March 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Holocaust: Rescue and Resistance | Focus On

Milton Meltzer’s Never to Forget (HarperCollins, 1976) was one of the first children’s books to explain the history of hatred that led to the Holocaust, the resultant process of destruction, and the courageous spirit of resistance. In Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews in the Holocaust (HarperCollins, 1988), Meltzer explains how he came “to realize the great importance of recording not just the evidence of evil, but also the evidence of human nobility.” Students are exposed to this “human nobility” by reading about Righteous Gentiles, non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. These stories, along with those of the Resistance and the nearly 10,000 children rescued in the Kindertransport, offer hope.

A study of this never-to-be-forgotten time in history calls for the deeper learning characterized by the Common Core State Standards. From picture-book biographies to fictional representations in books and film to documentary footage to archival documents and photographs, this material can teach students to evaluate and understand perspective and content. Illustrated books introduce younger students to the topic while exploring drawings and photographs plays a critical role in adding to the meaning of a text. Older students can compare and contrast fictional portrayals of the Kindertransport in novels with the historical accounts found in informational titles. Add testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation and students dig even deeper by analyzing multiple accounts of the same topic.

Most importantly, these stories of resistance, rescue, courage, ingenuity, and survival are a beacon of light amid the dark horrors of the Holocaust. They inspire today’s readers to live by Helmuth Hubener’s words in The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti: “I don’t want to remember a time I could have done something but didn’t.”

Righteous Gentiles


BARTOLETTI, Susan Campbell. The Boy Who Dared. Scholastic. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-439-68013-4.
Gr 6-9
—Helmuth Hubener, a German teen executed for treason and whom Bartoletti profiled in her Hitler Youth (Scholastic, 2005), is the main character in this fictionalized account. Imprisoned, Helmuth reflects on his crimes of listening to foreign newscasts, creating and distributing pamphlets, and committing acts of resistance to the Nazi Party. Audio version available from Listening Library.

CLARK, Kathy. Guardian Angel House. (Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers). Second Story. 2009. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-897187-58-6.
Gr 4-7
—Based on the experiences of her mother and aunt, Clark provides a compelling, fictionalized account documenting the courage and compassion of a group of nuns in Budapest who saved more than 100 Jewish children. Miraculously, the sisters are reunited with their parents through the aid of Raoul Wallenberg. Augmented with black-and-white photographs.

DEEDY, Carmen Agra. The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark. illus. by Henri Sørensen. Peachtree. 2000. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-56145-208-8.
Gr 3-5
—Although no documented proof exists to support the legend of the king riding through the streets of Copenhagen with a yellow star sewn on his coat, the lyrical prose and dramatic full-page paintings make for an inspiring picture book and a powerful introduction to the remarkable story of the Jews of Denmark during World War II.


BORDEN, Louise. His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II. Houghton Harcourt. 2012. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-618-50755-9.
Gr 5-8
—Similar in format to Borden’s The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey (Houghton Harcourt, 2005), this book pairs photographs, documents, maps, and drawings with simple descriptive prose to retell the inspirational story of the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish citizens in Budapest. Wallenberg’s life is also explored in the award-winning movie Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story reissued by Paramount in 2011.

MCCLAFFERTY, Carla Killough. In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry. Farrar. 2008. $19.95. ISBN 978-0-374-38204-9.
Gr 7 Up
—Fry was sent to Marseille as the representative of a rescue organization in order to help several prominent Jewish writers, artists, and scientists escape the Nazis. Instead, he stayed for more than a year, saving at least 2,000 people of all backgrounds. A gripping, suspenseful profile in persistence, passion, and moral conviction. Archival photos are included.

MELTZER, Milton. Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews in the Holocaust. HarperCollins. 1988. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-024209-1; pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-446117-7.
Gr 6-10
—Meltzer tells the stories of non-Jews, such as Oskar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg, the people of Le Chambon, and the citizens of Denmark, who risked their lives to hide, smuggle, and feed Jews throughout Europe. Organized by country, each chapter includes a detailed map and historical information along with first-person testimonies, memoirs, diaries, oral histories, and letters.

MOCHIZUKI, Ken. Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story. illus. by Dom Lee. Lee & Low. 1997. RTE $15.95. ISBN 978-1-880-00049-6; pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-584-30157-8.
Gr 3-5
—When Jewish refugees lined up at the door of the Japanese consul to Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara chose to help more than 6000 people escape the Nazis. Illustrated with dark, sepia-toned illustrations, the story is told from the perspective of Sugihara’s five-year-old son. Audio version available from Live Oak Media. The docudrama The Visas That Saved Lives (Marty Gross Film Productions, 2010) re-creates Sugihara’s efforts.

OPDYKE, Irene Gut & Jennifer Armstrong. In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer. Random. 2001. Tr $18. ISBN 978-0-679-89181-9; pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-553-49411-2; ebook $7.99. ISBN 978-0-307-55702-5.
Gr 9 Up
—A 17-year-old student nurse when the Nazis invaded Poland, Opdyke worked in an officer’s club adjacent to a Jewish ghetto. She describes the incredible risks and the unspeakable brutality she endured to get food into the ghetto, smuggle Jews out of the ghetto, and hide Jews in the basement of a Nazi major’s house. Audio version available from Listening Library

VAUGHAN, Marcia. Irena’s Jars of Secrets. illus. by Ron Mazellan. Lee & Low. 2011. RTE $18.95. ISBN 978-1-60060-439-3.
Gr 3-6
—Irena Sendler, a young Catholic social worker, helped hundreds of Jews by smuggling food, clothing, and medicine into the Warsaw Ghetto and saved more than 2,500 children by smuggling them out of the ghetto to convents, orphanages, and Polish foster parents. Somber, double-spread illustrations rendered in oil on canvas add drama and emotion to the text.

Jewish Resistance


FRIEDMAN, D. Dina. Escaping into the Night. S & S. 2009. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-416-90258-4; pap. 8.99. ISBN 978-1-416-98648-5; ebook $8.99. ISBN 978-1-416-99665-1.
Gr 6-9
—Based on the Bielski Brothers, a unit of partisans in the forests of western Belorussia, this fictionalized account of a 13-year-old girl who escapes the ghetto and joins the resistance illuminates the story of the thousands of Jews who fought back. The PBS documentary Resistance: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans (2008) includes rare archival footage and interviews with surviving partisans.

HESSE, Karen. The Cats in Krasinski Square. illus. by Wendy Watson. Scholastic. 2004. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-43540-6.
Gr 3-5
—With spare, powerful free-verse prose, Hesse tells the little-known story of how a group of young resistance fighters and stray cats outsmart the Gestapo at the Warsaw train station. Sensitive illustrations depict the sadness but not the horror of the time, making this an excellent read-aloud for younger students.

JABLONSKI, Carla. Resistance. Bk. 1. illus. by Leland Purvis. First Second. 2010. pap. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-291-8.
Gr 7-10
—In this gripping graphic novel, siblings Paul and Marie live outside Vichy, France, during the Nazi occupation and work together to hide their Jewish neighbor, Henri. When they discover that people close to them are members of the French Resistance, they devise a dangerous plan to help Henri. First in a trilogy that continues in Defiance (2011) and Victory (2012).

MEYER, Susan Lynn. Black Radishes. Delacorte. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73881-1; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90748-4; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85822-2; ebook $6.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89614-9.
Gr 5-8
—Shortly before France is invaded by Germany, 11-year-old Gustave and his parents leave Paris for a small country village that luckily turns out to be south of the demarcation line. Along with his new friend Nicole, Gustave lends his hand to the French Resistance in this suspenseful tale.

STUCHNER, Joan Betty. Honey Cake. illus. by Cynthia Nugent. Random. 2008. Tr $11.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85189-6; PLB $13.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95189-3; pap. $4.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85190-2; ebook $4.99. ISBN 978-0-307-47790-3.
Gr 3-5
—David is only 10 years old when his father sends him out into the Nazi-occupied streets of Copenhagen with a box of chocolate éclairs to deliver to a friend. Unknowingly, David is carrying a secret message for the Danish Resistance. With soft pencil sketches, this is a gentle introduction to the period for transitional readers.


KACER, Kathy. The Underground Reporters. (Holocaust Remembrance Series). Second Story. 2003. pap. $15.95. ISBN 978-1-896764-85-6.
Gr 4-7
—Alternating narratives interspersed with historical facts, photographs, maps, and drawings tell the story of an underground magazine created by a group of children during the Nazi occupation. The book provides a detailed picture of what everyday life was like in Czechoslovakia and how the children’s stories, poems, and drawings were a small, yet significant, form of resistance.

RAPPAPORT, Doreen. Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust. Candlewick. 2012. Tr $22.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-2976-2.
Gr 7 Up
—Going beyond the well-known accounts of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the escape from the Sobibor death camp, Rappaport retells 20 stories of defiance and resistance. The book is meticulously researched and masterfully organized, with archival photos and an accessible layout and design. Audio version available from Brilliance Audio.

Hiding to Survive


ORLEV, Uri. Run, Boy, Run. tr. from Hebrew by Hillel Halkin. Houghton Harcourt. 2003. Tr $16. ISBN 978-0-618-16465-3; pap. $6.95. ISBN 978-0-618-95706-4; ebook $6.95. ISBN 978-0-547-53099-4.
Gr 4-7
—Full of action, adventure, and excitement, this novel tells the story of eight-year-old Srulik, who miraculously survived after being left alone in the Warsaw Ghetto. Orlev’s The Island on Bird Street (Houghton Harcourt, 1984) also tells the story of a young survivor in the Ghetto and was made into a film of the same name (First Look Pictures, 2008).

PROPP, Vera W. When the Soldiers Were Gone. Putnam. 2001. Tr $15. ISBN 978-1-422-35310-3; pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-698-11881-2.
Gr 3-6
—Eight-year-old Henk learns, only when his Jewish parents come to claim him in 1945, that the couple he calls Mama and Papa are Dutch Christians who sheltered him on their farm during the war. Similar to Johanna Reiss’s The Upstairs Room (HarperCollins, 1972), this is a gentler, yet no less dramatic, introduction to the subject for younger readers. Audio version available from Penguin Audio.

ROY, Jennifer. Yellow Star. Marshall Cavendish. 2006. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-761-45277-5.
Gr 6-9
—In 1939, 270,000 Jews were forced to move into the Lodz Ghetto. In 1945, there were only 800 survivors. Told in verse, the simple yet descriptive narrative relates the story of Syvia Perlmutter, the author’s aunt and one of the 12 surviving children. Audio version available from Brilliance Audio.

RUSSO, Marisabina. I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II. illus. by author. Random. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86695-1; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96695-8; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98515-7.
Gr 3-5
—Nonna tells how her idyllic childhood in Rome ended abruptly when Italy joined the Germans. Papa is taken away, but Nonna, her brother, and mother escape to the countryside and survive the war hiding on a farm. Vivid gouache illustrations make this a gentle, hopeful introduction to the time period, much like the author’s Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II (Atheneum, 2005).


KACER, Kathy. Hiding Edith: A True Story. (Holocaust Remembrance Series). Second Story. 2006. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-897-18706-7.
Gr 4-6
—After fleeing Vienna with her family, 12-year-old Edith was sheltered in a safe house for Jewish children in the town of Moissac, France. This retelling effectively combines the history of the war and hidden children with the specific experiences of an individual child. High-quality black-and-white photographs add appeal for student researchers and independent readers.

MCCANN, Michelle R. & Luba Tryszynska-Frederick. Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen. illus. by Ann Marshall. Tricycle. 2003. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-582-46098-7.
Gr 3-5
—With the women of her barracks, Luba Tryszynska-Frederick saved 52 Dutch children left in the forest to freeze by Nazi soldiers. Beautiful oil and collage illustrations depict Luba’s life, her fellow inmates, and the children in Bergen-Belsen without displaying the horrors. Luba’s story is featured in the 2008 History Channel anthology, Heroes of the Holocaust: Tales of Resistance and Survival.

RUELLE, Karen Gray & Deborah Durland DeSaix. The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust. illus. by authors. Holiday House. 2009. RTE $18.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2159-6; pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2304-0.
Gr 3-6
—Beautiful full-spread oil paint illustrations, along with a detailed afterword, glossary, and bibliography, add to this unique tale of interfaith relations that relates the little-known story of Jews who were hidden by Muslims in the Grand Mosque of Paris during World War II.

RUELLE, Karen Gray & Deborah Durland DeSaix. Hidden on the Mountain: Stories of Children Sheltered from the Nazis in Le Chambon. Holiday House. 2007. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-1928-9.
Gr 6 Up
—First-person accounts and black-and-white photos uncover the amazing story of the thousands of children who were sheltered in the tiny mountainous French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Fascinating and inspiring, this is a wonderful companion to the documentary Weapons of the Spirit (Chambon Foundation, 1989).

TAYLOR, Peter Lane with Christos Nicola. The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story. Kar-Ben. 2007. PLB $18.95. ISBN 978-1-58013-260-2; pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-58013-261-9.
Gr 6 Up
—Full-color photographs and a compelling text reveal how 38 Jews endured with no training or special equipment for more than a year in the underground caves of the Western Ukraine. Readers also learn how their amazing story was discovered. The documentary No Place on Earth (Sierra Tango Productions, 2012) records the journey of four survivors back to the cave after more than 60 years.

Rescued Children


CHAPMAN, Fern Schumer. Is It Night or Day? Farrar. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-17744-7; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-429-93413-8.
Gr 6-9
—Using her mother’s experiences as inspiration, Chapman delivers a moving account of Edith, a girl who travels to America with the assistance of One Thousand Children, an organization that rescued German children during the Holocaust. Edith’s reunion, 70 years later, with the girl she befriended on her voyage, was profiled on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Lost and Found (January, 2013).

TAYLOR, Marilyn. Faraway Home. O’Brien Press. 2000. Tr  $16. ISBN 978-0-86278-643-4.
Gr 5-8
—While most of the Jewish children on the Kindertransport were sent to Great Britain, a small minority traveled to Northern Ireland. This Irish import blends historical facts with fiction to tell the story of 13-year-old Karl, who is sent to work on a farm, and his younger sister, Rosa, who is taken in by a wealthy family.

THOR, Annika. A Faraway Island. tr. from Swedish by Linda Schenck. Delacorte. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73617-6; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90590-9; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84495-9; ebook $6.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89370-4.
Gr 5-8
—In addition to the Kindertransport to Great Britain, 500 Jewish children were moved to safety in Sweden. This is the first in a series of novels about two sisters sent to a remote island near Göteborg. See also The Lily Pond (Delacorte, 2011); the third book, Deep Sea, is forthcoming. Audio version available from Listening Library.

WATTS, Irene. Good-bye Marianne: A Story of Growing Up in Nazi Germany. Tundra. 2008. pap. $7.95. ISBN 978-0887764455; ebook $6.99. ISBN 978-1-77049-057-4.
Gr 4-7
—Watts re-creates the first book of her trilogy that includes Good-bye Marianne (1998), Remember Me (2000), and Finding Sophie (2002) as a graphic novel. Based on her childhood in Berlin and her eventual move to England via the Kindertransport, this version is made more accessible to reluctant or less-proficient readers with simple yet expressive black-and-white pencil drawings.


HODGE, Deborah. Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport. Tundra. 2012. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-77049-256-1; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-1-77049-366-7.
Gr 4-7
—In this succinct overview of the Kindertransport rescue operations that took almost 10,000 Jewish youngsters to Great Britain between December 1938 and the start of World War II, the stories of eight individual children are enhanced by photos, text boxes, quotes, drawings, maps, and a time line.

Rachel Kamin is the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, IL.



  1. Karen Gray Ruelle says:

    So pleased to see my two books (with Deborah Durland DeSaix) in such great company!

  2. Great list! Great resources!

  3. Lisa Silverman says:

    Thank you for this useful and excellent list.

  4. Thank you for including my book on this amazing list.

  5. Claudia Pearson says:

    Eve Tal’s book, A TRUTH TO TELL provides surprising additional insights into unrecognized messages which narratives about the Holocaust may be conveying to young readers. Know what you are teaching so you can fully discuss the implications of patterns in the literature you provide young readers.

  6. Rachel Kamin says:

    Thank you for your comment, Claudia. I am familiar with Eve Tal’s novels, Double Crossing and Cursing Columbus, but I was not aware of A Truth to Tell. I will check it out. Rachel Shukert also provides some valid commentary on the impact of Holocaust literature on young readers in her memoir Have You No Shame.