Stories From The Holocaust

Today marks seventy years since the liberation of Auschwitz. Located in Poland, Auschwitz was a killing camp that saw Nazis murder more than 1.1 million men, women, and children, most of whom were Jews. On January 27, 1945 the 322nd Rifle Division of the Soviet Union's Red Army arrived at the camp. January 27 is now International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In honor of that I am sharing my favorite stories of the Holocaust that I learned of in the past year.

Stories From the Holocaust | Land of Honey

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The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

The Zookeeper's Wife | Stories From the Holocaust

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By chance, this book caught my eye while browsing through a library. I was drawn to it before I realized it was about World War II.
Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan were zookeepers in Warsaw, Poland at one of Europe's finest zoos at the time. After the zoo was bombed they were able to utilize the empty animal cages as hiding spots for more than three hundred people on the run from the Nazis. Antonina had a courageous finesse caring for their guests, giving birth during the war, and enduring Jan's capture by German soldiers. This story also brought to my attention the Nazi desire to 'cleanse' not only humanity but also their desire for 'pure' German animals and plants, destroying most of the zoo animals and Polish flowers and foliage as well.

The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy

The Bielski Brothers | Stories From the Holocaust

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Three Jewish brothers built a village deep in the forest of Poland/Belarus. They dug sleeping quarters into the earth, created a kitchen, bathhouse, a doctor's office, school, and theaters. The 1,200 people involved were of many trades, including tailors, shoemakers, herdsmen, carpenters, and mechanics. This provided necessities for daily life and also the ability for their guerrilla army to do considerable damage to the Nazis nearby.

Isaac's Army by Matthew Brzezinski

Isaac's Army | Stories From the Holocaust

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Isaac Zuckerman was the leader of the Jewish Fighting Organization. Along with his girlfriend Zivia Lubetkin, and fifteen year old assistant Simha Ratheiser, twenty four year old Isaac led the only armed Jewish resistance to the Nazis and fought in the two largest rebellions of the war. The three of them survived torture by the Gestapo, smuggled weapons, robbed banks, started illegal schools, and printed illegal material. Everyone should know this story.

Hitler's Furies by Wendy Lower

Hitler's Furies | Stories From the Holocaust

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While most Holocaust stories focus on the victims and survivors Hitler's Furies examines the perpetrators--specifically, the female Nazis. Something that has been almost completely disregarded, Wendy Lower implicates half a million women for their involvement in the Holocaust. From secretaries typing orders for liquidation to nurses murdering their patients to the wives of officers attending mass killings, the female brutality this book documents is downright chilling. A fascinating glimpse of a hitherto undisclosed part of history.

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

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Irena Sendler was a member of the Polish Underground who did social work in the Warsaw ghetto. This film shares how she miraculously smuggled 2,500 children past the Nazis and placed them in safe homes, supplying them with false documents. Anna Paquin stars along with Marica Gay Harden.

This year I plan on reading Flying For Her Country: The American and Soviet Women Pilots of World War II, The Nazi Officer's Wife, and Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France. I would also like to see the movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
Do you have a favorite book, movie, or story about the Holocaust that you would recommend?

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