International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Reading recommendations from the library’s new acquisitions

On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day of 27 January, the library offers a series of advises on the SHOAH, picking up from recentrly acquired books and works. Works of fiction or documentary evidence, graphic novels or classics revisited in comic strips, historical research or sociological or psychological formulations, are all pieces that serve to try to penetrate the facets of a terrible tragedy and to analyze the dynamics of a horror that has forever marked our time. Included in the list – from the Carandente library, which specialises in the history of contemporary art – are catalogues of artists who have recounted the tragedy of the Holocaust or who have experienced the concentration camps at first hand. In order to facilitate consultation within the page, the volumes have been divided into macro genres, also indicating those books that are more oriented to the sensitivity and language of children:
👉 Novel, graphic novel and narrative
👉 Essays
👉 Graphic novel for kids
👉 Novel, graphic novel and narrative for kids
👉 Art catalogues at the Carandente library

Novels, graphic novels and narrative

Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano (Guanda, 1998)

31 December 1941. An ad appeared in the “Paris-Soir” seeking news of a 15-year-old girl named Dora Bruder. Her parents, Jews who had long since emigrated to France, reported her missing. Almost fifty years later, Patrick Modiano – the 2014 Nobel Prize winner for literature – came across those few lines in the newspaper, whose plea for help had been left hanging. He doesn’t know anything about Dora, but is nonetheless attracted to her. He tries to reconstruct her life, the reasons why she ran away, and imagine her days on the run. Little by little he reconstructs the history of the Bruder family: the girl’s birth, the parents’ origins, their movements, the family’s last resting place. Modiano follows Dora’s shadow through the streets of a city he knows and loves, the Paris of suburbs, of hotels that have long since closed, of cinemas that no longer exist. These are places that have lived through the war and known the sinister atmosphere of the occupation, the atmosphere in which Dora herself lived until, eight months after her escape, she was deported to Auschwitz with her father. Here, where the history of mankind begins, Dora’s private story closes forever amidst that of millions of other victims. 

Diario (full edition) by Etty Hillesum (Adelphi, 2012)

As this Diario begins, Etty is an intense and passionate young woman from Amsterdam. She is Jewish, but not an observant one. She is attracted by religious themes and sometimes talks about them. Then, little by little, the reality of persecution begins to seep in between the lines of her diary. Etty records entries about friends who disappeared in the concentration camps, killed or imprisoned. One day, in front of a sparse group of trees, she finds the sign: ‘Forbidden for Jews’. Another day, certain shops are forbidden to Jews. Another day, Jews can no longer ride bicycles. But the more the circle tightens, the more Etty seems to acquire an extraordinary strength of soul. She does not think for a moment, even if she has the chance, about saving herself. She thinks about how she can help the many who are about to share with her the death sentence by the German authorities. Confined to Westerbork, the transit camp from which she would be sent to Auschwitz, Etty exalts even in that “little piece of moorland fenced off by barbed wire” her ability to be a “thinking heart”. If the Nazi technique consisted above all in provoking the physical and psychic disheartenment of the victims, it can be said to have had the opposite effect on Etty.

Heimat by Nora Krug (Einaudi Stile Libero, 2019)

A young woman in search of her roots in the most complex period and place of the 20th century: Hitler’s Germany. Nora Krug sifts through archives, collects photos, unearths relics and evokes memories to reconstruct her family’s history and understand the role it played during Nazism. The result, poetic and moving, is a comic novel described by the New York Times as “a brilliant way of coming to terms with one’s past”.

Best 2018 graphic novel according to «The New York Times», «The Guardian» and «The Comics Beat», winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the Autobiography sectgion, Illustrator of the Year for the Moira Gemmill Prize by the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Salvarsi. Gli ebrei d’Italia sfuggiti alla Shoah. 1943-1945 by Liliana Picciotto (Einaudi, 2017)

The touching stories and testimonies of the Jews, both Italian and non-Italian, who managed to save themselves from the Shoah in Italy, on their own or with the help and assistance of others. More than 81% of Jews in Italy escaped the Shoah. This volume presents the results of the project “Memory of Salvation” of the Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea (CDEC), aimed at reflecting on how they were able to be saved in spite of searches, arrests and deportations by the Fascist and Nazi authorities. Contrary to what Liliana Picciotto has already described in Il libro della memoria and in other studies, we are talking here about the “other side of the coin”. No one had previously asked in a systematic and scientific way the question of who the saved were and how they were saved. Here we touch on issues such as: what did the Jews in Italy know about the Shoah that was already raging in Nazi Europe? And what did ordinary people know about it? What was the risk for an ordinary citizen who helped Jews?

Non c’è una fine. Trasmettete la memoria di Auschwitz di Piotr M. A. Cywinski (Bollati Boringhieri, 2017)

Auschwitz is a powerful symbol. Every year it is visited by more than one million, tens of thousands of which from Italy. There is a whole generation that is now a child of the profound significance of this place in our time, a child of memory trips. What do those kids seek iin Auschwitz? What do we all seek? What’s its story? Piotr Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, in this tough, necessary, vibrant and passionate book, confronts these questions and the dilemmas that lie hidden in one of the most terrible places in human history.

Verso la soluzione finale – La conferenza di Wannsee by Peter Longerich (Einaudi, 2018)

The best and most accurate report of the Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942, in which the final solution was decided. An investigation on Nazism and its doctrinaire, murderous madness. On 20 January 1942, leading figures of the Third Reich gathered in a luxurious villa in Wannsee, near Berlin. Peter Longerich provides an accurate contextualization of the meeting’s minutes because the interpretations of the reasons for holding the conference are varied and contradictory. Apart from the minutes, there are no other documents relating to the conference because they have been destroyed. Longerich’s explanation is that the Holocaust was not carried out as a result of a determined choice, but was the result of a long-lasting anti-Semitic policy, subject to contingent changes, and a decision-making process by which Hitler created a real programme of destruction of the Jews of Europe, starting from a generic and undefined intention to destroy them.

Il secolo infelice by Imre Kertész (Giunti, 2012)

Imre Kertés, one of the most important Hungarian writers of the 20th century and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002, experienced ‘The Unapproachable‘ twice in his life, first in the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, where he was imprisoned, then in the historical situation in which he began to recount his experience in the camps, i.e. under the heel of the Soviet communist regime. ‘The Holocaust and the living conditions in which I was writing about it had become inextricably fused.’ The Holocaust then becomes a verb conjugated in the present tense: it is the state from which the author tirelessly continues to send us messages and build bridges to bear witness to the truth of that ‘unhappy century’ that preceded the beginning of this millennium and then flowed into it. This is why the writings collected in this book cannot be considered ‘essays’ but, more meaningfully and correctly, must be defined as ‘approximations’: lucid, cruel, sometimes ironic but always merciless accounts of reality and of human nature of which the narrator has known the extraordinary depths.

1938Storia, racconto, memoria by VV. AA. (Giuntina, 2018)

Eighty years after the promulgation of the “racial laws”, writers and historians come together in this volume that brings together, in the spirit of an experiment, thirteen stories inspired by documents and real events related to the persecution of rights by the fascist regime. Thinking of a near future in which memory will no longer be transmitted by direct witnesses and exploring that borderline along which history, story and memory can interact, these involving and moving texts aspire as a whole to be a laboratory that stimulates unprecedented reflections on the future of Remembrance itself. The stories in this anthology are also a warning against the resurgence of intolerance in our society and against all future forms of discrimination against minorities and the weakest.

Graphic Novels and Illustrated Stories for Kids

Mai più. Per non dimenticare by R. J. Palacio (Giunti, 2020)

Bestselling author R.J. Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with an unforgettable Wonder-inspired story about kindness and courage in the context of World War II. The story takes its cue from the world of Wonder, from the words of Julian’s grandmother, who tells her harrowing story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was protected and hidden by a family in a French village under Nazi occupation; how the boy she and her classmates shunned became her saviour and best friend. A moving experience that shows how kindness can change hearts, build bridges and even save lives. And as his grandmother says to Julian: “It always takes courage to be kind, but at the time, kindness could cost you your life”.

La portinaia Apollonia by Lia Levi (Orecchio Acerbo, 2005)

Autumn 1943. A Jewish child and a city occupied by the German army. No father around. His mother works at home and Daniel has to run to the queue to buy food. But it is the sullen concierge Apollonia, definitely a witch, who scares him more than anything. Until one day… Maybe even a witch can save a child? Andersen Book of the Year Award 2005 and best book 6/9 years.

Il baule dei segreti. La storia delle bambine sopravvissute ad Auschwitz by Andra and Tatiana Bucci (Mondadori, 2020)

1950. In the attic of the small house in Triest lies a huge trunk. When Andra and Tati free the hooks from the layer of dust and lift the heavy lid, it’s like stepping back in time for a moment, because the trunk contains their entire life to date. A box of sweets, a few photographs, a tin spoon, a soft wool coat, a dried flower… The objects that gradually emerge tell the story of an entire Jewish family: the peace found in Fiume at the beginning of the 20th century after a long wandering through Europe, the entry into force of the racial laws in 1938, the arrest and deportation to Auschwitz. Then the Liberation and, for the girls, the sad days of the orphanage. Finally, rebirth and the unexpected reunion with their parents.
The true story of the Bucci sisters, in a children’s edition, accompanied by the intensity of Elisabetta Stoinich’s drawings; a story that between drama and hope invites us not to forget.

Anne Frank – Diario by Ari Folman and David Polonsky (Einaudi, 2017)

On 12 June 1942, on her thirteenth birthday, Anne Frank receives a diary as a present. In these pages, the unspeakable horror of the persecution and deportation of the Jewish people takes on a daily and universal dimension through the eyes of an ironic, lively and profound thirteen-year-old girl, animated by a great desire to live. Today, thanks to screenwriter and director Ari Folman (winner of the Golden Globe for Waltz with Bashir) and illustrator David Polonsky, Anne’s words take a new shape that nonetheless maintains their spirit. When Anne grew up, she imagined herself as a journalist and writer, and in the story told through images, her ability to portray her own ordinary yet extraordinary existence emerges with touching clarity, thanks to the precision of the details: a stolen glance between school desks, the petty rivalries with her apparently perfect sister, the loving gesture of a father on a night when fear robs you of your sleep.

Novels and narrative for kids

La ragazza col violino by Virginia Euwer Wolff (Mondadori Junior, 2020)

An award-winning novel for children telling the story of Allegra, a brilliant violinist who is admitted to the finals of the most important competition for young musicians by choosing Mozart’s concerto No. 4. Allegra lives in symbiosis with her instrument. And, thanks to the magic and poetry of those notes, she learns to know herself and to face the heavy heritage of her roots, discovering the story of her grandmother, who was killed in a lager.

Viola dei 100 castelli by Angela Nanetti (Giunti Junior, 2016)

In ”Viola dei 100 castelli”, Angela Nanetti – 2003 Andersen Prize as best author – interweaves the tragedy of the Holocaust with the difficult life of a ‘different’ girl, telling us how the desire to resist and the will to live can help overcome any difficulty. Viola lives in a foster home, has a difficult past, a great imagination and a lot of courage. A chance encounter with a dog on the run and a mysterious old man, whom she discovers is a survivor of the lager, in a cellar inhabited by a stain on the wall and a bat, tender witnesses to her adventures, will change her life.

The Carandente Library Art Catalogues

Praha’s Jewish Treasure Chest (Mondadori, 1988)

Cagli, War Drawings (Silvana editore, 1971)

Renzo Vespignani, Between Two Wars (Fratelli Pozzo editore, 1975)

Jozef Szajna, Venice Biennale Poland (Warsaw, Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions Zacheta, 1990)

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