73 years ago (January 27, 1945) the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated. Today marks International Holocaust Memorial Day.
I was reminded of today’s observation the way I’m reminded of a lot of days: Twitter. I saw a tweet from The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (@HMD_UK) about the day. It also told me that the theme for this year is The Power of Words.
When I was in elementary school I read a young adult fiction book about the Holocaust. I don’t remember the name of it, but I have a strong feeling it was Number the Stars. I remember being pulled into the story and having a hard time with the fact that although the book was fiction, the big scary stuff was based on facts. The emotions the characters felt were felt by real humans. This is where my love of historical fiction was born, and why I have a sweet spot for this era specifically.
I’ve always had a twinge of guilt when I say how much I love books about the Holocaust. What kind of person am I that I am so drawn into these stories? Today I felt differently when I read that tweet noting The Power of Words.
For an atrocity where secrecy, silence, and cover up was so important, the stories that emerge are all the more important. The fact that there are people in the world that don’t believe the Holocaust happened makes these words all the more important to share. The six million Jews, and millions of others, had stories. The fact that there can’t be a solid number somewhere of just how many people were killed shows how much about this time was deemed unimportant or forgotten.
Even the fiction stories are based in true events and help bring us into this horrific time to honor the the stories of those who experienced it.
I believe everyone has a story that is important and worth telling. Today I realized that is why I devour so many Holocaust stories. It’s a tragedy in and of itself, but even more of a tragedy that so many stories were lost. So many people told that they were not worthy of living. All their belongings stripped, their memories taken and burned. So much valuable history reduced to ashes. I hurt so much for this fact. I’m so thankful for the memoirs and fiction that help fill in the gaps left by the Nazis.
Here’s a few of my favorite books to help honor and remember the stories of the Holocaust:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: Fiction
Narrated by death, this book stands out to me from the rest. It’s such a unique perspective on the events surrounding the Holocaust.
Night by Elie Wiesel: Non-fiction
This is the book I read most recently. It was an easy read in the fact that it’s short; it was an incredibly difficult read for how much Wiesel packs into a short number of pages. That said, I think it’s a book everyone should read to better understand the lives of those in the concentration camps.
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult: Fiction
This book was suggested to me and I was hesitant because I thought Picoult was just “chick lit.” I was wrong. I couldn’t put this book down. An intriguing storyline to begin with, twists and turns, and lots of historical elements made this a wonderful read.
I have many more on my to-read list (up next is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne) but I’m always looking for suggestions. Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.