The Holocaust of the Jews in Nazi dominated Germany is not a topic many people may consider as necessary reading material for their children, but it is a topic any child should be exposed to in an age-appropriate context. The best way to do this prior to the teen years is through literature as books carry the power to inform children of the injustices of the Holocaust without displaying graphic, tangible images of torture, pain, and death. The books suggested in this article for children to read focus on the Holocaust largely through the context of hiding or to the war in Germany as a whole which makes them a jumping off point for more serious materials to be introduced later.
“Katarina” by Kathryn Winter
The title character in the book “Katarina” is a Slovakian Jew whose aunt and uncle endeavor to keep her safe during the war to little avail. Despite the fact that Katarina is in a family that did not actively practice Judaism, she was a target. Katarina travels the countryside and eventually settles in a Protestant orphanage – an odd landing place for a Jewish girl who favors Catholic saints and prayers. The book “Katarina” was a particularly interesting volume for me as it featured the Russians as the liberators versus America.
“When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” by Judith Kerr
A character named Anna largely takes the place of Judith Kerr in this volume based on the author’s own experiences in Nazi Germany. Anna’s family flees Germany and the Holocaust, leaving behind their prized possessions, to establish a new life in France. It is hard for a young girl like Anna to immediately fit in and adjust to a new life. A more poignant moment in the book occurs when Anna speaks French without having to consciously translate from French to her native tongue and back again.
“Behind My Bedroom Wall” by Laura Williams
In this volume, the main character, Korinna, is a member of the Hitler youth group for girls and thoroughly anti-Semitic. One day she discovers there are two Jews, including a young girl living behind her bedroom wall. Korinna must face a series of difficult choices, including contemplating turning in her parents and sending the Jews behind her wall to fires of the Holocaust. Not a book to be missed.
“Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary”
“Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary” is a collection of photographs from throughout Anne Frank’s short life. If your child has read the Diary of Anne Frank, then this book offers supplemental information to add to the experience. The book is also a very readable abbreviation of the life of Anne Frank and includes diary excerpts, making it a good introduction to the lengthier book. This volume is also more easily read by preteens whereas the diary has the length and verbiage of a book for teens or heavy readers. It reflects not only on Anne Frank’s life but provides a great deal of information about the Holocaust in general.
All four of these volumes offer a bit of information about the Holocaust to children while not exposing them to the full horror immediately. All are available online or through your favorite book store.