Theme Thursday: Holocaust Memorial Day

Established in 2001, Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January every year, a date picked to coincide with the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. A national event within the UK, people across the country commemorate the victims of past and more recent genocides whilst considering the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust.

The theme for HMD in 2016 is ‘Don’t Stand By’ which according to the Holocaust Educational Trust was selected ‘to consider the indifference or outright hostility which many European Jews encountered from neighbours and acquaintances, and the wider world, during the Holocaust whilst also encouraging us to honour the courageous individuals or communities who did assist or show solidarity with the victims of Nazism’.

More information about HMD, including teaching resources, can be found on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s website here. Lots of engaging and poignant content was being shared across social media yesterday to commemorate the day, and we’d recommend checking the official HMD UK twitter page here.

In view of this, we’ve put together a list of books that address the theme of the Holocaust in a way that is sure to generate thoughtful discussion in the classroom. There are, of course, many more and we’d love to hear if you’ve come across a book that worked particularly well for you when discussing the sensitive subject with young people.


  • Anne Frank by Josephine Poole, an emotive retelling of Anne’s life accompanied by particularly wonderful illustrations by Angela Barrett.
  • Erika’s Story by Ruth Vander Zee and Roberto Innocenti. In 1995 Ruth met Erika, a German Jew, who shared the incredible story of how she survived the war.
  • Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti tells the story of a small girl who, when she learns about the suffering of those in concentration camps and tries to help in secret.
  • Morris Gleitzman’s Once (and the follow-up books Then, Now, After, and Soon) follows the story of Felix, a boy on a quest to find his parents.
  • Ian Serraillier’s classic The Silver Sword was published in 1956 tells the story of children surviving the dangers of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Poland, along with their search for their missing parents.

There are, of course, many others! John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Judith Kerr’s autobiographical When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and for older KS4 readers; Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus details the experiences of the author’s own father, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, while Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief considers life in war-torn Europe.

You can see our other Theme Thursday lists here.



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