Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." - Elie Wiesel

One of my favorite new book blogs is Nutmeg’s “Another Nutter.”
I can’t remember now how I happened across her, but probably through Lazy Cow if I had to guess. I am resisting my urge to call Nutmeg by the unutterably cute nickname of “Meg” because I hate it when people use unauthorized nicknames, especially for people whom they have never actually met. (But wouldn’t it be adorable?) (Nutmeg, feel free to virtually slap me.)

Anyway, it seems that Nutmeg and I share a common interest (well, probably several), but this quote from a recent post of hers sums up the pertinent one: I think this movie [“The Sound of Music”] went on to inspire my rather eccentric obsession with WWII fiction and non-fiction; Nazi Germany and later the Holocaust, in particular.

I too seem to read an awful lot of Holocaust-themed literature. I don’t rightly know if this is because there’s a lot of good stuff out there, or I am morbid, or what. But I meandered through my personal library shelves over the past few days and came up with this list of the books I have read, or I own, or at least Gina has read, that fall into this category. The range is enormous, and I know there are literally thousands more.

They are loosely divided into fiction, and non.
And feel free to add suggestions.

Leeway Cottage – Beth Gutcheon. On her website, Gutcheon lists a bibliography for Leeway Cottage. I haven’t read many of these books, but some of them look fascinating. And Leeway Cottage, while not Gutcheon’s best novel, addresses a relatively novel aspect of the Holocaust, namely, the Danish resistance to the Nazis.

A Thread of Grace – Mary Doria Russell. Russell also has a bibliography for A Thread of Grace on her website. This book is horribly sad, and haunting. I cried buckets throughout, and sobbed torrents at the end.

The History of Love – Nicole Krauss. I LOVED this book, and plan to reread it often.

The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass. I have heard of parallels being drawn between this, and Stones from the River. I have begun several times but never finished Drum.

Stones from the River – Ursula Hegi. Stones is in my top ten list of favorite books ever. I have read it several times, and routinely buy copies whenever I find them used, to give away. It is, among other things, a powerful portrayal of how ordinary people allowed the Nazis to perpetrate their evil.

Maus and Maus II - Art Speigelman. Oh, yes, it’s a comic book (excuse me, graphic novel) but it’s powerful. And while at first it didn’t grab me, Speigelman’s artistic style grew on me.

Exodus - Leon Uris. Also QB VII (a Nazi doctor sues an author over allegations about his responsibility for horrific experiments conducted in a concentration camp) and Mila 18 (the Warsaw uprising). Uris is not a particularly good writer, but he is compellingly readable.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne. I haven't read this, Gina has. And she recommends it. I do know it's fairly new, and is marketed as a children's novel.

The Book Thief - Markus Zuzak. This book too is marketed as a children's novel, which really confuses me. The beginning of this book was clumsy and self-conscious, but it picked up speed and grace as it went along. The ending hit me like a sucker punch. Even though it wasn't.

A Changed Man – Francine Prose. Gina read this, and liked it, and suggested it for the list. I don’t know much about it, but Gina’s recommendation is good enough for me.

Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer. Ditto. I WANTED to love this book. But I personally think Krauss outwrites her husband by miles – I find him self-conscious and well nigh unreadable - but Gina really liked this, so I think I need to give it another shot.

I almost forgot William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. I will say it was a bad choice to read this while I was pregnant, but it’s a heck of a book.


Night - Elie Wiesel. The king of Holocaust literature, if such a phrase can be appropriately used in this context.

All Rivers Run to the Sea - Elie Weisel. I have not read this, technically Wiesel's memoirs. So, if you've read Night, you should probably read this. It's on my TBR list.

The Leopard Hat: A Daughter’s Story - Valerie Steiker. This book was fairly unmemorable, but I found her writing about her mother’s life during the war achingly real.

After Long Silence: A Woman’s Search for her Family’s Secret Identity – Helen Fremont. The woman who wrote this had her own agenda for revealing her family’s secret, which does not make the book any less valuable or interesting, but her tangential forays about revealing her homosexuality to her parents annoyed me no end.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust - Edith Beer. I am reading this right now.

Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins at Auschwitz - Lucette Matalon Lagnado. This book horrified me. If you have kids, think twice about reading this. It still haunts me. As it should.

Rescue in Denmark – Harold Flender. Details the Danish effort to save their Jews. This was on my mother's bookshelves, and I read it several times when I was a teenager.

A Night of Watching - Elliott Arnold. Another take on the Danish resistance.

The Diary of Anne Frank: The Definitive Edition. Edited by her father, Otto Frank, and containing all the writing that was expurgated in the original publication. I have this, along with a couple copies of the mass market paperback diary version. Let's face it, as a teenage girl, this was compellingly angsty reading.

Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex. I read these ages ago. Technically fiction, I know, but solid part of the Anne Frank canon.

Anne Frank, A Portrait in Courage – Ernst Schnabel. Another book I read and reread and reread again as a teenager. Schnabel illuminates Anne’s short life through interviews with people who knew her.

[Note: While searching around for authors and commentary on some of these books, I found this seemingly comprehensive bibliography on Anne Frank. It may offer up some interesting reading material.]

Shoah - Claude Lanzman. I bought the book after I’d watched the Lanzman documentary. What a powerful and moving piece of work.

Schindler’s List - Thomas Kenneally. I bought the book after I saw the movie, in a theatre in Squirrel Hill, a primarily Jewish section of the city, and I was quite possibly the only Gentile in the entire theatre. I have never experienced the absolute silence at the end of a movie that I did with this one. Every last one of us was, quite frankly, stunned. (I will also point out - the voice of experience - that this is a VERY BAD CHOICE for a first-date movie.)

The Hidden Children - Howard Greenfeld. I picked this up in a bargain bin somewhere; it has moved me to tears at time. I am still on the look-out for the book about the Kindertransport, Ten Thousand Children: True stories told by children who escaped the Holocaust on the Kindertransport; I used to work for a man who was one of the Kindertransport children and while I didn’t much care for him, the fact gave me new appreciation for the difficulties he must have had to overcome. I like to imagine I would be brave enough to send my children away for their own safety, but God, the thought of it hurts so much I don’t linger on it and pray I never ever have to consider it.

When Time Ran Out: Coming of Age in the Third Reich - Frederic Zeller. This has sat on my shelf forever, I have not read it.

The Upstairs Room – Johanna Reiss. I read this when I was a kid; I didn’t know it had won a Newbery. I do remember it being riveting. Between this and Anne Frank, I spent a lot of time imagining what it would be like to be hiding, in fear for one's life, and figuring out where I could hide if the Nazis came for me. I was a melodramatic child.

The Hiding Place – Corrie ten Boom. I had to read this for school at some point. Also, Zvi, which it turns out is a book published by Friends of Israel, which is essentially the Protestant corollary to Jews for Jesus.

I am sure, as I said, that there are literally thousands more. There are especially a ton of children's books I have not read: I look at them all the time. I pick up When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit almost every time I am at the bookstore. One of these days I will buy it. Most of these books are emotionally wrenching, but I think it's important to read them, important to learn from them, important to remember.


Elie Wiesel: I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. And anyone who does not remember betrays them again.


Anonymous said...

May I recommend Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressman Taylor?

Kathy said...

Also this one: Awake in the Dark by Shira Nayman: These are short stories about the children of Holocaust victims and participants.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I LOVED Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (and loved parts of Everything is Illuminated) but I couldn't get into History of Love and gave it up. I wonder if you can love one or another of the couple but not both...?

I've heard very mixed things about Striped Pajamas. Perhaps it's time to judge for myself.

I went through a huge Holocaust lit phase in high school, but I honestly can't remember what I read.

Lois Lowry's Number the Stars is a good kids' one. As is Hitler Youth - nonfiction.

Sarah Louise said...

I could easily do a post on all the kid's lit Holocaust/WWII books I've read and loved. I'll put it on my list of blogs to write.

Three favorites, though:

A Pocket full of seeds by Marilyn Sachs

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Hide and Seek by Ida Vos

--Deb said...

I agree with you about Nicole Krauss out-writing her husband. I adored History of Love and really enjoyed her other book (whose title escapes me at the moment, about a man who suddenly loses his memory and finds himself across the country with no idea who he is or how he got there). but Safer? Not such a fan!

nutmeg said...

Oh, I've been trying to comment for a couple of hours but blogger has been having a fit ;-)

Thankyou for noticing! I'm blown away. I found the similarities in our interests a bit freaky to begin with and hung back and lurked on your blog a while thinking I would appear a bit too zealous!

As to calling me Meg - feel free. But, unfortunately I don't think I would be classified as cute :-( "Cute" brings forth images of petite and slim and I am neither of those; but I do have the reddish/auburn coloured hair - just like a nutmeg!

Your lists are phenomenal! I have just printed your post out as I am (or more acurately, my girls) are "breaking in" a new babysitter tonight and I am heading out to book browse and catch a movie.

Our librries overlap a bit (not surprisingly!) but I have a few in mind which you may like:

Too Many Men - Lily Brett (you may have already read this as I saw that you had read her latest recently)

Emil and Karl - recent YA release about two orphaned boys trying to stay ahead of the Nazis

Reading the Holocaust - Inga Clendinnen (Australian writer's non-fiction work - great writing!)

I have some more (plus many general WWII novels and non-fiction) - if you would like a list just email me at You see, that's another of my obsessions, which I share with Lazy Cow - LISTS!

On my to read pile:

A Woman in Berlin - Anonymous. Not realy Holocaust but about a woman trying to survive in Berlin after its fall.

Thread of Grace - you've helped to push this one way up the list!

Saints and Villains - Denise Giardina (fiction)

A Tale of Love and Darkness - Amos Oz (memoir/autobiography)

I think I will have to do a post about my other "eccentric" reading infatuations - we may find some more similarities :-)

Suse said...

Timely post for me. University semester started this week and this time I am taking a class called 'The Holocaust and Genocide'. The lecturer is freshly arrived from Israel and has plans to extend the Jewish history program.

Oh, and the book that Thomas Keneally wrote was Schindler's Ark, not List. (The movie was List).

I'll stop being pedantic now.

Kathy said...

nutmeg: A Thread of Grace is just wonderful. I read it on bb's recommendation and I just loved it.

Suse: Write about that class on your blog -- I'd be really interested to hear about it. My copy of the Keneally book is called Schindler's List but I bought it after the movie and it is a movie tie-in, so maybe they changed the name after the movie.