Go to any bookstore today and you’re bound to be overwhelmed with the amount of books there are on the topic of World War II and the Nazi regime. Perhaps just surpassed by the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, there are more books about World War II than any other war in history. Makes finding literature about the Holocaust pretty daunting…especially for young kids and teens.
While I am by no means an expert in Holocaust literature, I feel some of the best books out there are told from those that survived it…those who saw, first hand, the monstrosities of Germany, Poland, and Austria in the late 1940’s.
Here are 12 of some of the best books that I’ve read about the Holocaust…with Night and The Book Thief probably topping my list. In poetic prose and heart-wrenching detail, these books bring to life a time not that long ago…when the basic rights of food, shelter, and decent clothing were stripped from 11 million men, women and children, all because of one man’s fears and insecurities.
12 Beautiful Books about the Holocaust
The Diary of Anne Frank
The real diary of a girl who tried so hard to see the beauty in a world crumbling around her.
Elie Wiesel Night is the story of one man’s survival in Auschwitz. This is perhaps one of the most amazing accounts of the true horror of the Holocaust.
The Book Thief
Narrated by Death himself, The Book Thief tells the story of a young girl named Liesel and her stealing talents that help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding in their basement.
Number the Stars
When Ellen moves in with her friend Annemarie to escape the Nazi ragime, Annemarie embarks on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.
The Devil’s Arithmetic
Hannah thinks her Passover Seder will be just the same as last year…but this year as she opens the door for Elijah, she’s transported into the past. Only she knows the horrors that await.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
When young Bruno arrives at a new place with his family and meets a young boy on the other side of the fence, they develop a friendship that has devastating consequences. (This book has received some negative critism about it’s “historical account”, but keep in mind this is a fictional story.)
A cartoonist tries to come to terms with his father’s story and history itself through a series of graphic novels depecting Jewish people as mice and the Nazi soilders as cats.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
This is the amazing story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Bernhard Schlink The Reader is a profound book concerning the moral guilt that comes with being a second-generation German. Also, I rarely say this but the movie interpretation of this book is phenomenal (and stars Kate Winslet so, I mean…).
The Nazi Officer’s Wife
Edith Hahn Beer
A Jewish woman falls in love and marries a Nazi officer. In vivid, wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, near paralyzing fear as her husband tries tirelessly to keep her safe during the war.
I Never Saw Another Butterfly
Hana Volavkova (editor)
About 15,000 children under the age of 16 passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. Of those, fewer than 100 survived. In the poems and pictures collected in I Never Saw Another Butterfly, we see the daily misery, the loss of hope and their never-ending courage and fear that these children suffered during the brink of WWII.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.
Yesterday commemorated Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Usually a day filled with beautiful temple services, bittersweet music and showings of poetry and art created by those imprisoned in the death camps, Yom Hashoah is meant to be a day to remember those who perished so violently during World War II.
For years the Jewish people have said that, “to forget is to have let them die twice”…so we take at least one day a year to commemorate those who we’ve lost…not just our fellow Jewish relatives and friends, but also all the homosexuals, children, Gypsies and others who challenged Hitler’s political and religious views.
While no one can truly understand why or how something like this could happen, it’s important to know it did…and, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower, “if we do not know what we are fighting for, now we know what we’re fighting against.”
33 Important Facts about the Holocaust
*Warning – some of these images may be graphic for some viewers.
The Holocaust technically lasted about 12 years (from 1933 to 1945).
During that time, more than 11 million people were murdered…6 million of them were Jews and about 1.1 million were children.
More than half of all the people killed during the Holocaust were women.
And more than 1 million still remain unidentified.
One of the most brutal killings took place in September of 1941. At the Babi Yar Ravine, just outside of Kiev, Ukraine, more than 33,000 Jews were killed in just two days. Jews were forced to walk to the ravine’s edge, where they were then shot and pushed into the abyss. The Nazis then pushed the wall of the ravine over, burying the dead and the living.
Prisoners in the camps, called Sonderkommando, were forced to bury and burn the dead so as to avoid the possibility of eyewitnesses. Most Sonderkommando were regularly gassed and fewer than 20 of the several thousand survived. Some Sonderkommando even buried their testimonies in jars before their deaths.
In the initial stages of the genocide, the Jews were forced into ghettos and denied the basic means of survival. The largest ghetto in Warsaw, Poland lost about 1% of the population each month.
The term “holocaust” comes from the Greek holo (whole) and kaustos (burnt). It refers to an animal sacrifice in which the entire animal is burned.
Jews weren’t the only targets of the Nazi regime. Disabled people, those with differing political and religious views to Hitler, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals were also targeted.
The majority of the people who were deported to death camps were transported in cattle wagons. These wagons did not have water, food, a toilet or ventilation. The longest transport took 18 days. When the doors opened, everyone was already dead.
In 1935, Hitler introduced the Nuremberg Laws, which made it illegal for Germans to marry or have sex with Jews. It also deprived Jews of their German citizenship and most of their civil rights.
Muselmann, German for “Muslim”, was slang for concentration camp victims who gave up any hope of survival. They would squat with their legs tucked in an “Oriental” fashion, with their shoulders curved and their head dropped. Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi stated that if he could “enclose all the evil of our time in one image, I would choose this image.”
Carbon monoxide was originally used in gas chambers, but the Nazis eventually switched to a more toxic insecticide, Zyklon B. It took between 3 and 15 minutes to kill everyone in the gas chamber.
The company that created Zyklon B still exists as a pest control company.
The gas chambers at Auschwitz had the ability to kill up to 6,000 people a day.
There were several types of concentration camps all over Europe. Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Chelmno, Auschwitz/Birkenau and Majdanek were the largest killing camps and were all located in Poland.
There was a selection process at the entrance to each death camp. Anyone who was pregnant, small children, sick passengers or anyone who was handicapped was almost immediately condemned to death.
Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda and previous head of the Nazi organization, committed suicide along with his wife and six children in Berlin during the last week of the war.
After the war, the allies felt that the German people should know the crimes committed during the Holocaust. Many citizens were forced to view bodies found at the concentration camps.
General Eisenhower ordered every citizen of the German town of Gotha to tour the concentration camp Ohrdruf. After the mayor of the town and his wife did so, they went home and hanged themselves.
He also ordered every American soldier in the area who was not on the front lines to visit the camp as well. He said that if they did not know what they were fighting for, now they knew what they were fighting against.
To better mark who was who, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars and homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles. They (falsely) offered homosexuals their freedom if they would agree to be castrated or submit themselves to sexual abuse and prostitution to help them with their research.
Auschwitz saw the most deaths during the duration of the Holocaust. More than 2 million people died there. The next closest camp with a high death count was Belzec, with 600,000 deaths.
The ‘extermination’ aspect of the Nazi death camps was kept under wraps. Very few outside Nazi Germany knew about the existence of these camps until a few years before the war ended…and even then, few believed it to be true. Most thought these ‘rumors’ were just more war propaganda.
Holocaust denial is now seen as an anti-semitic conspiracy and is illegal in 17 countries, including Germany, Israel, Poland and Austria.
The Nazis always used a code language in all the documents that were related to the Holocaust.
Anne Frank’s concentration camp was liberated by British troops just weeks after her death.
Hitler planned to collect thousands of Jewish artifacts to build a “Museum of an Extinct Race” after the war.
The Leica Camera company helped hundreds of Jews before the Holocaust by hiring them and sending them abroad for work.
A Muslim family that saved Jews during the Holocaust was later saved by Israel during the genocide in Bosnia. They later converted to Judaism.
Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany, opened six years before WWII officially started.
The SS officer who captured Anne Frank and her family later purchased her book to see if he was mentioned.
In Germany, there is a specific word for analyzing and learning to live with the past, specifically the Holocaust: “Vergangenheitsbewaltigung”.
Earth Day is coming up, which means it’s about time to go out and hug some trees, lay in the grass and just generally enjoy the beauty of the Earth for as long as we can (unless it’s snowing in Chicago, which it has been doing the past few weekends…so the Earth and I are on rough terms right now) 😉
To help celebrate Earth Day, here are a few cute and fun recycled crafts that are great for using up leftover trash or recycling. Most of them are budget-friendly and can probably even be made with stuff you already have in your house!
12 Recycled Craft Projects You’ll Want to Show Off
Use an old Mason Jar to save up for an upcoming vacation. Decoupage a map of wherever you’re going for added motivation!
Light up the night with these DIY Duct tape milk carton lanterns.
Use an old toilet paper roll tube to create mock phone holder (and speaker!).
Turn old wine corks into adorable place settings for any holiday or celebration.
Turn plastic spoons into cute votive holders.
A busted or broken sweater makes a suuuuper comfy pillow!
Wine corks also make great trivets for hot plates and pans.
Turn old jeans into a cute mat.
Turn a box into a cute hair tie organizer.
An old out-of-date purse makes a great wreath for hanging flowers on the door.
Turn a plastic bottle into a cute planter.
Finally, use toilet paper rolls and tubes to keep your desk organized and tidy.
Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.
Roll up to a better breakfast with these delicious new and improved cinnamon roll recipes.
Gone is the cream cheese frosting, the thick cinnamon sugar paste, the stale refrigerated dough…enter amazing flavor combinations like orange and cranberry, the grown-up tastes of cardamom and Nutella, and discover one of the best and most delicious ways to put that cast iron skillet to use.
12 New Day Cinnamon Rolls
Overnight Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Glaze
Vegan and Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls
Chocolate, Orange, and Date Cinnamon Buns
Chocolate Peanut Butter Sweet Rolls
Strawberry Rhubarb Cinnamon Rolls
Blueberry Funfetti Cinnamon Rolls
Peanut Butter and Jelly Rolls
Sweet Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
Savory Butternut Squash Rolls
Soft Cranberry Orange Rolls
Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips.
In the summer of 2014, my mom was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. While I usually keep my feelings pretty close to the chest, I’m particularly covert about my experience with Alzheimer’s and what it’s like to be a caregiver. I would go so far as to say that even my closest friends, my siblings, my husband, don’t even know this part of me. This part of me is tender and raw. It’s continuously healing, then being ripped open again.
Alzheimer’s is about so much more than forgetting your keys or misplacing your glasses. It’s personal and heartbreaking. It’s a slow decline, a constant test in patience and understanding. It’s dealt with moment to moment, second to second and, as someone wise once put it, “…is the slowest and saddest goodbye.”
A few months ago I was approached by a dear family friend about an opportunity to write some poetry about my experience with Alzheimer’s, both as a daughter and a caregiver. While I was apprehensive at first, once I got started, I found I couldn’t stop. Words started pouring out of me so quickly that by the time I was done, I felt utterly and completely empty.
Though I’m a writer by trade, I’m very protective of my personal written words and the thought of sharing this poetry with all of you shakes me to my core. These poems bring to life feelings I never thought I could talk about and exposes a part of me I’ve worked very hard to keep private. The reason I decided to share them and have them published in this book is to help bring awareness, help encourage discussion, help shed light on a topic so many of us fear to acknowledge.
While this is not a book entirely about the Alzheimer’s experience, all proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to help fund Alzheimer’s research and awareness. For the sake of those fighting, supporting, and protecting, I humbly ask you to consider purchasing a copy of this book. The majority of the poems are written by the wonderful Bill McNulty and I encourage you to also check out his blog (“Still a Poet at Heart”) and the rest of his published books for more of his wise and humorous poetry.
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading this post, for purchasing the book, and for doing your part to help our cause.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.
Chances are if you saw Stephen Sondheim walking down Broadway, you may not recognize him. A quiet genius in every sense of the phrase, Sondheim has gifted the world some of the most beautiful melodies, lyrics, stories and compositions known to theater today.
Just having celebrated his 88th birthday, Sondheim is a living genius of the theater, having written and composed some of the best musicals of this century. You have him to thank for West Side Story, Into the Woods, Company, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Little Night Music, Gypsy!, and some might even say the film, Dick Tracy (1990) and this little musical you’ve probably heard of, Hamilton.
Sondheim has so many awards and accolades under his belt that it would take way too long to list them all out here…but let me just say the man is gifted. Eight Tony’s, eight Grammy’s and an Academy Award are just a few of the statues that pepper his bookshelves, not to mention his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But before Into the Woods…before Sweeney Todd, Company, and all his other amazing musicals, Sondheim was just a little kid who had a dream. He struggled a lot…but then boy, did he succeed.
For your theatrical pleasure, here are 30 Fun Facts about the one and only Stephen Sondheim.
30 Fun Facts about Stephen Sondheim
Sondheim’s parents worked in the garment industry. His father was a dress manufacturer and his mother was a designer.
When his parents divorced in 1942, he moved to Pennsylvania with his mother, where he began studying piano and organ. He was already actively practicing songwriting as a student at the George School.
It was in Pennsylvania where Sondheim met and became friends with Oscar Hammerstein II (Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Sound of Music). He served as his surrogate father during his time growing up in PA.
The surrogate father came in handy considering Sondheim’s relationship with his mother. A psychologically abusive woman, Etta Janet Sondheim would project her anger from her failed marriage on her son. She once wrote Stephen a letter saying that the “only regret [she] ever had was giving him birth.” YIKES. When his mother died in 1992, Stephen did not attend her funeral and had already been estranged from her for nearly 20 years.
While attending George School, Sondheim wrote a musical called By George, which was a success among his peers and buoyed Sondheim’s self-esteem. When he showed it to Hammerstein to get his opinion, Oscar offered his honest thoughts, saying, “it was the worst thing I have ever seen…but if you want to know why it’s terrible, I’ll tell you.” They spent the rest of the day going over the musical and Sondheim later said that he learned more about musical theater in that one afternoon than most people do in an entire lifetime.
To help him understand musical construction, Hammerstein had Sondheim write four musicals, each with one of the following conditions: based on a play he admired, based on a play he liked but thought flawed, based on an existing novel or short story, and then one original piece. By the time he was 22, he had finished all four. None of them were produced professionally.
Sondheim attended Williams College, where he majored in music (duh). Upon graduating, he won the Hutchinson Prize, which allowed him to study composition at Princeton University.
During his time at Williams College, Sondheim performed duties in the preparation and rehearsals of the Rogers and Hammerstein productions of South Pacific and The King and I.
After leaving Princeton, he studied further with avant-garde composer, Milton Babbitt and moved back to New York.
Before jumping straight into Broadway, Sondheim got his professional start in TV, writing scripts for Topper and The Last Word.
Sondheim’s contributions to West Side Story (lyricist) and Gypsy (lyricist) in the 1950’s brought him recognition as a rising star in theatre.
One of the first shows in which Sondheim wrote both lyrics and music for was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a farce based on ancient comedies written by the playwright Plautus. It opened in 1962 and ran for nearly 1,000 performances. It also won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
He would continue winning Tony’s throughout the 1970’s, including Tony’s for Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973) and Sweeney Todd (1979).
Company was actually one of Sondheim’s most well-received musicals, winning a Drama Critics Award, as well as the Tony for Best Musical. Sondheim also received awards for best composer and best lyricist for the show. Not to mention Company was well-loved by critics, as well. One commented that Company “…is absolutely first rate…the freshest…in years…This is a wonderful musical score, the one that Broadway has long needed.”
When Sondheim wrote Company (a play about a bachelor and his married friends), he had never even been married (or in a serious relationship, for that matter), so he chatted with friends to ask about their trials and tribulations with matrimony.
A Little Night Music also featured the hit song, “Send in the Clowns”, made popular by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins during the 70’s.
Sondheim also wrote five songs for the 1990 film, Dick Tracy, starring Warren Beatty and Madonna. He won an Academy Award for the song, “Sooner or Later”.
Sondheim also joins a goggle of other writers who have claimed that writing under the influence of alcohol is the best way to let loose and get past your inhibitions.
In 2015, Sondheim received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Two years later, became the first composer-lyricist to win the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award. This prize is given annually to a “critically acclaimed writer whose body of work helps us understand and interpret the human condition.” Other recipients of this award include Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison.
Counting up his accolades is kind of insane. In totality, as of this moment in time, Sondheim has one Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer), eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
There’s no denying that Sondheim has an amazing lineup of plays under his belt; however, he only claims that Do I Hear a Waltz?, coauthored with Richard Rogers, is his only failure. He claims he wrote it for the wrong reasons (a quick buck rather than out of passion).
Sondheim is weirdly also famous for his love of board games. He’s collected them over the years and has them hanging on the walls of his home. This fun fascination started as a solution for a poor, struggling artist to easily decorate his walls.
In the late 1960’s, Sondheim even published a series of cryptic crossword puzzles in New York magazine.
The only autobiographical song Sondheim says he has ever written is “Opening Doors” from Merrily We Roll Along (apparently “Try the Priest” wasn’t autobiographical…) ;). “Opening Doors” was inspired by the struggle he endured in the 50’s, trying to make a name for himself.
The former Henry Miller’s Theatre in New York was renamed the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in 2010 to help celebrate his 80th birthday.
Sondheim was so influenced by his mentorship that he paid it forward. He mentored a young Johnathan Larson (Rent), who wrote the musical, Tick, Tick…Boom!. After Larson died suddenly at age 35, Sondheim called him one of the few composers “attempting to blend contemporary pop music with theater music…he was well on his way to finding a real synthesis.”
And just one fun Raul Esparza fact because I love him so much – Esparza was the lead in Tick, Tick…Boom!, then would go on to star in Sondheim’s revival of Company (as Bobby) in the early 2000’s.
Sondheim was not directly involved, but was heavily consulted, during the 2007 film adaptation of Sweeney Todd, starring Johnny Depp, and Into the Woods, starring Meryl Streep. Every change to the script for both films was reviewed by and approved by him.
Sondheim also mentored one Lin-Manuel Miranda on his little musical, Hamilton. Sondheim “worried that an evening of rap might get monotonous”, but ultimately believed Miranda’s attention to, and respect for, good rhyming made it work.
Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!