by Mary B. Collins
If you are looking for a Holocaust book to teach in the middle grades, consider these four titles:
GRADES 5-8: It’s 1943 Copenhagen and the Jews of Denmark are being “relocated,” so Annemarie Johansen’s best friend, Ellen, moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family. When Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission, she must find the courage to save her friend’s life.
GRADES 5-8: Hannah dreads going to her family's Passover Seder. Her relatives always tell the same stories, and Hanna's tired of hearing them talk about the past. But when she opens the front door to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah, she's transported to a Polish village--and the year 1942. Why is she there, and who is this "Chaya" that everyone seems to think she is? Just as she begins to unravel the mystery, Nazi soldiers come to take everyone in the village away. And only Hannah knows the unspeakable horrors that await.
GRADES 5-9: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic -- a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
GRADES 8-12: Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.
Each of these books is powerful in its own way. Number the Stars is probably the least "graphic" of the horrors of the Holocaust. Likewise, Anne Frank's diary ends without graphic descriptions of what went on in the concentration camps. Both of these works focus more on the effects of the Holocaust on families outside of the concentration camps. The Devil's Arithmetic includes some time inside the concentration camps, but isn't as graphic as Elie Wiesel's Night. Night is more suited for more mature students in grades 8-12.
All four of these Holocaust books are critically acclaimed and excellent choices for making students aware of the Holocaust and its effects on Jewish people.