Recommended Books About the Holocaust

Recommended Books About the Holocaust

I certainly hope  that you will  read The Architect of Auschwitz but these are some of the excellent books on the subject that I would recommend:

There are few periods of history darker than the Holocaust, so it is fitting that the world of Holocaust literature would be as vast as it is. Any book on the subject will help you to come to terms with it, which is something that we all need to do, but some books are better than others. The ones listed below will move you in a way that you will not soon forget.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is the archetypal Holocaust novel, in many ways more an experience that you have, rather than a book that you read. Its author, Elie Wiesel, was born in what is now Romania and survived several concentration camps, and in Night, he puts into hauntingly beautiful words all of the terrible events, whether physical, mental, or emotional, that he had to survive. It was partly for this work that Wiesel won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, and it should be required reading not only for people interested in the subject, but for everyone in the world – so that we may not allow such a thing to happen again.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This award-winning young adult novel is more than just a book for children. Told from the perspective of a German girl whose foster family agrees to hide a young Jewish boy – and narrated by the ever-present Death – The Book Thief explores all of the same themes that you expect from a book about the Holocaust – morality, love, and identity. Read in disbelief as the children growing up in such a terrible time struggle to figure out their role to play in it all.

HHhH by Laurent Binet

World War II ravaged not only the Jewish communities in Europe, but also any other places where the Nazis had control. One of these places was the area now known as the Czech Republic, where for about a year, the ruthless Reinhard Heydrich ruled with his ‘iron heart’ (as Hitler said) and iron fist to match, wreaking havoc on Czech and Jewish life and morale. A couple of Czech and Slovak paratroopers however, went on a mission to assassinate him – and this is the story of that event. At the end, you will feel that you know all of the characters. This offers you the history of a little-known event in the war, but in the most personal way.

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Never had a graphic novel felt so much like a punch in the stomach then when Art Spiegelman wrote the Holocaust classic Maus, which explores his family’s – and in particular, his father’s – personal experience during World War II. It is memorable for many reasons, not least among them being that the various nationalities are drawn as different animals – Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and Jews as the mice that give the name to the piece. True artwork on every level, Maus was the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, in 1992.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader looks at the Holocaust from another viewpoint – in retrospect, through the eyes of a former concentration camp guard. Through the book, we learn of the trauma that the nation’s terrible history caused for the people born into post-war Germany, and the ways that the whole country had to work to mend itself. The Reader tells the story of a fraught and complicated personal relationship, and in doing so reveals much bigger historical relationships.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Although many have called it historically inaccurate, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas takes readers to Auschwitz from the perspective of children, a Jewish boy on the inside of the fence and a German boy on the outside, who don’t understand the reality of the situation that they are placed in. They meet when the German boy’s father becomes the Commandant of the camp, and they become very good friends, all while separated by a fence. The terror of the Holocaust becomes all the more apparent when shown through the innocent eyes and minds of children.

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

If you haven’t already cried over the pages of Anne Frank’s diary, go out and get it right now. As you read, you’ll be struck by the heartbreaking ‘everyday’ quality of the life that Anne describes – because knowing that she and her family are hiding for their lives in the years and months before their deaths, it’s incredible that her feelings and the events she describes could be so relatable. Her father, Otto Frank, the only member of her family to survive the war, published her diary in the immediate aftermath of the war, and it has since become a major symbol of Nazi atrocities.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything Is Illuminated is in fact three stories – the fictional story of the Jewish town of Trachimbrod centuries before the war, the story of a Jewish shtetl in Poland during the war, and the overarching story that ties the two together, which is Jonathan Safran Foer’s trip to Ukraine to look for his family history. What starts out as lighthearted will eventually move you to tears as the various layers of history are uncovered and Foer discovers more and more about the places where his family once lived. The dead become alive and animated and then are taken away from you again, just as you start hoping that maybe, maybe, this time the story will turn out okay.

If This Is A Man by Primo Levi

Along the same lines as Night and Diary of a Young Girl, If This Is a Man (which in America has the title Survival in Auschwitz) tells another personal story of whatever version of life it was that the prisoners had in Auschwitz. Primo Levi, an Italian-Jewish member of the anti-fascist resistance in Italy, was kept in the camp for almost a year at the end of the war, and the book that he poured his experiences into hinges on the question of whether – and if so, how – people were able to retain their humanity in the face of such evil.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Another story of the Holocaust in retrospect, the title of Sophie’s Choice has entered the English lexicon as an idiom for an impossible choice. In the novel, Sophie, a Polish Catholic, is living in New York City and eventually recounts the terrible choice that she had to make when she first arrived at Auschwitz herself, after being arrested for smuggling food. The choice, which had no possible positive result, would haunt her for the rest of her life, and merely imagining it gives readers a whole new dimension of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Mendelssohn Is On The Roof by Jiri Weil

Mendelssohn Is On The Roof starts innocently enough, with a lighthearted story of a pair of bumbling SS soldiers tasked with removing a statue of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn from the roof of a concert hall. The book goes on, however, to incorporate the tales of a number of different characters all living in the Nazi-controlled Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, at the end becoming almost unbearably raw and horrific, made all the more so because you remember how you laughed in the beginning. You finish it, though, because you know, as the author did, that the difficulty of the story is exactly what gives it its value.

When Life Calls Out to Us: The Love and Lifework of Viktor and Elly Frankl

When Life Calls Out to Us: The Love and Lifework of Viktor and Elly Frankl

“The only authorized biography of Victor Frankl, whose life story and reflections have inspired tens of millions. Haddon Klingberg records and preserves the Frankl legacy, with his own eloquent and moving reflections.” — David G. Myers, Hope College, author of The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty.

Written in response to the horrors he experienced and witnessed during the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl’s landmark book, Man’s Search for Meaning, has sold millions of copies and been translated into twenty-seven languages. But although Frankl’s thought and philosophy have been widely analyzed, until now little has been written about his life, and about the deeply loving, intensely spiritual relationship that led him and his wife to dedicate their lives to reducing pain and oppression in the world.

In a book that is at once a wonderful love story and a tribute to two extraordinary people, Haddon Klingberg, Jr., draws on a wealth of anecdotes, told to him by the Frankl’s themselves, to describe their separate early lives and their fifty-two years as husband and wife. Returning to Vienna after spending three years in four different concentration camps, Frankl, whose first wife and family died in the camps, turned to writing as a way of finding some purpose in his life. But it was Elly Schwindt, a woman half his age, who helped him put the pieces of his broken life together. Married in 1947, the Frankl’s created a life of hope and faith, a life committed to proclaiming the oneness of the human family, challenging materialistic values, and encouraging the pursuit of meaning.

When Life Calls Out to Us chronicles a spiritual journey infused with tragedy but sustained by love, wisdom, faith, and humor. Klingberg’s extensive interviews, not available anywhere else, reveal the full richness of the Frankl’s’ lives and beautifully illuminate their enduring contributions toward a better world for all people.

This a marvelous book about Viktor and Elly Frankl.
I recommend it without qualification.

Why we should remember the Holocaust

Why we should remember the Holocaust

Today (Thursday, April 28, 2022) is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah.

Below is an excerpt written in 2020 by a young student from England, reminding us why it is important to remember the Holocaust.

Why we should remember the Holocaust-Written by Johan, Year 10

The world will once again remember the six million Jews who died in the most tragic event in history, the Holocaust. But a lot of people may ask: Why should we remember such a horrible event? Maybe we should be moving on and forget the past? These are probably the reasons why we should be remembering the Holocaust.

The personal stories of this period are probably the most important and inspirational reason why remembering the Holocaust is so important. The most well-known story, as many people know, is the life of Anne Frank, whose diary of the events has become world famous. Holocaust survivors have spoken of the situations where they were taken to a camp and saw family members or friends die. Listening to or reading these stories gives us an insight into the persecution suffered, and remembering these stories means that they are passed down through generations and they will remain to be told forever.

A survivor, Primo Levi said that “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” This quote tells us that the common German people were brainwashed and frightened into believing that the Aryan race was superior which made it easier for the Nazis to gain control and easier to perform the horrific deeds they did. We must remember that not all people in Nazi Germany personally believed what Hitler stood for.

As a global lesson, we must learn the mistakes of the past to prevent and make sure that they never happen again. This is not just about Germany and the Jews in World War Two, but is about how we treat humanity in general. As quoted from another Holocaust survivor, Simon Wiesenthal stated that ‘The Holocaust was not only a Jewish tragedy, but also a human tragedy’. However, there are still examples of genocide after the Holocaust which have not been as much in the spotlight as this has. Some of these examples show us that we have not fully learnt the mistakes of the past, like the genocides in Rwanda and in former Yugoslavia, whether tribal or ethnic.

To conclude, the world is far from perfect despite the lessons learnt from the Holocaust, but education can play a critical role in learning to respect diversity in humans, whether its color, race or religion. From my own experiences visiting a concentration camp in Prague, I believe that we should never reach a low in humanity like the Holocaust ever again. Therefore, the Holocaust and its story shall never be forgotten, and it is important that we all remember it.

Top Leadership Books: Part One

Top Leadership Books: Part One

Awaken the Giant Within

Author: Tony Robbins

One-Sentence Description: World-renowned motivational speaker and coach Tony Robbins helps readers replace their bad habits, retrain their mindset, and increase their happiness so they can step into their greatness. 

Favorite Quote: Enjoy making decisions. You must know that in any moment a decision you make can change the course of your life forever . . . If you really want your life to be passionate, you need to live with this attitude of expectancy.

Why You Should Read It: Published in 1991, Awaken the Giant Within is full of the passion and charged words people would expect from a young Tony Robbins. As a coach focused on elevating people to their full potential, this is a great read for leaders dissatisfied by mediocracy. Although this book is more targeted toward young entrepreneurs and new business owners, it is a powerful read for those who want to live extraordinary lives as leaders.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Author: Patrick Lencioni

One-Sentence Description: Lencioni uses his knack for storytelling to resolve five common dysfunctional behaviors that inhibit even the best teams.

Favorite Quote: “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Why You Should Read It: Leaders must know how to both guide their teams and be a team player. This book stresses the importance of having a cohesive team dynamic. While the book is a fictional fable, it is a story many business owners and executives struggle with. Companies cannot succeed unless their teams work together. For this reason, the book points out dysfunctional behaviors that harm team culture. As a result, leaders can repair and avoid toxicity within their organizations using this insight.

How to Win Friends and Influence People 

Author: Dale Carnegie

One-Sentence Description: Carnegie’s book provides insight on how likability leads to strong relationships, new friends and influence.

Favorite Quote: You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.

Why You Should Read It: First published in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People provides timeless lessons on how to win people over without using manipulation and morally unethical tactics. In essence, this book is a great read that proves likability goes a long way in life. The knowledge provided in Carnegie’s work is invaluable to leaders and customer-facing team members, such as sales teams. Additionally, the book teaches you how to advance your interpersonal skills.

Team of Rivals

Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin

One-Sentence Description: In this Lincoln biography, Kearns shows how the president united his former political competitors to abolish slavery and win the Civil War.

Favorite Quote: In order to ‘win a man to your cause,’ Lincoln explained, you must first reach his heart, ‘the great high road to his reason.‘”

Why You Should Read It: This leadership book is a masterclass on leadership and an interesting read for anyone who loves history. It shows how important it is to toss your ego aside when working with others. Rather than punishing his rivals, Lincoln welcomed several of these people into his cabinet and created a unified front that was capable of holding the country together. While the book has a rather political motif, it teaches executive leaders the value of bringing teams together toward a collective cause. Personal beliefs of individual group members may vary but there can be healthy competition among them, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of a larger, common objective.

The 15 Invaluable Laws Of Growth

Author: Dale Carnegie

One-Sentence Description: Carnegie’s book provides insight on how likability leads to strong relationships, new friends and influence.

Favorite Quote: You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.

Why You Should Read It: First published in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People provides timeless lessons on how to win people over without using manipulation and morally unethical tactics. In essence, this book is a great read that proves likability goes a long way in life. The knowledge provided in Carnegie’s work is invaluable to leaders and customer-facing team members, such as sales teams. Additionally, the book teaches you how to advance your interpersonal skills.

Viktor and Jack

Viktor and Jack

 

Viktor and Jack

The phone rang in my room at the graduate house of Theology in Rome. There was a momentary silence and then a friend said “I have terrible news. Jack Murphy was killed in an accident last night.” Jack was a priest in Westfield and my best friend. There was an explosion in my ears and I lost track of what was being said. My body responded with a physical manifestation of deep shock. I blanked out on the rest of the conversation, muttering that I would take the next plane home.

I couldn’t believe that Jack was dead. Grief activated the mystical thinking of denial Somehow; he was dead only while I was in Rome, I continued to believe it was all a bad dream. The thought came over and over, that this death was not possible, not acceptable.

I had given up smoking, but due to my anxiety I asked a fellow passenger on the plane if I could borrow a cigarette. Before I knew it, the old habit had fully reared its head, and I smoked one cigarette after the other. The flight seemed endless as I attempted to process the unbearable reality.

How could this happen? Was it a dream? Part of me wanted to believe that but having experienced so many deaths as a parish priest –not once did it turn out to be a dream, a mistake, reversible. I knew in my heart that Jack was dead. The torrent of feelings was not only about losing my best friend, bad as that was; this death was also a poignant reminder of my own mortality. I had blithely assumed death was decades away but losing someone as vital as Jack obliterated that belief. He was 29.

When I arrived at Kennedy Airport, the reality of Jack’s death began to infiltrate every aspect of my being. I was nervously smoking cigarette after cigarette, and my hands trembled from too much coffee on the plane. As I approached the luggage area, I saw friends from Holy Trinity parish who had come to give me a ride to Westfield. As they approached with their drawn faces and funereal gait, they looked like messengers of doom. The sight of these friends renewed the realization that I had not come home on a visit but was there to attend the funeral of my best friend. I momentarily had the urge to turn and run away from them. They were another step toward the awful truth that Jack was dead. Finally, I gathered enough stability to walk toward them. The warm hugs and embraces of friends momentarily abated the profound loss that I was experiencing. It was exceptionally painful to listen to them as they shared the details of Jack’s death.  A tidal wave of memories poured forth as each one of them shared how their lives were enhanced by the dedication and compassion of Jack’s presence, like me, they hurt intensely. The ride from the airport to Westfield seemed exceptionally long, and conversation was difficult because everyone observed that I was emotionally fragile.

Upon arriving at Holy Trinity Rectory, I felt like I could not get out of the car. It was as though grief had paralyzed me; I could not move my legs. One of the parishioners opened the door and assisted me. I slowly left the car, grabbed onto the handrail and stumbled up the steps into the lobby of the rectory. Monsignor Murray, the pastor, opened the door and warmly greeted me.

“Welcome home, Sal,” he said sadly. “I am sorry it is under such circumstances. I know how much Jack meant to you.”

I shook his hand and said: “Thanks, Charlie. I still can’t believe it.” With these few words, Monsignor Murray stepped aside, and I slowly walked down the narrow corridor that I had walked down thousands of times before. The back parlor was filled with guests and family. Jack’s parents, brothers, and sister rose to greet me and, the tears cascaded as we embraced each other. Words seemed useless, and I could not honestly remember what I said to them I. knelt by the casket and could not contain the tears that flowed. Little did I know that as painful as this moment was, it would be easiest part of the grieving process.

For the next three days, I preached eulogies about Jack, and when he was laid to rest, I naïvely believed that I was prepared to deal with his loss. Staying with my parents for a few days before returning to Rome, there was great comfort in their presence and the number of friends and family who reached out. All too soon, however, it was time to go back to Rome.

Upon arrival at the graduate house of theology, I went to the mailbox and there to my amazement was a letter from Jack. I was in typical Jack Murphy fashion. filled with humor, friendship and excitement that once again we would be together in Rome in early November a place that we both loved. My hands trembled as I opened the letter. I read it repeatedly as if reading it would somehow bring Jack back. In a way, the letter made it even more difficult because it had the ability to capture the wondrous boyishness that I had come to so respect and enjoy.

The loss of Jack in the blink of an eye shook the roots of my belief in immortality, which is the province of the young. I felt that because of our tender ages, Jack and I were on a road with no exit to death or illness until beyond middle age. Unspoken, illogical, but so real, that myth was visceral, and when it shattered, the pain and confusion positioned me on the precipice of depression. It was a great deal to comprehend that Jack, a person so alive, with all the energy and dynamism of youth, had ceased to be. The pain was searing and floated to the surface without notice through a familiar song, a favorite place, or merely the mention of his name. There were no insulated places where the residue did not seep to wound again.

I was immersed in thoughts that were overwhelmingly sad and morose. How could such a vital life be obliterated in a blinding crash? I reminded myself over and over that I was no stranger to death. I had seen it in its gasping last breaths and ashes as I anointed one burned to death in an automobile accident. I had told a father that his daughter had been murdered by a stalker. I remembered the deaths of two adolescent brothers in an accident on the way home from a family wedding. All of these losses had pulled at my heartstrings, and I always exhibited care and compassion to the families, but this was different. This pain so wounded me that I had no exit, no harbor and no guarantee that it would at some point end.

Depressed and feeling so alone, one morning I began rereading Man’s Search for Meaning.  by Dr Viktor Frankl a Holocaust survivor. The words of the book were so powerful that I felt as though Frankl had me in mind when he wrote it. I almost dropped the book when I read, “It is through the crucible of pain and suffering that we humans achieve our greatest humanity.” Frankl was not talking about avoidable suffering but that tidal wave of pain that drowned one suddenly and without warning.  Somehow, I knew that this book would be the beginning of my healing.

At that time, I had no idea that Dr. Frankl would radically change my life and that in a few short weeks I would meet him in Vienna. I knew that he was teaching at the University of Vienna and decided that I would pursue the opportunity to study with him.

My pain was not alleviated, but it had turned to action. I called the University and requested to speak with Dr. Frankl.  I expected to be connected to a secretary but to my amazement, Dr. Frankl answered the phone. After a few moments of conversation, he invited me to visit him at the University. It was easy to fly from Rome to Vienna on the following Tuesday. The plane ride was smooth, but my stomach was in knots at the thought of being in the presence of someone whose work and life I had so admired. I practiced over and over what I would say, but by the time I arrived at the University, was a nervous wreck.

Waiting in a room near Dr. Frankl’s office, I was told that he would soon be with me. Finally, the moment arrived and I was ushered to Dr. Frankl’s private office. My initial impression was that this intellectual giant was physically short. He had a mane of shocking white hair, thin glasses that were perched at the end of his nose, bushy, wiggling gray eyebrows and electric blue eyes. I was taken immediately with his ability to listen without interruption.  When I finished explaining why I wanted to study with him, Dr. Frankl said: “You are the perfect student for me, and it will be a pleasure to have you in my classes.”

Vienna was probably gorgeous in the summer because it was filled with lovely parks, but in winter it was dreary and dark. I found no solace after leaving sunny Rome and was engulfed in days of sadness. the overcast skies, frequent snow and bitter cold reflected my emotional state

The saving grace was the daily opportunity to listen to Dr. Frankl. Although the classes were in German, I had enough language ability to follow. Frequently, in the middle of his class, Dr. Frankl would personally direct remarks toward me in English.  He had marvelous emotional intuition and could tell that I was struggling.

One afternoon, I went to Dr. Frankl’s office and for two solid hours unloaded my grief and confusion. I had temporarily forgotten all that Frankl had endured during the Second World War. Frankl had lost his parents, wife, relatives, profession and country, and was incarcerated in four concentration camps. He had been beaten, starved, suffered frostbite and typhus. Despite this tragic personal history, he listened to every word intently and never interrupted my emotional catharsis. When I finally finished, he took off his glasses and a tear ran down his cheek. He paused for a moment and then said: “You are in great pain because your dear friend is dead and you loved him. There is no recipe to make that pain evaporate, but I also know that at some point, you will have to make a choice. You will decide to emotionally get in the grave with your friend, or despite the grief go on with your life. If you bury yourself with him, I don’t think you really knew who he was.”

Those words changed my life.  I knew at that moment that there was no way that Jack wanted me to be a prisoner of grief forever. Frankl challenged me to incorporate Jack’s caring for others into a leadership role. “You have had a great gift in such a friendship. Share with everyone you encounter the treasure of this man.”

For the next three years I had the privilege of being with Frankl who now became Viktor my friend and mentor.. His kindness and guidance helped shape who I am and what I believe about life. I have in every presentation that I have made over the past five decades included the powerful gifts of life and friendship that I received from Viktor and Jack.