Books About the Holocaust (& World War II) for Kids

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Children’s books about the Holocaust and World War II help kids understand the past through historical fiction and nonfiction stories because they immerse readers in the experiences of people who lived through it, whether fiction books or nonfiction books.

In order not to repeat the past, we must understand it. We must know. We must remember. If we don’t understand the Holocaust and the genocide, we are doomed to repeat it. Not to mention, we need to remember that the horrors were perpetuated by regular people who become villains and monsters, turning on neighbors to follow a dangerous, hateful leader named Adolf Hilter.

It’s estimated that over 6 million Jews were killed in concentration camps during the Holocaust. How did this happen? And how can we make sure this never happens again. We need to keep these stories alive so we always remember and never, ever repeat this kind of horrible genocide again.

Here are important children’s books about the Holocaust and World War II that will teach children more about this dark period in history.

(I have only listed a few YA books, but if you have a teenager, encourage them to read Maus by Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer prize-winning, critically acclaimed graphic novel.)

books about the Holocaust and books about World War II

Books about the Holocaust & World War II

Picture Books About the Holocaust

books about the Holocaust

The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Susan Gal.
Yaffa loved her family and her town in Poland, but when the Nazis invaded, her family escaped with nothing except a few photos. Later in her life, she was asked to build an exhibit for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. She used her own photographs as inspiration and found other photos from her Jewish neighbors who used to live in Eishyshok, too. The photographs show life, family, love, and community.

The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Wendy Watson
During World War II, this children’s picture book tells the story of a Jewish girl and her cat friends who trick the Gestapo at a train station in the eastern Europe town of Warsaw.

books about the Holocaust

The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
In a small Danish fishing village, a Jewish family must escape pitch blackness. The townspeople guide the fleeing family with whispers. It’s a simple picture book but gets the message across about Jews escaping, helped by this town.

The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank by David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Rubin, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
The story of Anne Frank is familiar to adults but pretty heavy to introduce to young children. However, this picture book is a kid-appropriate introduction to Anne Frank’s story from a cat’s perspective.

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
A neighborhood cat observes the changes in the German and Jewish families in its town during the period leading up to Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, and the beginning of the Holocaust during wwii.

Stone Angel by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Katie May Green
Set during the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II, we follow a little girl and her family as they flee for their lives. The Stone Angel in the girl’s building gives her hope and courage.

Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust by Jennifer Roy, illustrated by Meg Swenson
This inspiring narrative nonfiction book about World War II honors Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who helps smuggle babies and children out of the ghetto before they’re sent to the camps. Irene kept lists of the children’s original names and their new names, which she buried in jars, hoping that maybe after the war she could reunite families. She risked her life and saved over 2,500 children.

Six Million Paper Clips by Peter W. Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand
School children nowadays can hardly imagine how many people were murdered during the Holocaust, so they decide to collect six million paper clips to begin to understand the mass murders. This is a popular children’s book choice for classrooms to read when learning about WWII.

The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco
Sevrine hides from the Nazis in Monique’s basement until both families are forced to flee from the Nazis during World War II.

Middle Grade Books about the Holocaust & WWII

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, Greg Salsedo, illustrated by Marc Lizano
ages 6 – 10 (graphic novel)
Now a grandmother, Dounia tells her granddaughter about when she was a young girl and hid from the Nazis with her neighbors. This is a gorgeous historical graphic novel chapter book about a Holocaust survivor.

Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Whittingham
ages 10+
Survivor stories of the Holocaust like these MUST be told. Because these six children were ordinary kids who experienced the hardest things a child could face…being torn from their homes, separated from family, captured as a prisoner, and/or forced to hide. Graphic novel storytelling with unique artwork supports the clear, compellingtrue story narratives that will profoundly move you as you witness the tragedies in these children’s lives. Powerful, emotional, and deeply disturbing, we are left with feelings of loss and grief.

Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen
ages 8 – 12
Chaya is a Polish Jew who decides to fight back against the Nazis in honor of her siblings. She becomes part of a resistance group that, among other things, helps smuggle supplies to the ghettos. She’s a determined, flawed young woman who fights for justice, knowing she won’t make huge changes but that at least some resistance actions are better than doing nothing.

Allies by Alan Gratz
ages 9 – 12
Written from many different voices about one day in history, readers easily can see the massive amount of cooperation, planning, and troops from different countries involved in D-Day (when the Allies invaded France at Normandy.) It’s violent and disheartening, yet despite terrible losses, racism, and injuries, the fighters persist despite everything to accomplish their goal — to take back the area for the Allies. An incredible retelling of this day, appropriate for middle-grade readers.

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler
ages 9 – 12
Inspired by the author’s family history, three friends from Vienna, Leo, Max, and Elsa, begin as best friends but are separated by war, location, and ideology. Leo and Elsa are Jewish, so their path includes ghetto housing, escape for one of them, and death camp for the other. But Max is not Jewish, and he gladly pursues Nazi beliefs and actions to please his father, despite the nagging voice that reminds him that his friends weren’t “dogs” or less than human. The conclusion weaves together their stories in a heartbreaking, beautiful ending that will leave you with a lot to discuss.

Max in the House of Spies: A Tale of World War II written by Adam Gitwitz
ages 9 – 12
Max is a super-smart Jewish boy living in Germany during World War II. He loves his family and tinkering with radios. Then, his parents send Max to safety on the Kindertransport. He’s joined by two personality-filled (grumpy) mythical creatures, a dybbuk and a kobold, living on his shoulders. Once in England, Max’s sole focus is returning to Germany to help his parents. His clever tactics impress the British spies, and the government agrees to recruit Max if he can pass their rigorous spy training. Brilliant, exciting, and funny!

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
ages 10+
Death narrates the story of Liesel, a girl who lives in Munich during the time of Nazi Germany. Through impossibly hard times, she has a burning desire to read. Her first stolen book, which her foster father uses to teach her, is The Gravediggers Handbook. Many people love this powerful story of growing up, friendship, and the human condition. It wasn’t my favorite historical fiction story about World War II — it felt tedious to read, the narrator bothered me, and I didn’t like all the swearing.

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
ages 8 – 12
Tissue alert — this breathtaking historical fiction book is essentially a fable set in Nazi Germany. We follow three Gypsy siblings who have witnessed the capture of their family and friends. While walking and searching for food, they find an abandoned zoo, with talking animals.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
ages 8 – 12
Lowry does an excellent job at writing about the Danish resistance during WWII in a way that isn’t too scary or inappropriate for kids. Annemarie’s best friend hides Annemarie’s Jewish family. But tensions are high as the Nazis look everywhere for Jews or Jewish sympathizers. It’s challenging to hide, knowing that every day you could be caught and sent to a death camp. Finally, the family escapes to Sweden, where they will be safe from the Nazi death camps.

We Are Wolves by Katrina Nanestad
ages 9 – 12
This story follows a German girl and her family in East Prussia after Hitler loses the war and the Russians take over, pillaging as they go. It’s about the grays of war, the impossible choices you must make to survive, and how love wins. When Liesl and her siblings are separated from their mother, they survive by stealing and foraging, sometimes in the woods and sometimes in a borrowed home–until the Russians find them. Their story is harrowing, thought-provoking, and warm-hearted.

Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
ages 10+
Without a doubt, this memoir is the most popular and iconic first-person account of the Holocaust, Anne writes about her time in hiding from the Nazis. She dreams of becoming a famous writer and tells the tales of her day-to-day life and thoughts.

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
ages 8 – 12
The main character is a street kid and a thief. He’s taken in by other orphans and wants to belong — perhaps to the Nazis. Until he sees the trains…

Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Emma Carlson Berne
ages 8 – 12
Memorable, gripping short historical stories tell about some of the 10,000 children who escaped the Nazis without their parents, traveled to England, and lived with host families until the war was over. Some were reunited with families while others were not, but they were all saved.

Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust by Allan Zullo
ages 8 – 12
In this nonfiction book, each of these children’s true stories will inspire readers to learn how these brave individuals all faced the horrors of the Holocaust with courage. One of the best nonfiction middle grade books about the Holocaust.

The Dollmaker of Krakow by Rachael Romero
ages 8 – 12
A “live” doll and a Polish magician toy store owner during Ward Wawr II develop a beautiful friendship. Later, a friendship develops between the doll, the magician, a Jewish father, and his daughter. When the Nazis force the Jews into a Warsaw ghetto, the doll encourages the magician to save as many children as possible by turning them into dolls for a short time. We only get a glimpse of the actual WWII horror; the story instead focuses on relationships. The ending is heartbreaking but also life-affirming as we see the power of love and friendship.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
ages 8 – 12
A Newbery Honor winner!!! Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust each other, but slowly the trust grows. As it does, all three regain something lost — hope and love. I can’t recommend this book enough; it will touch your heart at such a deep level. Don’t miss the equally amazing sequel: The War I Finally Won.

Catherine’s War by Julia Billet, illustrated by Claire Fauvel
ages 8- 12
When World War II comes to France, Rachel, a Jewish girl, must change her name and go into hiding. She moves frequently to avoid Germans, but one thing stays the same, her love for photography. Using her camera, she documents the war from her perspective. Based on the author’s mother’s life, this is a beautiful graphic novel about WWII that focuses on growing up, the kindness of strangers, and art.

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
ages 8 – 12
A wonderful, heartwarming historical fiction story set in World War II about three siblings who join the groups of children leaving London during WWII for safety but these kids need a new home. Unfortunately, their placements are horrid. The kind librarian helps them survive the bullying and hunger, but she’s deemed “unsuitable” to be their foster mother since her missing husband was German. Eventually, the children demand to live with the librarian –no matter what.

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
ages 8 – 12
This former Schindler’s list child tells his story — how he was only 10 when he left his home in Poland for the Krakow ghetto and survived the horrors there ultimately thanks to Oskar Schindler. One of the most memoriable books about the Holocaust.

Traitors Among Us by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
ages 8 – 12
It’s a little-known history that after WWII, Russians kidnapped refugees from Ukraine for slave labor or death. In this true story, sisters Maria and Krystia are kidnapped by the Russians when another girl falsely accuses them of being Hitler Girls, girls who collaborated with the Nazis. The girls, including their accusor, are taken to a house in the Russian zone for interrogation where they fight to survive and, with the help of others, to escape. This well-written history shows the power of human kindness.

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
ages 8 – 12
Present-day Hannah travels back in time to a Polish village just before it’s stormed by Nazi troops. She’s taken prisoner along with her neighbors to a concentration camp and once there, sacrifices herself in place of her friend.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
ages 8 – 12
Growing up in Germany, Anna doesn’t think about Hitler until her father disappears. That’s when she’s forced to leave her home behind and flee the country.

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky
ages 12+
In this graphic novel, Ann Frank’s diary excerpts and dialogue are well-balanced into a cohesive story that feels seamless, well-written, and insightful. Anne’s personality shines through as she sets the historical context and describes her daily life in hiding, which isn’t always very exciting but does result in a romance with the boy her age who lives there, too.

 
 

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
ages 8 – 12
It would be hard as an author not to vilify this country for sending thousands of Japanese Americans to prison camps. But this author doesn’t. She just skillfully shares the evocative story of 10-year old Manami of Washington State in the United States, who is sent with her family to a dusty camp, leaving behind her beloved dog, Yujiin, and everything else they own. Devastated, Manami stops speaking. Her story is painful, sprinkled with hope, and all too real. Please read this book about WWII with your kids– it’s important.

Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki
ages 8 – 12
An important, multi-layered story of a Japanese girl’s understanding of Hiroshima, grief, family, and the healing power of sharing stories. When Nozomi’s art teacher, Mr. Yoshioka, leaves the school due to sickness, she and her friends plan a festival in his honor called “Hiroshima: Then and Now.” They interview people close to them about their experiences during the bombing (which they call “the flash”), learning many unknown stories, including that Mr. Yoshioka lost his beloved and still visits her grave. As the kids learn about their family and neighbors’ lives and deaths, their stories impact how they view things now and their hope for the future, which they each share artistically in the festival.

 

Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood
ages 8 – 12
Thinking Hitler will invade England next, Ken’s British family sends him to safety in Canada. But Ken’s ship is torpedoed and sunk only days into the journey. Written in verse, this is a moving account of bravery as Ken, several other kids, a priest, the ship’s only woman, and members of the crew spend weeks adrift at sea in an ill-stocked lifeboat. You’ll read about their swollen feet, dehydration, and starvation, as well as the stories and songs that helped keep the kids distracted and somewhat hopeful. Ultimately, you’ll be left with a sense of amazement at the resiliency of the human spirit.

The Watcher by Joan Hiatt Harlow
ages 9 – 12
American-raised Wendy’s Nazi-spy mom takes her to live in Germany during World War II. Wendy doesn’t even speak the language and feels overwhelmed by her mother’s zeal for Hitler. When Wendy starts working at Lebensborn, the place where only Aryan children live — many who were forcibly removed from their parents — she learns from her new friend about standing up for what’s right.

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
ages 8 – 12 (Newbery winner)
Annie and her sister must hide from the Nazis in a small farmhouse room in Holland. Two years the sisters lived in hiding, by themselves, without their family. This historical fiction book is based on the author’s own experiences as a Jewish girl during WWII.

Find more children’s books about Holocaust heroes who weren’t Jewish.

Young Adult Books about the Holocaust & WWII

I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In the Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson
ages 14+
This survivor memoir shows the atrocities of the Holocaust in Hungary. Elli loses everything, then is moved to a ghetto, and later is taken to the death camps. Disturbing, as it should be.

The Librarian of Auschwitz adapted by Salva Rubio, translated by Lilit Zekuli Thwaites, illustrated by Loreto Aroca
Ages 12+
Based on a true story, this follows 14-year-old Dita and her family when they are sent to Auschwitz. Dita gets a job as a librarian caring for a handful of books in different languages and from different authors. She is a survivor but confused when she sees the Jewish leader kissing a German soldier and when he commits suicide. She survives the camps, but her family doesn’t. Later, she reunites with a boy she knew before, and they get married.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
ages 13+
Deftly written, this is the story of a girl named Henneke who becomes part of the Dutch resistance during WWII. It’s also a coming of age story during the horrific Holocaust time in history.

books about world war II

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw
ages 11+
In this beautifully written, eye-opening WWII book, we follow the life of Yuriko, a Japanese girl who lives in Hiroshima during World War II. Initially, her life revolves around drama with her family and friends, just like a typical child’s life in any country. But, in this recounting of Burkinshaw’s mother’s actual experience, her life is torn apart when the atomic bomb is dropped. Not to mention that it comes as a shock to learn that Japan has been losing the war. Yuriko’s life becomes a nightmare of survival and endurance.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
ages 14+
Frankl talks about his time in the Nazi Concentration Camps. But more than that, he reflects that those who survived did so because they had a purpose (meaning) in their lives. Incredible and thought-provoking. (This isn’t a children’s book, but I think it’s appropriate for mature teens.)

Night by Elie Weisel
ages 14+
One of the best holocaust books written, Elie’s memoir shows the horror of his life at two different Concentration Camps during World War II. It’s short, well-written, and life-changing. (This also isn’t a children’s book, but I think it’s appropriate for mature teens.)

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, & Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker ages 13+
Both history and memoir, George Taeki writes about the time during WWII when the US government declared war on Japan and subsequently, all Japanese people, forcing anyone of Japanese descent, including children, into detention camps…George’s family are forced into overcrowded barracks surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. George and his brother adapt well –mostly because they have amazing parents’ resiliency and perseverance. When World War II ended, leaving the camps wasn’t an easy, happy ending for any of the detained families.

Desert Diary Japanese American Kids Behind Barbed Wire by Michael O. Tunnel
ages 10+
Essential all libraries, this historical fiction book about World War II in the U.S. takes a deep dive into the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII from the beginning of internments to the aftermath of leaving the camps and starting over. It’s filled with facts, photographs, and artifacts (letters and newspaper articles.)

 
books about the Holocaust and World War II

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8 Comments

  1. Everyone of your lists/posts has wonderful suggestions that I can’t wait to share with others! And the books are wonderful too!!! Keep up the great work! I look forward to more in the future! Thank you,April

  2. Thank you for this wonderful list! I’d be honored if you’d consider adding the 2019 picture book, Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary (Sleeping Bear Press), written by me and illustrated by Jordi Solano.

    1. Meeg,
      Thank you for commenting and sharing about your book — it looks wonderful so I’ve placed it on hold at my library to read and review soon.

  3. I need to find out the name of a book I half read at junior school. It was about a boy surviving in wartime Poland. I think his name was Peter.That’s all I remember. HELP

  4. Thank you, for such a comprehensive and important list.
    Would you consider adding:
    Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust (Eve Bunting)?