In 2007, I accidentally came across the dusty, old Yiddish book Freuen in di Ghettos (Women in the Ghettos). I expected mourning and gloom, but instead, this was a Yiddish thriller, filled with tales of young Jewish women who defied the Nazis by smuggling weapons, blowing up supply trains and organizing uprisings across Poland. Over the years, as I came to write a book about Jewish women’s resistance, I have read many, many books about the Holocaust. This year, for Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), I wanted to share a few that—like Freuen—jolted me. These are gripping tales that either I could not put down, or that stopped me in my tracks and made me think about the war in a slightly different and new way. Certainly, Holocaust works are not “light reading,” especially during a pandemic, but these books are uplifting for the tales of hope and resilience that they offer.
Books were critically important to young Jews during the Holocaust. The Nazis outlawed Jewish libraries, printing presses, books, and book stores. So young Jews revolted: they smuggled books into the ghettos, or out, for safekeeping. They started their own underground imprint using a mimeograph machine and whatever paper they could find.
They created clandestine libraries in kitchen cupboards, and distracted themselves while in hiding by reading popular mysteries and Gone with the Wind. In the Warsaw Ghetto, young women collaborated to create a catalogue of books that could be found in different houses, making this available to the public—their own form of a lending library. I am every day reminded of the sheer importance of our bookshops today—sanctuaries of debate, imagination, and liberty.
Tiny Lights for Travellers
Naomi K Lewis$29.99
“Written by the Canadian granddaughter of a survivor, this is a poetic and insightful memoir about family and faith.”
A Horse Walks Into a Bar
“A gripping novel by one of Israel’s preeminent authors about a floundering comedian’s pain, and a brilliant contemplation on the emotional legacy passed on by survivors.”
Saving One's Own: Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust
“The former director of the “Righteous Among the Nations” department at Yad Vashem tells the stories of Jewish rescuers who until this, never received the same recognition as their Gentile counterparts.”
Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors
“A moving first-person investigation of what it means to be born to Holocaust survivors.”
Gusta Davidson Draenger$27.54
“A beautifully-written and psychologically-oriented diary that tells the story of the Krakow underground, and was composed in secret, while Gusta was imprisoned.”
The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos
Judy Batalion$28.99 $26.96