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12 Beautiful Books about the Holocaust

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

books-about-the-holocaust

The Diary of Anne Frank
Anne Frank
The real diary of a girl who tried so hard to see the beauty in a world crumbling around her.

Night
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
Markus Zusak
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
Jane Yolen
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
John Boyne
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.)

Maus
Art Spiegelman
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.

Animal Farm
George Orwell
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Schindler’s List
Thomas Keneally
This is the amazing story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The Reader
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.

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33 Important Facts about the Holocaust

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.

holocaust-facts

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.

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More than half of all the people killed during the Holocaust were women.

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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.

Image result for the holocaust, Babi Yar Ravine

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Image result for the holocaust, Zyklon B.

The company that created Zyklon B still exists as a pest control company.

IG Farben headquarters in Frankfurt am Main

The gas chambers at Auschwitz had the ability to kill up to 6,000 people a day.

Image result for the holocaust, auschwitz gas chambers

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.

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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.

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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.

Image result for the holocaust, Joseph Goebbels

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hitler planned to collect thousands of Jewish artifacts to build a “Museum of an Extinct Race” after the war.

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The Leica Camera company helped hundreds of Jews before the Holocaust by hiring them and sending them abroad for work.

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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.

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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”.

 

 

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What it All Comes Down To

memory

“For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude. And, of course, its consequences.”
Night

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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11 Cool and Unique Passover Hagaddahs

A few years ago before my dad passed away, we decided to write a Passover Hagaddah together. My dad, who was raised Catholic, wanted to create a Seder that was welcoming to everyone, not just our Jewish family.

We didn’t get a chance to jump in before he passed, but after he died I took it upon myself to pursue this idea. Over the course of a couple years, I wrote my very own Hagaddah, one that my family has used for the last few Passover Seders and one I hope to share with other family and friends at a large Passover celebration in the near future!

passover-hagaddahs

However this was not done without research! I did a lot of research. I’ve probably read more Hagaddahs over the last few years than I have in my entire life time…but through it all I’ve gathered a collection of amazing texts that do a great job of bringing this traditional holiday to life in new and creative ways.

If your family is looking to switch things up this Passover, here are a few cool and unique Hagaddahs that tell the same story in a fun, festive and updated way.

11 Cool and Unique Passover Hagaddahs

FOR THOSE WHO ARE SHORT ON TIME:41NYDEhDudL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NON-JEWS AT THEIR SEDER:51bgYibPAnL

FOR THOSE HOSTING OR ATTENDING PASSOVER FOR THE FIRST TIME:61IIn7A9hUL._SX495_BO1,204,203,200_

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN KABBALAH:617dQgx6RYL._SX436_BO1,204,203,200_

FOR THOSE WITH A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR:619paX8Uf8L._SX380_BO1,204,203,200_

FOR THOSE WITH A LOT OF KIDS AT THE SEDER:51srEvocKCL

FOR THOSE WHO LOVE DISCUSSION:51dn7wXG6fL

FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR A LITTLE NERDY FLAIR:41LuXiRn1eL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

FOR THOSE LOOKING TO LAUGH AND HAVE FUN WITH THE YOUNGER GENERATION:51Y0ajX8qjL._SX260_

FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR AN INTELLECTUAL SEDER:51yUXXLdtxL._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_

FOR THOSE WHO STILL WANT SOMETHING TRADITIONAL:61+Q-239HlL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

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13 Fun Facts about Passover

Passover – probably my favorite Jewish holiday – is the eight-day observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II. The name Passover comes from God’s promise to “pass over” the homes of the Jewish families when he killed the first born children of the Egyptians.

Schmidt Passover GIF

Messed up, I know.

Like practically every Jewish holiday, Passover is celebrated with food and wine. We retell the story of our exodus from Egypt with a plate of symbolic foods that represent everything from our blood, sweat and tears to the promises of rebirth and a healthy future.

Traditional Jewish foods are also in abundance during a Passover Seder. Matzah, horseradish, fish, brisket and delicious coconut macarons are all common flair for a fabulous Passover harvest.

The other staple of a Passover Seder is a Haggadah, or the text we read from to help tell the story of the holiday. The Haggadah helps guide us through the history of Passover, the prayers and blessings over our food and fortune, and concludes with hopeful wishes for a fruitful spring.

passover

Though I don’t consider myself a very religious person, I happen to have a deep connection with Passover. Not only do I lead the Seder for my family every year ( which is unusual for a woman, by the way), but I even wrote my own Haggadah that my family uses to celebrate Passover (but more on that tomorrow!).

If you’re unfamiliar with the Passover holiday but are intrigued to learn more, you’re in luck…because I happen to have some fun facts for you that might give you (or your Jewish friends) a new appreciation for one of the oldest and most iconic of Jewish holidays.

13 Fun Facts about Passover

Passover is the oldest celebrated Jewish holiday.

The Coca Cola bottling company in New York makes Coke that is kosher for Passover. Instead of corn syrup (corn is not kosher for Passover), they use sugar.

Image result for coca cola passover coke

When the Jews fled Egypt, it was said that they left in such a hurry that they didn’t have time for the dough to rise, thus the bread was all flat. This is why Jews eat Matzah and refrain from eating anything with leavening in it (bread, crackers, beans, corn grains) for eight days.

Motor Cycle GIF by Dan Blaushild

One of the main lessons of Passover is thankfulness. Some progressive temples have forgone the traditional Seder and have instead rallied together to make meals for the poor (PS – FAMILY, WE SHOULD DO THIS!).

The largest Seder in the world takes place in Kathmandu, Nepal. Turns out a lot of travelers from Israel, after completing their service in the Army, end up in the Asian country and gather there to celebrate their heritage.

Image result for Kathmandu, Nepal seder

Matzah ball soup is another staple of Passover. In 2009, Chef Anthony Sylvestry managed to make a matzah ball measuring 22.9 in. wide and weighing more than 260 lbs. It was crowned the largest matzah ball in the world and helped raise money for a charity basketball game.

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A recent addition to the traditional Seder plate is the orange, meant to symbolize support of marginalized people, including women and homosexuals.

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Some Ethiopian Jews break all their cooking dishes at Passover and make a new set to symbolize making a true break with the past.

In 2008, competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut at 78 matzah balls in eight minutes. WOOF.

Image result for competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut matzah balls

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated during the Passover holiday. Many Jews were in temple when news of his death broke, thus alters were quickly draped in black and, instead of Passover melodies, the congregations chanted Yom Kippur hymns, which focus more on repenting and forgiveness.

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The first American Edition of the Passover Haggadah was published in 1837.

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While you can technically buy matzah year-round, matzah made for Passover has to be made specifically for the holiday. A special process makes kosher matzah OK for Passover use (it has to be heavily guarded from moisture)…and boxes made specifically for the holiday are marked with a “kosher for Passover” label.

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Matzah has to be made in less than 18 minutes for it to be considered matzah and not leavened bread.

The Prince Of Egypt GIF

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!

 

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15 Recipes for Hanukkah

Put on your yamacha, it’s time to celebrate Hanukkah!

David Schwimmer Ross GIF

Like almost EVERY JEWISH HOLIDAY, Hanukkah is commemorated by eating food…lots and lots and lots of food.  We play dreidel for chocolate coins, we eat potato pancakes and donuts fried in oil, and if we’re really lucky, we get to dine on brisket, mandel bread, and rugulah cookies (or as we call them in our house, JEW-galah cookies!).

recipes-for-hanukkah

While lighting the menorah and playing dreidel are important traditional rituals that make this holiday so fun, you really can’t celebrate Hanukkah without eating some tasty food…so here are 15 delicious recipes that you can make for Hanukkah, or any day!

Adam Sandler Hanukkah GIF by Saturday Night Live

15 Recipes for Hanukkah

Jumbo Potato Pancake with Sage

jumbo-pancake

Crispy Potato Latkes

pancakes

Caramel Apple Upside Down Noodle Kugel

noodle-kugel

Olive Oil Cake

olive-oil-cake

Pinata Dreidel Cookies

dreidel-cookies

Mandel Bread

mandel bread

Chocolate Pumpkin Almond Rugelach

rugeleh

Perfect Potato Latkes

potato pancakes

Jelly Doughnuts (Sufganiyot)

jelly donuts

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

chocolate tart

Gingerbread Hanukkah Cookies

gingerbread cookies

Stained Glass Hanukkah Cookies

stained glass cookies

Homemade Hanukkah Gelt

gelt

Jelly Doughnut Muffins

donut muffind

Hanukkah White Hot Chocolate

white chocolate

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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8 Apple and Honey Recipes for Rosh Hashanah

It should come as no surprise that Jewish people love food.  We have holidays that celebrate the fall harvest, we eat doughnuts and other foods cooked in oil to celebrate Hanukkah, the Passover story is TOLD with food, and we even deny ourselves our one great pleasure (eating) on Yom Kippur when we have to repent our sins.  Needless to say, there are going to be a lot of HANGRY Jews roaming the streets come September 30th…

But one of my favorite culinary traditions in the Jewish culture is eating apples and honey to celebrate the new year.  The Jewish calendar is lunar for reasons I still don’t understand…but that means we celebrate our new year in September or October rather than December and January.  This year Rosh Hashanah, or head/beginning of the year, is September 21st…and what better way to welcome in a sweet new year than with these tasty apple and honey recipes!

PicMonkey Image (2)

The tradition of eating apples and honey goes back several years and is meant to fill the new year with sweetness.  The reasoning behind the apple is most likely because it’s associated with the Garden of Eden and the honey is not only sweet, but could be symbolic of Israel.  Whatever the TRUE reason, I love the tradition and, honestly, these two flavors go so well together that reasoning shouldn’t matter…it’s just delicious!

So here are 8 tasty apple and honey recipes that you can enjoy to welcome in the new Jewish new year…or just to eat because these are all amazing!

 Apple and Honey Recipes for Rosh Hashanah

Honey-Glazed Apple Crumb Muffins

muffins

Apple and Pear Spinach Salad

apple salad

Apple and Honey Baklava

apple bakalava

Apple and Cinnamon Pancakes

apple and cinnamon pancakes

Honey-Baked Cinnamon Apples

cinnamon apples

Yogurt Bowls with Apples and Honey

yogurt bowl

Apple and Honey Crostini

apple crostini

Apple and Honey Bimuelos

apple bimuelos

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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