Looking for the best children’s books about the Holocaust? These Holocaust children’s books for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Picture books and middle grade novels about the Holocaust with lesson plans and activities linked. Books both fiction and nonfiction about concentration camps, surviving the Holocaust, Jewish immigrants and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Children’s Books About the Holocaust
Picture Books About the Holocaust and WWII:
Nicky and Vera
In December 1938, a young Englishman canceled a ski vacation and went instead to Prague to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Nazis who were crowded into the city. Setting up a makeshift headquarters in his hotel room, Nicholas Winton took names and photographs from parents desperate to get their children out of danger. He raised money, found foster families in England, arranged travel and visas, and, when necessary, bribed officials and forged documents. In the frantic spring and summer of 1939, as the Nazi shadow fell over Europe, he organized the transportation of almost 700 children to safety.
Then, when the war began and no more children could be rescued, he put away his records and told no one. It was only fifty years later that a chance discovery and a famous television appearance brought Winton’s actions to light.
Star of Fear, Star of Hope
Set in France, during the Nazi occupation of World War II, a gentile child named Helen recalls the mounting persecution of her Jewish friend. She wonders why does her best friend, Lydia, have to wear a yellow star? Why are people in hiding and using strange names? What is Lydia afraid of? Touching upon the Holocaust with sensitivity and poignancy, Star of Fear, Star of Hope will help readers understand this difficult event in history.
Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki
Against the order of his government, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania issued thousands of visas to Jewish refugees to help them flee the Nazis during World War II.
The Key From Spain by Debbie Levy
When Flory’s ancestors are forced to leave Spain during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, they take with them their two most precious possessions―the key to their old house and the Ladino language. Later, when Flory flees Europe during World War II to begin a new life in the United States, she carries Ladino with her, along with her other precious possessions―her harmoniku and her music. But what of the key? An interesting story about a famous Jewish American!
The Book Rescuer
Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky has jumped into dumpsters, rummaged around musty basements, and crawled through cramped attics. He did all of this in pursuit of a particular kind of treasure, and he’s found plenty. Lansky’s treasure was any book written Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. When he started looking for Yiddish books, experts estimated there might be about 70,000 still in existence. Since then, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has collected close to 1.5 million books, and he’s finding more every day.
The Cats in Krasinski Square
Newbery medalist Karen Hesse tells a harrowing, true story about life in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII.
When Karen Hesse came upon a short article about cats out-foxing the Gestapo at the train station in Warsaw during WWII, she couldn’t get the story out of her mind. The result is this stirring account of a Jewish girl’s involvement in the Resistance. At once terrifying and soulful, this fictional account, borne of meticulous research, is a testament to history and to our passionate will to survive, as only Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse can write it.
Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
After being initiated into a neighbor’s family by a solemn backyard ceremony, a young Russian American girl and her African American brothers’ determine to buy their gramma Eula a beautiful Easter hat. But their good intentions are misunderstood, until they discover just the right way to pay for the hat that Eula’s had her eye on. Features a concentration camp survivor with a tattoo visible on his arm. A loving family story woven from the author’s childhood.
The Tree in the Courtyard
The tree in the courtyard was a horse chestnut. Her leaves were green stars; her flowers foaming cones of white and pink. Seagulls flocked to her shade. She spread roots and reached skyward in peace.
The tree watched a little girl, who played and laughed and wrote in a diary. When strangers invaded the city and warplanes roared overhead, the tree watched the girl peek out of the curtained window of the annex. It watched as she and her family were taken away—and when her father returned after the war, alone.
The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace. Its story, and Anne’s story, are beautifully told and illustrated in this powerful picture book.
The Whispering Town
It is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to neutral Sweden. The soldiers patrolling their street are growing suspicious, so Carl and his mama must make their way to the harbor despite a cloudy sky with no moon to guide them. Worried about their safety, Anett devises a clever and unusual plan for their safe passage to the harbor.
I Will Come Back For You
What was it like to grow up Jewish in Italy during World War II? Sit with a little girl as her grandmother tells the story of her childhood in Rome, of being separated from her father, and of going into hiding in the mountains. Based on the experiences of the author’s own family, this deeply moving book set during the Holocaust deals with a difficult subject in a way that is accessible and appropriate for young readers. I Will Come Back for You is an incredible story of bravery and kindness in the face of danger.
Benno and the Night of Broken Glass
Benno was the neighborhood’s favorite cat.
During the week, he napped in a sunny corner of Mitzi Stein’s dress shop and begged scrapped from Moshe the butcher. But one night in Berlin, the Nazis changed everything. Life would never be the same.
This cat’s-eye view introduces the Holocaust to children in a gentle way that can open discussion of this period.
When the Nazis invaded Poland, a family is split apart. The parents are sent to one concentration camp, their son to another. Only his father’s gift, a harmonica, keeps the boy’s hopes alive and, miraculously, ensures his survival. When an officer discovers his talent, he makes the boy play each night. Through music the boy invokes his parents and brings comfort to the other prisoners, lifting their spirits if only for a moment at time.
Middle Grade Novels / Chapter Books:
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.
JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .
All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
Thus begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
The War I Finally Won
When Ada awakes from surgery on her club foot, the news that greets her will change the course of her life. Doors that her mother had shut tightly are swinging open—
But World War II rages on. Ada and her brother, Jamie, are forced to move into a cottage with the iron-faced Lady Thorton and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded home is tense. Then Ruth arrives. Ruth, a Jewish girl, from Germany. A German? Could Ruth be a spy?
As the fallout from the war intensifies, calamity creeps closer to Ada’s doorstep, and life grows more complicated. Who will Ada decide to be? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?
Who Was Anne Frank
In her amazing diary, Anne Frank revealed the challenges and dreams common for any young girl. But Hitler brought her childhood to an end and forced her and her family into hiding. Who Was Anne Frank? looks closely at Anne’s life before the secret annex, what life was like in hiding, and the legacy of her diary. Black-and-white illustrations including maps and diagrams provide historical and visual reference in an easy-to-read biography written in a way that is appropriate and accessible for younger readers.
The Book Thief
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
10 concentration camps. 10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly. It’s something no one could imagine surviving. But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face. As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner — his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.
He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. Yanek encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later. Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will — and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside? Based on an astonishing true story.
Letters From Cuba
The situation is getting dire for Jews in Poland on the eve of World War II. Esther’s father has fled to Cuba, and she is the first one to join him. It’s heartbreaking to be separated from her beloved sister, so Esther promises to write down everything that happens until they’re reunited. And she does, recording both the good–the kindness of the Cuban people and her discovery of a valuable hidden talent–and the bad: the fact that Nazism has found a foothold even in Cuba. Esther’s evocative letters are full of her appreciation for life and reveal a resourceful, determined girl with a rare ability to bring people together, all the while striving to get the rest of their family out of Poland before it’s too late.
Based on Ruth Behar’s family history, this compelling story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the most challenging times.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Anna is not sure who Hitler is, but she sees his face on posters all over Berlin. Then one morning, Anna and her brother awake to find her father gone! Her mother explains that their father has had to leave and soon they will secretly join him. Anna just doesn’t understand. Why do their parents keep insisting that Germany is no longer safe for Jews like them?
Because of Hitler, Anna must leave everything behind as her family embarks on a journey that extends over several years and over the borders of many countries.
From a beloved voice in children’s literature comes this landmark memoir of hope amid harrowing times and an engaging and unusual Holocaust story.
With backlist sales of over 2.3 million copies, Uri Shulevitz, one of Farrar, Straus and Grioux’s most acclaimed picture-book creators, details the eight-year odyssey of how he and his Jewish family escaped the terrors of the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union in Chance.
It was during those years, with threats at every turn, that the young Uri experienced his awakening as an artist, an experience that played a key role during this difficult time. By turns dreamlike and nightmarish, this heavily illustrated account of determination, courage, family loyalty, and the luck of coincidence is a true publishing event.
In R. J. Palacio’s bestselling collection of stories Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère’s heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.
The Length of a String
Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to find her birth parents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white. Then her mom’s grandmother–Imani’s great-grandma Anna–passes away, and Imani discovers an old journal among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve and fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn, New York. Anna’s diary records her journey to America and her new life with an adoptive family of her own. And as Imani reads the diary, she begins to see her family, and her place in it, in a whole new way.
Hidden ends on a tender note, with Dounia and her mother rediscovering each other as World War II ends . . . and a young girl in present-day France becoming closer to her grandmother, who can finally, after all those years, tell her story. With words by Loïc Dauvillier and art by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo, this picture book-style comic for young readers is a touching read.
Best Children’s Books About the Holocaust
What are some of your favorite children’s books about the holocaust? Are there any must read children’s books about the holocaust that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!