Stories of the Holocaust for Kids

As a ten-year-old I picked up Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place and discovered the horror of the history of the Holocaust - since then I have read at least one holocaust story every year and sometimes many more. Many of these stories have made a significant impact on me in a myriad of ways. I think it's hugely important that these stories are told and retold, and read and re-read by young and old - the past must not be forgotten. Often it is through reading these stories that our world-views are formed, and that the qualities of kindness, honesty, justice and compassion are developed and cemented in to our psyche. These books remind us that good and evil exists. Not always a popular belief in this day and age. Also undoubtedly that humanity's inhumanity to fellow man knows no bounds.

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However the human spirit lives on. And in the midst of horror there are still answers to be found.

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And the biggest answers to the biggest questions are there too. Reading about the great power of forgiveness as shown by Corrie Ten Boom in the story of her family's persecution and the great suffering she witnessed and endured is a truly staggering and life-changing testimony for any reader.  

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While most of these holocaust books are true, some are fictionalised from the facts - and both have value. While some parents might be concerned about their children reading on this subject, each child will respond differently when reading about traumatic events. For many, reading about the Holocaust and war will bring up the need to know more - and hopefully promote discussion and knowledge, compassion and care. Some stories are told in ways that will help children on this journey, and hopefully by sharing about some of these titles you'll be able to find the right ones for you. 
The story of Hanna and her family encaptures warmth of character and heart in a cold setting where evil is creeping in. We feel Hanna's bewilderment as her family's comfortable and normal life with the pleasures of school, a best friend and warm cinnamon buns gives way to an increasingly hostile Poland in the late 1930s. Hanna watches as her parents debate whether to leave or stay. And then it is too late. Little details are described while big things are happening; like the smell of farm animal manure as they are hidden in a cart escaping Warsaw. Shock creeps up on Hanna (and the reader) with sinister speed, as fear grows and hope vanishes. Devastation of her family inevitably follows and yet there are glimmers of good in amongst the nightmarish reality. Music is held up as a sign that beauty can still exist even in a place as wretched as the Warsaw ghetto. This beautifully told tale is suitable for sensitive readers 10years +

Morris Gleitzman
This series by the current Australian Children's Laureate, Morris Gleitzman, has received lots of acclaim and it is well-deserved. The six books do not have to be read consecutively, and each gives an action-packed, deeply sensitive, moving and at times harrowing journey through different periods of Felix's life through the war years and beyond. Harsh times and the terrible violence are not shied away from. I do think that the fourth book in the series "Soon" crossed a line with its appropriateness for a readership below 12 years of age. This is problematic as most readers (and many well below the age of 12) will have read the previous books and (like my daughter) will be incensed at being told they should not read this one, yet. Maybe, the latest book is a triumph, and the rays of light amidst the darkness of Felix's experiences provide humour in the heartbreak, and hope for a better future.

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Hiding Edith - Kathy Kacer
Hiding Edith is the amazing true story of the French town of Moissac, where Jewish children were hidden from Nazi soldiers during WW2. This book tells of the power of good people in terrible times. It's not too often, although Schindler's List is the obvious exception, that we get such a good and true story surrounding the Holocaust, but this is definitely one of them. Edith Schwalb is one of the children sent to live in the orphanage as everyone around her disappears. While traumatised by the events around her, Edith arrives in Moissac, and is amazed by the french people's bravery and kindness.

I had never heard about this amazing story, and told through Edith's eyes, the reader experiences the terror of living at that time of war and persecution and the fragile hope of being in a place where survival may be possible. Photos of the people and places provide further evidence of this remarkable instance of light in the darkness. A truly uplifting read.


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