Reflecting on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today on OOM we’re taking time to reflect on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Designated by the United Nations General Assembly, this annual day honors the victims of the Nazi era. To learn more, we’re turning toward books like the ones below, which can help introduce young readers to one of history’s darkest events.

Nonfiction

Courage & Defiance: Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in WWII Denmark (Ages 8–12) by Deborah Hopkinson: Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson traces the stories of the heroic young men and women of Denmark who would not stand by as their country was occupied the Nazis. Rather, they fought back. Some were spies, passing tactical information to the British; some were saboteurs, who aimed to hamper and impede Nazi operations in Denmark; and 95 percent of the Jewish population of Denmark were survivors, rescued by their fellow countrymen, who had the courage and conscience that drove them to act.

The Holocaust: The Origins, Events, and Remarkable Tales of Survival (Ages 12 and up) by Philip Steele: A thought-provoking new book that explores the complex reasons behind what led to the Holocaust, examines what life was like in concentration camps, and retells incredible stories of heroism in a sensitive and accessible way for a young audience.

Fiction

The Bicycle Spy (Ages 8–12) by Yona Zeldis McDonough: Marcel loves riding his bicycle and dreams of someday competing in the Tour de France, the greatest bicycle race. But ever since Germany’s occupation of France began two years ago, in 1940, the race has been canceled. Now there are soldiers everywhere, interrupting Marcel’s rides with checkpoints and questioning. Then Marcel learns two big secrets, and he realizes there are worse things about the war than a canceled race. When he later discovers that his friend’s entire family is in imminent danger, Marcel knows he can help—but it will involve taking a risky bicycle ride to pass along covert information. And when nothing ends up going according to plan, it’s up to him to keep pedaling and to think quickly . . . because his friend, her family and his own future hang in the balance.

The Enemy Above: A Novel of World War II (Ages 8–12) by Michael P. Spradlin: Anton has nowhere to run. Ambitious Colonel Karl Van Duesen of the Gestapo has made it his mission to round up every Jew in the Ukrainian countryside, and he's getting close. A web of underground caves seems like the perfect hiding place for Anton and the rest of his community. If they are discovered, they will be sent off to work camps, or worse. But when a surprise invasion catches them off guard, and his grandmother is captured, Anton makes a radical decision. He won't run. He won't hide. He will follow the Gestapo and rescue his grandmother. He will stop being the hunted, and start doing some hunting of his own.

Almost Autumn (Ages 12 and up) by Marianne Kaurin, translated by Rosie Hedger: It's October 1942, in Oslo, Norway. Fifteen-year-old Ilse Stern is waiting to meet boy-next-door Hermann Rod for their first date. But Hermann won't be able to make it tonight. What Ilse doesn't know is that Hermann is secretly working in the Resistance, helping Norwegian Jews flee the country to escape the Nazis. And as life under German occupation becomes even more difficult, particularly for Jewish families like the Sterns, the choices made become more important by the hour: To speak up or to look away? To stay or to flee? To act now or wait one more day?