Survival & Rescue in Poland during the Holocaust

These nonfiction books tell the personal stories of Holocaust survivors and their rescuers in Poland.

They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland during the Holocaust
By Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn
This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. Tammeus and Cukierkorn traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. The duo unfolds gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter.

When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christians Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland
By Nechama Tec
Tec, herself a survivor helped by Poles, vividly recreates what it was like to pass and hide among Christians and what it was like for Poles to rescue Jews. Concentrating on Poland, the Nazi center for Jewish annihilation, Tec amassed a vast array of published accounts, unpublished testimonies, and interviews, yielding case histories of over 500 Polish helpers, preserving for posterity the heroism of such people, and filling a gap in our knowledge of the Holocaust.

The Zookeeper's Wife book jacket

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
By Diane Ackerman
When Germany invaded Poland, bombers devastated Warsaw, and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski smuggled Jews through the empty cages, saving hundreds of people from Nazi hands.

The Pages in Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home
By Erin Einhorn
In this extraordinarily moving memoir, Einhorn finds the family in Poland that had saved her mother from the Holocaust and stumbles upon a decades-old land dispute that leads her to ask: How far should one go to rectify the past?

Clara's War: One Girl's Story of Survival
By Clara Kramer with Stephen Glantz
This heart-stopping story of a young girl hiding from the Nazis is based on Clara Kramer's diary of her years surviving in an underground bunker with seventeen other people.

Gertruda's Oath book jacket

Gertruda's Oath: A Child, a Promise, and a Heroic Escape During World War II
By Ram Oren; consultation by Mike Stolowitzky            
Michael Stolowitzky, the only son of a wealthy Jewish family in Poland, was just three years old when war broke out and the family lost everything. His father, desperate to settle his business affairs, travels to France, leaving Michael in the care of his mother and Gertruda Bablinska, a Catholic nanny devoted to the family. When Michael's mother has a stroke, Gertruda promises the dying woman that she will make her way to Palestine and raise him as her own son. Gertruda’s Oath re-creates Michael and Gertruda's amazing journey.

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (for young adults)
By Irene Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong
In the fall of 1939 the Nazis invaded Irene Gut's beloved Poland, ending her training as a nurse and thrusting the sixteen-year-old Catholic girl into a world of degradation that somehow gave her the strength to accomplish what amounted to miracles. Forced into the service of the German army, young Irene was able, due in part to her Aryan good looks, to use her position as a servant in an officers' club to steal food and supplies (and even information overheard at the officers' tables) for the Jews in the ghetto. She smuggled Jews out of the work camps, ultimately hiding a dozen people in the home of a Nazi major for whom she was housekeeper.

Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.