After an absence of a few months, here is a roundup of recently released books about the Holocaust for April 2021, including a few highlights from February and March.
The Salesian Martyrs of Auschwitz by Alasdair Richardson
From the publisher, Don Bosco Publications:
Dr Alasdair Richardson’s ‘The Salesian Martyrs of Auschwitz’ is a challenging but important read in the lead-up to Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27. It is a brilliant and accessible account of the Salesian presence in Poland during World War II, and in the tiny town of Oświęcim—a town that was to go down in the history of infamy under its Nazi name AUSCHWITZ. He details the experiences of the twenty-two Salesian priests and brothers sent to the Auschwitz camp, only six of whom survived.
The Story Keeper by Fred Feldman
From the author:
Born in 1942 in Azerbaijan as my family was on the run from the German Army, I eventually was interned in displaced persons camps in Austria before being able to immigrate to the United States with my family in 1949. My book, “The Story Keeper, Weaving the Threads of Time and Memory,” published in January 2021, is a memoir of families across generations of peace and of war, of homes that become lost and hopes that are kept, and a belief in a future that’s better than the present.
The book is a compelling and exhilarating experience exploring the threads of times now long gone and the memories that arose from them to generate the stories that lived on. In each family, a fundamental life event spawns ripples that sweep across time and generations that would fade forever without exploration and would otherwise shed all meaning. The key event in many lives is making the decision to leave home forever and to strike out not knowing if it leads to disaster or to a future and a better place. So many today around the world face the same uncertain decision – to stay or to go.
The Ravine: A family, a photograph, a Holocaust massacre revealed by Wendy Lower
From the publisher, Head of Zeus:
A strikingly original book about a terrible photograph – an exceptionally rare image documenting the horrific final moments of a Jewish family in Ukraine.
The terrible mass shootings in Poland and the Ukraine are often neglected in studies of the Holocaust, because the perpetrators were meticulously careful to avoid leaving any evidence of their actions. Wendy Lower stumbled across one such piece of evidence – a photograph documenting the shooting of a mother and her children and the men who killed them – and has crafted a forensically brilliant and moving study that brings the larger horror of the genocide into focus.
One of the most compelling themes to emerge from her investigations in Ukraine, Slovakia, Germany and the USA is the identity and the surprising role of the photographer who recorded the killings. He must, she assumed, have been part of the Nazi organization of genocide. The truth was different…
485 Days at Majdanek by Jerzy Kwiatkowski
From the publisher, Hoover Institution Press:
In this memoir, Jerzy Kwiatkowski tells the harrowing tale of the sixteen months he spent at Majdanek, a concentration camp on the outskirts of Lublin in occupied Poland. In stark detail, he describes the organization and operations of the camp and, for its prisoners, the fierce struggle for survival. Written in 1945, with events still fresh in his mind, Kwiatkowski’s memoir provides a documentary-caliber look at prisoner life, from its mundane frustrations-endless roll calls, rations of rutabaga and potatoes-to its glimmers of hope-smuggled contraband, the strong bonds formed by the prisoners. It offers a first-person view on the Nazi regime’s darkest excesses, from forced labor and starvation to systematic murder. First released under Soviet-era censorship in Poland in 1966, Kwiatkowski’s memoir was published in a complete, uncensored Polish version in 2018 and has now been translated into English for the first time. The edition is richly illustrated with rare archival images from the Hoover Institution Library & Archives and the State Museum at Majdanek, who are proud to make this valuable historical record available to a wide audience.
Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol and Mass Murder in Nazi Germany – Battlegrounds: Cornell Studies in Military History by Edward B. Westermann
From the publisher, Cornell University Press:
In Drunk on Genocide, Edward B. Westermann reveals how, over the course of the Third Reich, scenes involving alcohol consumption and revelry among the SS and police became a routine part of rituals of humiliation in the camps, ghettos, and killing fields of Eastern Europe.
Westermann draws on a vast range of newly unearthed material to explore how alcohol consumption served as a literal and metaphorical lubricant for mass murder. It facilitated “performative masculinity,” expressly linked to physical or sexual violence. Such inebriated exhibitions extended from meetings of top Nazi officials to the rank and file, celebrating at the grave sites of their victims. Westermann argues that, contrary to the common misconception of the SS and police as stone-cold killers, they were, in fact, intoxicated with the act of murder itself.
Drunk on Genocide highlights the intersections of masculinity, drinking ritual, sexual violence, and mass murder to expose the role of alcohol and celebratory ritual in the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Its surprising and disturbing findings offer a new perspective on the mindset, motivation, and mentality of killers as they prepared for, and participated in, mass extermination.
Auschwitz, the Allies and Censorship of the Holocaust by Michael Fleming
From the publisher, Cambridge University Press:
What was the extent of allied knowledge regarding the mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz during the Second World War? The question is one which continues to prompt heated historical debate, and Michael Fleming’s important new book offers a definitive account of just how much the Allies knew. By tracking Polish and other reports about Auschwitz from their source, and surveying how knowledge was gathered, controlled and distributed to different audiences, the book examines the extent to which information about the camp was passed on to the British and American authorities, and how the dissemination of this knowledge was limited by propaganda and information agencies in the West. In a fascinating new study, the author reveals that the Allies had extensive knowledge of the mass killing of Jews at Auschwitz much earlier than previously thought; but the publicising of this information was actively discouraged in Britain and the US.
The Holocaust Bystander in Polish Culture, 1942-2015: The Story of Innocence – Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict edited by Maryla Hopfinger and Tomasz Zukowski
From the publisher, Palgrave:
This book concerns building an idealized image of the society in which the Holocaust occurred. It inspects the category of the bystander (in Polish culture closely related to the witness), since the war recognized as the axis of self-presentation and majority politics of memory. The category is of performative character since it defines the roles of event participants, assumes passivity of the non-Jewish environment, and alienates the exterminated, thus making it impossible to speak about the bystanders’ violence at the border between the ghetto and the ‘Aryan’ side. Bystanders were neither passive nor distanced; rather, they participated and played important roles in Nazi plans. Starting with the war, the authors analyze the functions of this category in the Polish discourse of memory through following its changing forms and showing links with social practices organizing the collective memory. Despite being often critiqued, this point of dispute about Polish memory rarely belongs to mainstream culture. It also blocks the memory of Polish violence against Jews. The book is intended for students and researchers interested in memory studies, the history of the Holocaust, the memory of genocide, and the war and postwar cultures of Poland and Eastern Europe.
Holocaust Cinema Complete: A History and Analysis of 300 Films, with a Teaching Guide by Rich Brownstein
From the publisher, McFarland and Co Inc:
For generations, Holocaust movies have become an important segment of world cinema and the de-facto holocaust education for many. They are so critically venerated that one-third of all American-produced Holocaust films have been nominated for at least one Oscar. Nonetheless, most Holocaust films have fallen through the cracks. In fact, few have even been commercially successful. This book explains these trends–and many others–in a complete guide to 300 Holocaust films and made-for-television movies.
Here, Holocaust films from Anne Frank to Schindler’s List to Jojo Rabbit are put into historical and artistic perspective and are discussed through many lenses: historically, chronologically, thematically, sociologically, geographically and individually. The filmmakers behind these films are also contextualized, including Charlie Chaplin, Sidney Lumet, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and Roman Polanski. This book also includes recommendations and reviews of the 50 best Holocaust films, an educational guide, and a detailed listing of each Holocaust film.
Holocaust Angst: The Federal Republic of Germany and American Holocaust Memory since the 1970s by Jacob S. Eder
From the publisher, Oxford University Press:
In the face of an outpouring of research on Holocaust history, Holocaust Angst takes an innovative approach. It explores how Germans perceived and reacted to how Americans publicly commemorated the Holocaust. It argues that a network of mostly conservative West German officials and their associates in private organizations and foundations, with Chancellor Kohl located at its center, perceived themselves as the “victims” of the afterlife of the Holocaust in America. They were concerned that public manifestations of Holocaust memory, such as museums, monuments, and movies, could severely damage the Federal Republic’s reputation and even cause Americans to question the Federal Republic’s status as an ally. From their perspective, American Holocaust memorial culture constituted a stumbling block for (West) German-American relations since the late 1970s. Providing the first comprehensive, archival study of German efforts to cope with the Nazi past vis-a-vis the United States up to the 1990s, this book uncovers the fears of German officials-some of whom were former Nazis or World War II veterans-about the impact of Holocaust memory on the reputation of the Federal Republic and reveals their at times negative perceptions of American Jews. Focusing on a variety of fields of interaction, ranging from the diplomatic to the scholarly and public spheres, the book unearths the complicated and often contradictory process of managing the legacies of genocide on an international stage. West German decision makers realized that American Holocaust memory was not an “anti-German plot” by American Jews and acknowledged that they could not significantly change American Holocaust discourse. In the end, German confrontation with American Holocaust memory contributed to a more open engagement on the part of the West German government with this memory and eventually rendered it a “positive resource” for German self-representation abroad. Holocaust Angst offers new perspectives on postwar Germany’s place in the world system as well as the Holocaust culture in the United States and the role of transnational organizations.
The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust by Rafael Medoff
From the publisher, Jewish Publication Society:
Based on recently discovered documents, The Jews Should Keep Quiet reassesses the hows and whys behind the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s fateful policies during the Holocaust. Rafael Medoff delves into difficult truths: With FDR’s consent, the administration deliberately suppressed European immigration far below the limits set by U.S. law. His administration also refused to admit Jewish refugees to the U.S. Virgin Islands, dismissed proposals to use empty Liberty ships returning from Europe to carry refugees, and rejected pleas to drop bombs on the railways leading to Auschwitz, even while American planes were bombing targets only a few miles away-actions that would not have conflicted with the larger goal of winning the war.
What motivated FDR? Medoff explores the sensitive question of the president’s private sentiments toward Jews. Unmasking strong parallels between Roosevelt’s statements regarding Jews and Asians, he connects the administration’s policies of excluding Jewish refugees and interning Japanese Americans.
The Jews Should Keep Quiet further reveals how FDR’s personal relationship with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, American Jewry’s foremost leader in the 1930s and 1940s, swayed the U.S. response to the Holocaust. Documenting how Roosevelt and others pressured Wise to stifle American Jewish criticism of FDR’s policies, Medoff chronicles how and why the American Jewish community largely fell in line with Wise. Ultimately Medoff weighs the administration’s realistic options for rescue action, which, if taken, would have saved many lives.
The Just: how six unlikely heroes saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by Jan Brokken
From the publisher, Scribe:
The remarkable story of how a consul and his allies helped save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust in one of the greatest rescue operations of the twentieth century.
In May 1940, desperate Jewish refugees in Kaunas, the capital of Lithuania, faced annihilation in the Holocaust – until an ordinary Dutch man became their saviour.
Over a period of ten feverish days, Jan Zwartendijk, the newly appointed Dutch consul, wrote thousands of visas that would ostensibly allow Jews to travel to the Dutch colony of Curacao on the other side of the world. With the help of Chiune Sugihara, the consul for Japan, while taking great personal and professional risks, Zwartendijk enabled up to 10,000 men, women, and children to escape the country on the Trans-Siberian Express, through Soviet Russia to Japan and then on to China, saving them from the Nazis and the concentration camps.
Most of the Jews whom Zwartendijk helped escape survived the war, and they and their descendants settled in America, Canada, Australia, and other countries. Zwartendijk and Sugihara were true heroes, and yet they were both shunned by their own countries after the war, and their courageous, unstinting actions have remained relatively unknown.
In The Just, renowned Dutch author Jan Brokken wrests this heroic story from oblivion and traces the journeys of a number of the rescued Jews. This epic narrative shows how, even in life-threatening circumstances, some people make the just choice at the right time. It is a lesson in character and courage.
The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian Jews and the Holocaust – Lexington Studies in Jewish Literature by Jacky Comforty and Martha Aladjem Bloomfield
From the publisher, Lexington Books:
The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian Jews and the Holocaust shares a complex tapestry of voices of memories previously underrepresented, ignored and denied. An alternative perspective that includes stolen, silenced, but now reclaimed Jewish narrative based on our peoples’ experiences. It contextualizes and personalizes our history, reconstructs the puzzle, praises those who helped the Jews and shares their exemplary acts of humanity for future generations.
The Light of Days: Women Fighters of the Jewish Resistance – Their Untold Story by Judy Batalion
From the publisher, Little, Brown:
One of the most important untold stories of World War II, The Light of Days is a soaring landmark history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who inspired Poland’s Jewish youth groups to resist the Nazis.
Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland – some still in their teens – became the heart of a wide-ranging resistance network that fought the Nazis.
With courage, guile and nerves of steel, these ‘ghetto girls’ smuggled guns in loaves of bread and coded intelligence messages in their plaited hair. They helped build life-saving systems of underground bunkers and sustained thousands of Jews in safe hiding places. They bribed Gestapo guards with liquor, assassinated Nazis and sabotaged German supply lines.
The Light of Days at last reveals the real history of these incredible women whose courageous yet little-known feats have been eclipsed by time.
The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
From the publisher, Pushkin Press:
Germany, November 1938: Otto Silbermann receives a knock on his door and realises he must flee. A respected German-Jewish businessman, he has managed to evade the escalating brutality of the Nazi regime. But now, as he and his wife plan to leave, all avenues are shut down and he is forced to abandon his home amid the untrammelled violence of Kristallnacht.
With all the money he can gather stuffed into a suitcase, Otto takes train after train across Germany, desperately seeking to cross the border, every moment terrified a fellow passenger will discover his Jewish identity. An unbearably tense rediscovered classic, The Passenger is an unparalleled depiction of the terrifying atmosphere of Nazi Germany.
If you are publishing a book on the Holocaust or related topics and would like to suggest its inclusion in future New Books roundups, please get in touch via the contact page.
Inclusion of titles on this list does not represent endorsement of their contents.