7 True Stories of the Holocaust
Revisiting history's sordid past isn't the easiest thing to do, but we owe it to those who perished and those who escaped to honor their legacies.
The Diary of Anne Frank and Sophie’s Choice you know. And you may even be familiar with Exodus, Schindler’s List, and Elie Wiesel’s Night. But there are so many more stories of tragedy and survival out there. And though revisiting history’s sordid past isn’t the easiest thing to do, we owe it to those who perished and those who escaped to honor their legacies.
So on this day of remembrance, let’s look at some of the lesser-known Holocaust tales of survival against insurmountable odds. As Wiesel so eloquently puts it: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
This suspenseful tale tells the true stories of 12 Jews who survived to the end of the war in the very heart of Nazi Berlin. This diverse group of men and women went underground, hiding in plain sight right under the noses of the Gestapo. Their incredible stories of survival and loss represent some of the few inspiring moments from the heart of Hitler’s empire.
Though the book was made into a British TV movie in the 1980s, the details of the real story are largely unknown. Based on interviews with 18 of the survivors, Rashke describes how 600 Jewish prisoners killed a dozen SS officers, trampled the barbed wire, and ran across a field of anti-tank mines to escape. Just 50 of them survived, but their story is one of courage and the unquenchable desire to live.
This memoir is the testament of one of the approximately 70 Jews who survived Treblinka, said to have claimed 700,000 to 900,000 lives during the less-than-14 months it was in operation. Rajchman describes being forced to shave the heads of Jewish women for the gas chambers, pulling gold teeth, and his final harrowing escape with the other survivors.
Ascoli was only 17 when her half-Jewish family was arrested and taken to a series of internment camps. Through Auschwitz and Birkenau, Ascoli struggles to maintain the will to live. Finally, exhausted, she decides to kill herself by jumping against the barbed wire—but the guard who discovers her does not shoot.
As her family is torn apart, Rena makes a promise to her mother: She will take care of her sister. In this memoir, Gelissen exposes what life was like for women in the camps as she relays her struggle to protect her sister, stay alive, and rediscover faith in humanity.
In a story akin to that of Oskar Schindler, Swedish businessman and diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest from the concentration camps. This remarkable telling of his story reveals Wallenberg’s clever use of deception, bribery, and political maneuvering to keep Hungarian Jews from execution or deportation.
Like The Last Jews in Berlin, this story focuses on a group of Jews who survived in Germany to the end of the war. The remaining members of two families and one young man are forced to hide in a factory only miles from Hitler’s bunker, dependent on strangers for food. Lovenheim met three surviving members years later in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and through their memories, photographs and journals, was able to bring their captivating story to life.