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10 Books to Read If You Are Writing WWII // Part 2: Nonfiction

So, remember this post?

It’s been a bit but here’s part 2 🙂 As you can tell from the graphic, I had to drop down the amount a little. ;P Reviews are linked in the story title.

1. The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom by Corrie Ten Boom with John & Elizabeth Sherrill.

At one time Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that there would ever be a story to tell. For the first fifty years of her life nothing at all out of the ordinary had ever happened to her. She was an old-maid watchmaker living contentedly with her spinster sister and their elderly father in the tiny Dutch house over their shop. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another. However, with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, a story did ensue.
Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their help, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp.
The Hiding Place is their story.

I know some people who can’t stand the darkness and violence presented in this book, but I think it’s one of the most encouraging books I read in 2020. The reminder that no matter what humans do (to us), God still reigns and turns everything to His glory and our good! All that aside, this makes it on the list because it is a fantastic view into the concentrations camps of the 1940s and of the real Nazis and prisoners.

Rating: 8/10 hearts.

2. A Prisoner & Yet… by Corrie Ten Boom.

This book reveals Corrie’s belief in Christ that carried an innocent woman through some of the worst agonies man can devise. This is one of the most tragic, yet most inspiring and faith-giving true stories of modern times.

At first glance, you may think this is “ditto” to the first book. But although it touches on the concentration camps at well, it also dwells more on Corrie’s time in the prison, which is why it is added here. Also, the POV on the camp and Nazis is quite different from the first book—she adds a lot more individual pictures of individual guards.

Rating: 7/10 hearts.

3. Never Give in: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill by Stephen Mansfield.

Winston Churchill was one of the most extraordinary leaders of the twentieth century. What was it that enabled him to stand so steadfastly when all those around him seemed to turn back in fear? What was it that enabled him to inspire whole nations to endure the unendurable and to achieve the unachievable when all those around him had already surrendered all hope? This remarkable new study of Churchill’s leadership skill answers these questions and more. The result is an account that is as inspiring today as it was more than half a century ago when the great man’ shadow fell large across the world stage. According to Henry Kissinger, Our age finds it difficult to come to grips with Churchill. The political leaders with whom we are familiar generally aspire to be superstars rather than heroes. The distinction is crucial. Superstars strive for approbation; heroes walk alone. Superstars crave consensus; heroes define themselves by the…future they see it as their risk to bring about. Superstars seek success in a technique for eliciting support; heroes pursue success as the outgrowth of their inner values. Winston Churchill was a hero.

If you are writing WWII England, this is a book you cannot miss. It encapsulates so much of what the English were at the time and what went on during the war. Winston Churchill was THE figure of the Second World War and must not be ignored. It will definitely help you to have a more British flavour. ;P

Rating: 6/10 hearts.

4. Paris-Underground by Etta Shiber.

The true story of two middle-aged women, an American (author Etta Shiber) and an Englishwoman (her friend Kitty Beaurepos), who live together in Paris. When the Nazis invade the city in the summer of 1940, Kitty and Etta begin working with the French Resistance to help British soldiers, left behind in France after its surrender, escape to freedom.

This was an absolutely fascinating picture of occupied France and the Resistance’s work to protect Allied soldiers. It’s also an epic representation of the French people, the consequences of being caught helping the British, and the places that people were incarcerated during the German occupation. Definitely not to miss if you’re writing any of that!

Rating: 6/10 hearts.

5. Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman.

After losing her entire family to the Nazis at age 13, Alicia Appleman-Jurman went on to save the lives of thousands of Jews, offering them her own courage and hope in a time of upheaval and tragedy. Not since The Diary of Anne Frank has a young voice so vividly expressed the capacity for humanity and heroism in the face of Nazi brutality.

Rather than being about concentration camps or the ghettos, this book tackles the simply hiding and surviving part of the Holocaust—hiding and surviving both within and without the city—and helping Jews escape, as the synopsis indicates. It was an excellent biography and taught me a lot that I hadn’t heard before on WWII. (And I need to read the diary of Anne Frank…)

Rating: 5/10 hearts.

6. Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family by Miep Gies.

She found the diary and brought the world a message of love and hope.
It seems as if we are never far from Miep’s thoughts….Yours, Anne
For the millions moved by
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, here at last is Miep’s own astonishing story. For more than two years, Miep Gies and her husband helped hide the Franks from the Nazis. Like thousands of unsung heroes of the Holocaust, they risked their lives each day to bring food, news, and emotional support to the victims.
From her own remarkable childhood as a World War I refugee to the moment she places a small, red-orange, checkered diary—Anne’s legacy—in Otto Frank’s hands, Miep Gies remembers her days with simple honesty and shattering clarity. Each page rings with courage and heartbreaking beauty.

This is one of my favourite WWII nonfictions, actually. Miep gives a delightful image of daily, normal life in Holland during the Roaring Twenties, the Dirty Thirties, and the Second World War. There’s much more than just hiding the Jews of the Annex here—there’s also all the disruption that the occupation brought and the struggle to survive that ensued.

Rating: 5/10 hearts.

7. The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig.

It is June 1941. The Rudomin family has been arrested by the Russians. They are “capitalists’ enemies of the people.” Forced from their home and friends in Vilna, Poland, they are herded into crowded cattle cars. Their destination: the endless steppe of Siberia.
For five years, Esther and her family live in exile, weeding potato fields and working in the mines, struggling for enough food and clothing to stay alive. Only the strength of family sustains them and gives them hope for the future.

It’s a sad, yet a sweet book. Esther Hautzig has a very unique voice. There’s not much focus given on people other than the Germans, British, and Americans during WWII, but when you think of it, so many more nations were involved, and this book shows a different POV of Jews who dealt with different discrimination. It’s a fascinating story and one that should be remembered more… Anyways, it gives a good image of an alternate situation than concentration camps.

Rating: 5/10 hearts.

8. Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy.

“In 1945 the war ended. The Germans surrendered, and the ghetto was liberated. Out of over a quarter of a million people, about 800 walked out of the ghetto. Of those who survived, only twelve were children. I was one of the twelve.” For more than fifty years after the war, Syvia, like many Holocaust survivors, did not talk about her experiences in the Lodz ghetto in Poland. She buried her past in order to move forward. But finally she decided it was time to share her story, and so she told it to her niece, who has re-told it here using free verse inspired by her aunt. This is the true story of Syvia Perlmutter—a story of courage, heartbreak, and finally survival despite the terrible circumstances in which she grew up. A timeline, historical notes, and an author’s note are included.

Life in the ghettos was something I knew very little about until I read this book. There is something so noble and beautiful about the way adults strove to keep life going on in spite of all the horror, and how they cared as well as they could for the children. Another story that should be celebrated. ❤ But apart from that, it made it on the list for being a good picture of what it was like to just try and keep on, as well as ghetto life.

Rating: 5/10 hearts.

9. A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat & Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos.

Four days before Christmas 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly, a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail—a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber in the squeeze of a trigger. What happened next would defy imagination and later be called the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II.
This is the true story of the two pilots whose lives collided in the skies that day—the American—2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17—and the German—2nd Lieutenant Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria who sought to avoid fighting in World War II.
A Higher Call follows both Charlie and Franz’s harrowing missions. Charlie would face takeoffs in English fog over the flaming wreckage of his buddies’ planes, flak bursts so close they would light his cockpit, and packs of enemy fighters that would circle his plane like sharks. Franz would face sandstorms in the desert, a crash alone at sea, and the spectacle of 1,000 bombers each with eleven guns, waiting for his attack. Ultimately, Charlie and Franz would stare across the frozen skies at one another. What happened between them, the American 8th Air Force would later classify as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention or else face a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search for one another, a last mission that could change their lives forever.

This is a unique glimpse into Germany and German pilots during WWII, really focusing on the German POV on why they were fighting and all that they suffered. It’s also a glimpse into life in the German airforce and the war from the airplane, all over the world. It does have a lot of content, but it isn’t dirty, and I highly recommend it for it’s striking POV.

Rating: 5/10 hearts.

10. Hana’s Suitcase: A True Story by Karen Levine.

In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan from the Auschwitz museum in Germany. Fumiko Ishioka, the center’s curator, was captivated by the writing on the outside that identified its owner: “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Waisenkind (the German word for orphan).” Children visiting the center were full of questions. Who was Hana Brady? Where did she come from? What was she like? What happened to her? Inspired by their curiosity and her own need to know, Fumiko began a year of detective work, scouring the world for clues. Her search led her from present-day Japan, Europe and North America back to 1938 Czechoslovakia to learn the story of Hana Brady, a fun-loving child with wonderful parents, a protective big brother, and a passion for ice skating, their happy life turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis.

The last book on this list made it here because it’s a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of a real family with a real little girl whose life was snuffed out in WWII—an Anne Frank type of story, yet different from Anne. It’s another glimpse at the ghettos and another setting than Poland, Holland, England, or Germany…

Rating: 4/10 hearts.

Well, there you are! Now I’m eager to reread all these books. I hope I’ll be able to add more fiction and nonfiction to these lists soon; in the meantime, if you have any recs… 😉

Published by Katja L.

Hello! :) I'm Katja. I'm a Canadian bibliophile, book reviewer, writer, and child of God. I love too many things to name, but among them are chocolate, heirlooms, history, fancy handwriting, grammar & punctuation, laughter, tearjerking books, lists, organized bookshelves, pink roses, flowing skirts, hymns, and pretty much anything old-fashioned, beautiful, & classy.

12 thoughts on “10 Books to Read If You Are Writing WWII // Part 2: Nonfiction

  1. I read The Endless Steppe over and over again as a child–it depressed, frightened, and fascinated me. So good to see it being recommended!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list! I see several I need to check out. 🙂 The Hiding Place was such a heartbreaker! But I love Corrie’s hope and faith. Such faithfulness to God in dire, evil times.

    I have some recommendations for you. There are content warnings in my reviews on Goodreads, but from what I remember, these were pretty clean (probably some swears, as they’re general market WWII nonfiction, but lighter on other nasty content). Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (the book is cleaner than the movie); Invisible Heroes of WWII by Jerry Borrowman; Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen; The Forgotten 500 by Gregory A. Freeman; and Why We Fought by Jerry Borrowman.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great list! Just read The Hiding Place this year – I loved it so much! I’m reading “Unbroken” right now, a story of the Olympic runner Louis Zamprini’s life in WW3. An incredible story.

    Liked by 2 people

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