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Topic: World War II, Holocaust, etc. . . . Recommend A Book

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Subject: World War II, Holocaust, etc. . . . Recommend A Book
Date Posted: 6/25/2009 10:45 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
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World War II and the Holocaust survivors are two topics I find interesting. Please recommend books you have read about this time period and what you liked about them.


Here are a few I’ve read:


In My Hands, Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Opdyke – I really liked this one. It was slow to start but once I got past the background, it was mesmerizing. I listened to the audiobook and the reader was very good.


Night by Elie Wiesel is a great book, albeit gut-wrenching. The endurance of the human spirit is amazing.


The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn was pretty good but the run-on sentences and liberal use of punctuation was a little annoying. I liked the story of his search for his relatives but I have to admit I skipped a lot of the biblical references.


Hiroshima – John Hersey. Interesting account of the bombing from the survivors perspective.



These are on my TBR:


Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945 – Leo Marks

The Seamstress – Sara Tuvel Bernstein

All But My Life – Gerda Weissmanm Klein

Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account – Nyiszli


Date Posted: 6/25/2009 1:33 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,866
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Anything by Primo Levi, a survivor who became a great writer; still the burden of having survived haunted almost everrything he wrote and eventually was more than he could bear.

Anything by Kurt Vonnegut. Almost everything I said about Levi applies anew. Except Vonnegut lived to a ripe old age. All of his books are the same story, his.

Dr. John T. West, III

Date Posted: 6/25/2009 1:38 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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And about WWII, and/or any war, I highly recommend Flyboys, about those who flow the same mission with George Bush the elder. And what became of them. This book describes the cultural mindset that got both sides into the war. And how many men on both sides behaved  understress. And about the terrible things men do to men in war. Don't read this one unless you have a strong stomach.

Dr. John T. West, III

Katy -
Date Posted: 6/25/2009 11:31 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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I liked In My Hands too.

I really enjoyed Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley. I read it when I had jury duty several years ago (before the movie was made).

I also enjoyed A WASP Among Eagles: A Woman Military Test Pilot in World War II by Ann B. Carl--it's a short autobiography. A really good scholarly treatment of the Women Airforce Service Pilots is Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots  (WASPs) of World War II by Molly Merryman.

Date Posted: 6/27/2009 12:37 AM ET
Member Since: 11/6/2008
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A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary

Date Posted: 6/29/2009 9:08 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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I've always been interested in Holocaust stories, ever since I read The Diary of Anne Frank as a child. Have you read that? It's a classic.

I enjoyed In My Hands, too--it was really humbling to read about what this simple woman did to keep her Jewish friends alive. I also really enjoyed The Lost--it was a memorable story.

The Inextinguishable Symphony by Martin Goldsmith is one I read recently...this was about an aspect of Nazi Germany I'd never heard of: the Jewish Kulturbund, a German organization that provided employment for Jewish musicians and actor in the 1930s. Goldsmith's parents were orchestra musicians and met through the Kulturbund. They fled Germany in 1941--their families weren't so fortunate. I couldn't put this one down.

Have you read Maus: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II  by Art Spiegelman? These are graphic novels--very powerful. They tell the story of Spiegelman's parents and also give a peek into Spiegelman's own struggle as the child of Holocaust survivors.

After Long Silence by Helen Fremont--the story of two sisters who discovered as adults that their parents were Jewish and Holocaust survivors.

Miriam's Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich...although the book is more about Jewish topics in general, Ehrlich writes about trying to learn to keep a kosher kitchen from her in-laws who are both concentration camp survivors. I loved this book.

The Avengers By Rich Cohen--this was another story I'd not heard much about--the Jewish partisans who escaped rounding up and hid out in the woods outside major cities. I believe the group Cohen writes about was in Poland.


For books about the war experience in general, these are some good ones I've read in the past couple of years:

Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front in World War II by Emily Yellin

On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard Hunt

Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941 by Thurston Clarke

We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese by Elizabeth M. Norman

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

Date Posted: 7/2/2009 10:27 PM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2009
Posts: 42
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This is right up my alley! After you read the basics, Mein Kamf etc, and all about the SS and the camps there are a couple of books that I highly recommend.

The first is "Stella" an incredible book because it is different then any other Holocaust book I ever read. Stella IS a Jew but survives the Holocaust by becoming a Jew hunter. Incredible story which was written by a former classmate of hers who had a big crush on her. His family managed to get out of Germany before it was too late. He finds out what she did during the Holocaust and interviews old friends who knew her, some caught by her and incredibly, interviews Stella himself. VERY unique book in this genre!

The Nazi Officers Wife incredible story of a Jewish woman who married a Nazi and hides people in her cellar.

Parallel Journeys about two young kids a Jewish girl who ends up in a concentration camp and a Hitler Youth boy who ends up  a high ranking person in the HItler Youth. These two lived just a few miles apart from each other but lived totally different lives during that time.

The Seamstress that you already have on your list was a great read as it was a very detailed account of what this young woman went through.

An Uncommon Friendship great read about a2 German's one Jew one not who survive WWII and both immigrate to the US. Years later they meet and become friends. GREAT read about  how two men of similar age, both German meet up and end up telling each other their story from different sides of the war. One of the best I have read.

Defiance The Bielski Brothers was a phenomenal read. The movie just came out recently and that was a great movie as well. About Jewish partisans in Belorussia.

Schindler's List although it was slow reading and the movie for once I felt was actually better.

Children of the Flames if you can stomach it was an informative book about Mengele and the experiments he did on kids. I had this one on my bookshelf for a couple of years before I had the courage to read it. Hate reading about children suffering.

Also worth reading: Four Girls From Berlin, On HItler's Mountain, German Boy all written from the other perspective, German's who lived under Nazi rule and how the war effected their lives. Of these German Boy was the best. It was good to know there were SOME normal people living in Germany at the time.

There are also a couple of good fiction books about this time...War and Remembrance & Winds of War were both written by Joseph Wambaugh and incredible reads. Also worth reading QVII by Leon Uris as well as Exodus also written by Uris. I also enjoyed reading My Enemies Cradle that I just had on my shelf. It was about the Lesbensborn program where German women, married and unmarried were stepping forward and having babies by SS officers for the Reich. That is a topic that is rarely written about. The story was a good one but the end SUCKED rofl!

One I did not enjoy as much were I'll Plant You a Lilac Tree which was written by a Schindler Jew. Her story was basically already told in Schindlers List.


Last Edited on: 7/2/09 10:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/9/2009 10:50 PM ET
Member Since: 10/9/2006
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Thank you for your suggestions, Cindy; you have certainly found some I've not seen before.  I have a few favorites I've discovered in the last couple years:

Hide by Naomi Samson (ISBN0803292724) One of the most powerful accounts I've read.The author hid with her mother and two siblings under the floor of a Polish barn during the war.  She calls it like it was.

Leap Into Darkness by Leo Bretholz.  I met Leo through a neighbor of mine.  I had seen him interviewed on TV, but he agreed to speak to my history class and school assembly about his 7 years on the run from the Nazis, having first fled Vienna in 1938.  Wow! Students and parents both were glued to their seats as he spoke.  He is one of the most gifted communicators on the Holocaust I have had the priveledge to hear.

And for the military history fans, Joseph Balkoski is so good a writer that he is the source of some of the many interesting stories that Stephen Ambrose plagarized for his own books.  My recommend you read Balkoski's books for the real deal:  Omaha, Utah, and two about the 29th Infantry Division, Beyond the Beachhead and From Beachhead to BrittanyWings of Morning by Thomas Childers examines the last bomber shot down over Europe, the mission, and the fate of the men on board.  The author is the nephew of the radio operator and a professor of history at University of Pennsylvania specializing in Germany.  These are the historian's history books to read!

I haven't read Flyboys because my Air Force officer husband kept pointing out factual errors in the book as he read it.  I love We Band of Angels, too.  I love reading about titles new to me!

Date Posted: 7/10/2009 5:27 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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War and Remembrance & Winds of War were both written by Joseph Wambaugh

Actually those were written by Herman Wouk. :-) If you're looking for good fiction that will give you an overview of the war years, I highly recommend both books. The Winds of War covers spring 1939 to December 7, 1941...War and Remembrance picks up right after the Pearl Harbor attack and continues to the bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. The books are about a Navy family and each member of the family becomes involved in various parts of the war, particularly the father, who starts out as a naval attache in Berlin and journeys all over Europe and the Pacific.

I read these books as a teenager (and several times again as an adult) and learned more about World War II than I ever did in any high school of college history class!

I also remembered The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, the true story of her family's work hiding Jews in Holland, and the terrible price they paid. It's quite a religious book--ten Boom and her family were devout Christians--but even if you're not religious, it's an amazing story.

Another religious-themed book that I'm sure is out-of-print but well-written and compelling is Hansi: the Girl Who Loved the Swastika by Maria Anne Hirschmann. She was a devoted member of the Hitler Youth as a girl, spent some very harrowing years in Czechoslovakia during and after the war, and eventually emigrated to the U.S. and became a Christian.

Last Edited on: 7/10/09 5:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/11/2009 11:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2009
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LOL Janelle, thanks for correcting me! I must have had a senior moment! I have read both books and enjoyed them very much!


Adrianne, thanks for the heads up on Leap into Darkness. I will definitely put that on my to be read list!

Last Edited on: 7/11/09 11:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/12/2009 1:21 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 12,553
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Sheila, I've read many books re the holocaust, but one that really stands out in my mind is entitled: "Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany" by Marthe Cohn. It is really an autobiography and the author's children never knew of her experiences until she wrote this book (when in her 80's).

Date Posted: 7/13/2009 2:24 AM ET
Member Since: 9/18/2005
Posts: 3,533
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I highly recommend:

I have also read Light One Candle by Solly Ganor, a Lithuanian who was a young boy in a concentration camp ... although I have found at least one website publicly refuting some content in this book. Whether this is true or not, I found the book to be a worth while read.

Date Posted: 7/13/2009 7:43 PM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2009
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Jeanne I have that book you recommended but have not read it yet. I will have to move it higher up on my TBR pile :)

Date Posted: 7/16/2009 8:18 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2008
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I just wanted to recommend Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning.  It's about a Order Police Battalion that took part in mass killings in Poland.  It covers the Holocaust that took place outside the death camps we're so familiar with.  I assigned to my Western Civ. class last spring, and they really seemed to find it interesting (and they don't like anything!).

You might also try Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrec.  There's a French movie based on it, but the book is much more exciting.  Aubrec was a member of the French resistence who's husband was captured by the Germans.  She matches wits with the Butcher of Lyon himself, but I don't want to give too much away.

For more serious, scholarly stuff, I think Mothers in the Fatherland is great, but I'm blanking on the author.  Oh, and Vichy France by Robert O. Paxton is fascinating.


Date Posted: 7/17/2009 8:46 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2005
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Just finished The Rising Tide, by Jeff Shaara, and loved it. Looking forward to reading the next in the trilogy. Review:


Date Posted: 7/18/2009 9:37 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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Cindy, I sent that book off to a woman (nurse) who knows women who were in the French Resistance. She sent me a note saying that once she started it, she couldn't put it down and she intends on keeping that book circulating among her friends and acquaintences! It is a good one - hope you enjoy it!

Date Posted: 7/22/2009 4:24 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thanks for all the great book suggestions - I've added several to my TBR.

I'm currently reading "At All Costs: How A Crippled Ship and Two American Merchant Mariners Turned the Tide of World War II" by Sam Moses. Excellent so far.

Date Posted: 7/22/2009 8:16 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2005
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I'll try not to duplicate any of the other great suggestions you've already been given.  I really enjoyed:

The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II :: Judith M. Heimann

And If I Perish : Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II :: Evelyn Monahan, Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee

Prisoners in Paradise: American Women in the Wartime South Pacific :: Theresa Kaminski

Our Mothers' War : American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II :: Emily Yellin

All But My Life : A Memoir :: Gerda Weissmann Klein

Women Pilots of World War II :: Jean Hascall Cole


I second (or third?) suggestions for A Wasp Among Eagles, A Woman in Berlin, The Bielski Brothers, The Nazi Officer's Wife and Ghost Soldiers.

Thanks everyone, I've picked up some great new titles to look for!

Date Posted: 7/24/2009 11:39 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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A few more----

Gone to Soldiers, by Marge Piercy (the woman's World War Two novel)

The following three are about those days as seen throuigh the eyes of children . . .

Mischling Second Degree, by Ilse Kohn (a young German girl, one of whose grandmothers was Jewish, recalls life during the time of Hitler)

German Boy, by Wolfgang Samuel (a true story of the bitter childhood of hunger and deprivation of a youngster in W W II Germany;) 

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (a novel in which Death recounts the wartime experiences of a young girl, her foster parents (Hans and Rosa Hubermann) and some of their neighbors in their town on the outskirts of Munich, and of the  young Jewish man given refuge in the Hubermanns' basement).

Last Edited on: 8/27/10 7:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/25/2009 1:56 AM ET
Member Since: 9/18/2005
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I forgot to mention: The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman www.amazon.com/Zookeepers-Wife-War-Story/dp/0393061728

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 7/31/2009 10:28 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
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I read a biography on Hitler told from the diaries and letters of his adjuncts. I read part two which was called Nemesis by Ian Kershaw which takes place from 1933 to his death 1945. I would recommend it to anyone interested in WW2 history.  http://www.paperbackswap.com/book/details/9780393049947-Hitler+19361945+Nemesis

Also, Stephen Ambrose wrote a few good books; Band Of Brothers, Citizen Soldiers, the Wild Blue, D-Day, and Pegasus Bridge. He also wrote a book that was a compelation of short interesting stories about american History called To America.

I would second the trilogy by Jeff Shaara. I havent read it yet, but I have read his other books and am sure this trilogy is very good. IT is on my WL.

Date Posted: 8/13/2009 10:09 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
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I did see this one mention already but I have to say easily one of the best books I have read is Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides.

Another book though I can't remember the author is Sala's Gift a Daughter discovers her Jewish Mother's holocaust past and writes about it with the help of her mom she also continues on into her mother's life after the war really really nice story teared up a few times reading it

Date Posted: 8/14/2009 10:03 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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Danielle, I'm so glad to hear about your take on Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. I've just ordered that book and am really looking forward to reading it!

Date Posted: 8/14/2009 10:57 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
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It is a fantastic story pretty awesome stuff.  My dad and my grandfather both read it too they loved it.

Date Posted: 8/27/2009 2:28 PM ET
Member Since: 2/17/2009
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I'm in the middle of reading "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay about French Jews that were sent to  camps by their own French soliders.  It weaves back and forth between past and present with a writer who is researching the time.

I can't wait to see how it ends.

Allison :)

PS I wanted to clarify that this is a work of Historical Fiction.

Last Edited on: 8/27/09 2:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 1