendes from Portugal, and Germany’s Ferdinand Duckwitz, were able to issue false papers and visas in order to save Jews from certain death.

 

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. 

and grows beyond what any involved truly thought was possible.

 

High School

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.

.

College

Books:

 

Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood by Nechama Tec: 

This autobiography tells the story of Nechama Tec, whose family was able to find refuge with Polish Christians during the war. He and his family had to conceal their identities as Jews in order to survive, leaving the reader with an accurate and moving narrative about a young boy who must grow up in the face of unprecedented horrors.

 

Ordinary Men: 

Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning: This novel details the atrocities committed by an average Nazi unit during the Holocaust. Browning expertly shows how simple and everyday Germans became a part of the Nazi killing machine in the military through a variety of societal and individual factors.

 

The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto by Dawid Sierakowiak:  

This diary describes the harsh conditions of life within the Lodz Ghetto through the eyes of a young man. Dawid experiences starvation, loss, and a variety of other horrors meant to break his spirit, yet he is still able to write about his love of literature and his fight to stay alive with great brilliance and detail.

 

The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr: 

Helene Berr was a Jewish woman in occupied Paris who was able to keep a journal detailing her experiences not only as a coming of age woman but also as a victim of Nazi prejudice. Her journal shows life within an occupied country as well as her inner thoughts about the horrors she witnessed.

 

 

Films:

 

 

Conspiracy (Film): 

Directed by Frank Pierson in 2001, this film covers the Wannsee Conference which was held in order to determine the best execution of Hitler’s Final Solution. This film details the procedures and laws that the Nazis and conspirators agreed upon in order to kill the Jews of Europe in a systematic and lawful way.

 

Night and Fog (Documentary): 

This short French documentary by Alain Resnais, which debuted in 1956, mere years after the Holocaust features both historical footage of Auschwitz and post-Holocaust footage of the same camp in the 1950s. The juxtaposition of past and present footage, both color and black-and-white, allows for the comparison of the horrors of the Holocaust with the now empty and seemingly serene camp. The narration of the documentary focuses on the functions of the camp’s buildings and processing methods, and also relies heavily on first hand footage of the horrors victims endured on a daily basis. The documentary also begs the question of who is responsible for the Holocaust, and the likelihood that humanity will not learn from the mass genocide of the Jews.

 
 
 

Teachers

Teachers should be knowledgeable about the atrocities that were committed against Jews during the Holocaust in order to best explain the topic to their students. Teachers should engage with primary source material from survivors and adult narratives of the Holocaust in order to fully comprehend the suffering and horrors experienced by millions. 

Books:

 

 

Holocaust Museum LA Teacher Guide:
Teaching the Holocaust with "The Story of Three Rings" - This downloadable comprehensive teacher’s guide gives teachers the tools to teach the Holocaust to students through Holocaust survivor testimony and primary sources, using as an example the student-created short film, "The Story of Three Rings." Click here.

 

None of Us Will Return by Charlotte Delbo  

Delbo, a member of the French Resistance, details her experiences as a gentile in Auschwitz as well as the horrors she saw there. Her short, prose-like writing is often blunt and horrifying, and describes life in Auschwitz with particular detail. Her description of camp life, from the gentile perspective, is especially important for readers to understand.

 

The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
Ozick’s short story follows three characters, Rosa, Magda, and Stella, as they are on a march to a Nazi concentration camp. Rosa carries her baby, Magda, as her niece Stella follows with them. Rosa is unable to feed Magda, yet the shawl that she covers the child with somehow keeps her from death. This short story accounts the horrors of the Nazi’s forced marches and life in the camps.

 

Films:

 

 

Europa Europa (Film):

Directed by Agnieszka Holland in 1990, the film tells the story of Solomon Perel, a German Jewish boy who escaped death by disguising himself as a Nazi. The film follows him throughout various countries and experiences until he finally emigrates to Israel. 

 

Son of Saul (Film): 

A 2015 Hungarian drama film, Son of Saul captures the life of a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando. Sonderkommando were Jews who were forced to help with the disposal of victims from gas chambers. This movie follows Saul as he is forced to aid in disposing of the Jewish victim’s bodies and their belongings in Auschwitz. The film also follows him as he becomes part of a plot to rebel against the camp guards and document the atrocities within the camp.  While clearing the gas chambers of dead bodies, Saul believes he has seen his son who subsequently dies and is taken to an SS doctor. The rest of the film follows him as he attempts to find a rabbi to bury his son after he steals his body, and Saul’s attempt to escape the camp.

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