From ‘The Volunteer’ to ‘Night’, in honour of Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 these are the books to read from Amazon, Waterstones and Bookshop
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) – commemorated annually on 27 January – is dedicated to the remembrance of those who were killed in the Holocaust under Nazi persecution and takes place on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp.
In recent years the scope has widened to include victims of all genocides including those that have taken place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and China, with the latter being the ongoing plight of Uighur Muslims.
It was first honoured in 2001 and since 2005, the day has been supported by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a charity set up by the government and of which Prince Charles is patron.
The day is usually commemorated with a national event that brings together survivors and their families, alongside members of the Royal Family.
As the acts of barbarity committed during the Holocaust recede further into history, it will become increasingly more important to recognise the stories that remain, and it’s up to us to make sure these tales of suffering amid unparalleled devastation live on.
In honour of the day, take up the mantel of education and remembrance by immersing yourself in these works of fiction and non-fiction about the Holocaust, as well as the genocides that have followed.
‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, published by Penguin Books
At just 15-years-old, Elie Wiesel was taken to Auschwitz and faced the struggle of preserving his identity in the brutal and grossly inhumane conditions. His memoir is based on his experiences as a prisoner and is a terrifying account of the death of his family, the death of his innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. A hard read, but a remarkable one.
‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris, published by Zaffre
A heartfelt story of love in a period of sheer darkness. Inspired by Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who was imprisoned at Auschwitz in 1942 and forced to tattoo numbers onto the arms of thousands of incoming prisoners, this novel is equal parts remarkable and life-affirming. At times it is almost unbearably poignant, and Morris’s ability to approach such an emotive subject matter in her debut novel is a testament to her skill as an author.
‘Edith’s Story: The True Story of a Young Girl’s Courage and Survival During World War II’ by Edith Velmans published by Van Horton Books
When Hitler invaded Holland in 1939, Edith was sent to live with a protestant family, changed her name, and survived by posing as a gentile. Based on her teenage diary, wartime letters, and reflections of being an adult survivor – this memoir recounts wartime events with poignant detail. Full of love and extraordinary courage, it is a must read.
‘The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz’ by Jack Fairweather, published by Ebury Publishing
Awarded the Costa Book of the Year award in 2019, The Volunteer tells the story of Witold Pilecki, the Polish resistance agent who entered Auschwitz by choice to feed vital information back to the Allied forces. Through extensive research and a gripping writing style, former war reporter Jack Fairweather brings to light the life of a true hero and provides a new perspective on the horrors of the final solution.
‘In the Shadow of the Banyan’ by Vaddey Ratner, published by Simon & Schuster
Featuring in the recommended reading list produced by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, this book is a semi-fictional debut written by a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. It tells the story of seven-year-old Raami, whose world is shattered when the Khmer Rouge takes over during the Seventies. Amid a climate of systematic violence, starvation and forced labour, Raami clings to the only remaining memory from her childhood – her father’s mythical legends and poems – in order to survive.
‘A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali’ by Gil Courtemanche
Set during Rwanda’s genocide, A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali tells the moving and passionate love story between a Canadian journalist and a local waitress working at the hotel where he resides. Beyond its walls exists a chaotic society in which millions live in poverty, surrounded by violence and disease. A hard-hitting but worthwhile read that brings the turmoil and terror of Rwanda’s genocide to the fore.
‘What is the What’ by Dave Eggers, published by Penguin Books
Dave Eggers tells the harrowing story of one of the world’s most brutal civil wars in Dafur. In this fictionalised autobiography, we follow the life of a little boy, Valentino Achak Deng, and his journey to safety, along with thousands of others, after his village is attacked. Along the way he encounters enemy soldiers, liberation rebels and deadly militias, and when he finally resettles in the United States, he finds a life of promise but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving and suspenseful, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives and experiences of millions through one extraordinary man.
The Costa Book Awards has unveiled its five winning titles for 2021
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