Must-read historical fiction and non-fiction books about the Holocaust and World War II
My favorite genre to read is historical fiction – especially love reading novels to learn more about the Holocaust and World War II. I also appreciate the memoirs, autobiographies and biographies from this time period as well. This curated list is what I consider to be the best (5*) historical fiction and non-fiction books about WWII and the Holocaust. And this post explains why it’s important for current and future generations to read about World War II and the Holocaust and not let this time in our history fade away.
This post contains recommended links to products and services. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may receive compensation if you purchase these products and services. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All images taken by kmf are available for purchase via digital download.
NYT’s article: 41% of Americans could not say what Auschwitz was
I read an alarming New York Times article that stated 41% of Americans and 66% of millennials could not say what Auschwitz was. Please don’t let this happen. We cannot let this atrocity fade from our memories. I hope you take some time to become more educated about the Holocaust and concentration camps – in honor of those who died, those who survived and those who rescued them.
My family’s connection to WWII and the Holocaust
My husband’s grandfather, Jean-Pierre Kolbach, was a concentration camp survivor and my husband’s grandmother and mother were Holocaust survivors. You can read more about our family’s story here.
And here are several more moving and poignant stories from that horrific time in our history – some are tragically true and others inspired by a true story. All are, in my opinion, the best books to learn more about WWII (European theater) and the Holocaust.
Historical fiction, especially WWII, is my favorite genre. So I always have some in my to-be-read (#tbr) stack. I’ve highlighted a few at the end of this post. This is by no means an exhaustive list; I’m only sharing WWII historical fiction and Holocaust memoirs that I have read and would recommend as 5* reads.
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl is by far the best book to learn about the Holocaust. I read it as a child and then again as an adult right before I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam (I’ve since visited again).
One of the best quotes from one of the best books about the Holocaust is from Anne Frank, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart.”
Night by Elie Wiesel
Night by Elie Wiesel is one of the best books about the Holocaust, written by a concentration camp survivor. Although only 115 pages, Night (first of a trilogy) makes every word count and speaks volumes.
The best quote about the Holocaust from Night is, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine K. Albright
Fascism: A Warming by Madeleine K. Albright is not one the best book about fascism (and so many other isms); it’s one of the most powerful books I have ever read in any genre. Albright herself was a Holocaust survivor and she offers insight to how such a horrible movement of hatred and oppression happened and could happen again.
I probably have every single page of this book flagged and highlighted. While difficult to choose the best quote in one of the best books to learn more about WWII and the Holocaust, Fascism: A Warning, is “It’s easier to remove tyrants and destroy concentrations camps than to kill the ideas that gave them birth.”
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is the best historical fiction book and I cannot recommend it high enough. I loved learning about this side of WWII, which I was not as well educated about – the role of women risking their lives to help humanity during the Holocaust.
The best quote from The Nightingale is, “But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I actually read All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale back-to-back. This historical fiction novel by Anthony Doerr is one of the best books to learn more about WWII and the Holocaust.
The best and most poignant quote from one of the top historical fiction novels about WWII and the Holocaust: “Doing nothing is as good as collaborating.”
The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom by Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom’s memoir, The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom, is one of the most inspiring pieces of literature I have ever read. Her tenacity and unshakable faith in God during the horrific times of WWII was so moving.
This is another book where I could list several best quotes from one of the best books about the Holocaust and World War II. Here is just one about her unfailing faith that God will prevail, “In darkness, God’s truth shines most clear.”
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan is based on the true story and fascinating life of Pino Lelia during WWII. As a teenager, he helped the Jewish people escape over the Alps and then enlists as a German soldier as a spy. Later he becomes the personal driver for one of the Third Reich’s most powerful commanders.
One of my favorite quotes from Beneath A Scarlet Sky, one of the best books about World War II and the Holocaust, is: “The distance doesn’t matter. Just think about your next step.”
Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly
Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly is one of my favorite historical fiction books about WWII and the Holocaust. One of my favorite quotes from this book where three women from three different countries and backgrounds is: “It only hurts you to hold on to the hate.” Great advice even for today.
Additions to the list of the best historical fiction books about the Holocaust and World War II
Update: Here are some more of the must-read best historical fiction books (5* and 4*) to learn more about WWII and the Holocaust.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
- Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
- We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
What’s next to read: the best books to learn more about WWII and the Holocaust
Here are a few of the best books – historical fiction and non-fiction – about WWII and the Holocaust that are currently in my #tbr book stack.
The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein
I would love to hear from you as you read these books. And if you have any historical fiction or non-fiction books about the Holocaust and World War II that you would recommend.
There are a few popular books that I’ve read that fell short for me as I didn’t make a strong connection with the characters, such as The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Ragged Edge of Night and Code Girls. However, I know that these books did speak to many people.
And I also have a few favorite books about the Pacific theater of World War II including:
- Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (non-fiction)
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (historical fiction)
Regardless of your personal favorites, I hope you agree that history is a responsibility and that we should never forget the people and their stories and experiences of World War II and the Holocaust.