Without discussing and teaching our children about the Holocaust, they will grow up ignorant about such an important event in history. So how do we educate our children about the Holocaust? In addition to students learning in the classroom, there are a number of Holocaust books written specifically for children.
The following are fiction books about the Holocaust written for children ages 9 to 12. These books show the Holocaust and its times through the eyes of children. Though these books educate about the Holocaust, they are also wonderfully written stories of friendships, fears, and bravery. Honestly, I found most of these difficult to put down and each brought a tear to my eye. They are all worth reading.
The Night Crossing by Karen Ackerman
Clara and her older sister, Marta, were chased home by other children - one of them used to be Clara's best friend. Since the persecution in Austria was increasing, Clara's father decided that they would make a "night crossing" out of Austria and into Switzerland. The family sold everything of value, including the mother's wedding band, but the mother insisted on keeping the Shabbat candlesticks. Though the Shabbat candlesticks were hidden in the elder sister's petticoat, they often clinked together, giving away their location. When the family neared the gate to the Swiss border, they realized that they could not chance the candlesticks clinking together. So, to keep the candlesticks from making noise, they were hidden inside Clara's dolls. When they reached the gate, Clara not only had to pretend that the family had only been away on a holiday, but she carried the family's most valued possessions. Acting brave and strong, Clara successfully answered the Nazis' questions with quick and clever answers. The family successfully made it into Switzerland.
The Shadow Children by Steven Schnur
Years after the Second World War, a young boy, Etienne, made his annual visit to spend the summer months with his grandfather. On his grandfather's farm, Etienne helped with the pears and other chores and took excursions into the woods on Reveuse, the horse. At a certain point in the woods, he heard children but didn't see any. After a short discussion with Madame Joboter, a woman who helped the grandfather with house chores, Etienne was told that the location where he heard voices was haunted and that he was not to go there ever again. The grandfather pushed these stories aside and claimed that they stemmed from fears of guilty people. The grandfather did not explain what he meant by that. Etienne again went back to the location and this time saw and talked to some children. They seemed to be hiding in the woods and waiting for a train. Etienne didn't understand and when he told his grandfather, his grandfather did not believe the story. Etienne's further journeys to this location yielded him physical items such as a pocketknife. Later, Etienne found a pen that made a blue mark on his arm. The grandfather then told the story.
Many children had been sent by their parents out of Germany in a last effort to save their lives. Many of these children had ended up in the grandfather's small town. The townspeople tried to help these children, gave them food, mended clothing, and tried to give them a place to sleep. One day, the Nazis came and, under penalty of death, ordered all the children rounded up to be sent on a train, supposedly so that the Nazis could house and feed them. The townspeople delivered the children to the Nazis, hoping that what the Nazis had said was true. Quickly they discovered that the children would be rounded up onto cattle cars. None of the children ever came back. The townspeople hadn't spoken of the children for years, attempting to hide their guilt, but the children refused to be forgotten.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Two young girls, Ellen and Annemarie, were not only neighbors but best friends. On the Jewish New Year, Ellen and her family went to the synagogue for services and were told by the rabbi that the Nazis had taken the lists that had all the names of the Jews. Ellen's family were warned that the Nazis might come that night to take them away. Ellen was to stay with Annemarie's family and pretend that Annemarie and Ellen were sisters. Ellen's parents left without Ellen knowing exactly where they were going. Late that night, several Nazis came to Annemarie's family's apartment and insisted on looking around. They questioned Ellen's dark hair, but Annemarie's father was clever and "proved" to the Nazis that she was his daughter.
Ellen, Annemarie, Annemarie's mother, and Annemarie's sister left the next day for Annemarie's uncle's house. Annemarie's uncle, Henrik, was a fisherman and was out on the water when they arrived. Several times, Annemarie's mother and her uncle seemed to be talking in some kind of code, but she wasn't sure what they were talking about. Then uncle Henrik announced that there was going to be a funeral for great-aunt Birte, but there was no such person. After privately confronting her uncle about this fact, her uncle told her that they had not told her the truth because it is easier to be brave if you do not know everything.
That night, the casket arrived in a hearse and then the mourners came. Among the mourners, were Ellen's parents. The mourners were taken in two groups to uncle Henrik's boat and hidden in a secret compartment. A small package that was of severe importance was left behind and it was up to Annemarie to get it to the boat before the boat left. Running through woods, Annemarie carried the important envelope under bread and cheese in a basket. On her journey, she was stopped by Nazis with fierce dogs. The Nazis went through her basket and found the envelope. Since she did not know what was in the envelope, it was easier for Annemarie to remain brave. The Nazis left the contents within the envelope untouched and she barely made it in time for the boat. Later, her uncle explained what was in the envelope and why it was so important for the trip. Her friend Ellen and the rest of the group had made it safely to Sweden. This book is the 1990 Newbery Medal award winner. This is my favorite of the books on this list.