The UN General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day to honor the victims of the Nazi era, including the Jewish, Roma and Sinti, Slavs, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and political dissidents, and recommit to preventing future genocides. Today marks 78 years since the liberation of prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the UN has has dedicated this year's theme to "Home and Belonging."
"'Home and Belonging' highlights the humanity of the Holocaust victims and survivors, who had their home and sense of belonging ripped from them by the perpetrators of the Holocaust. The violence of exclusion began with disinformation and hate speech that lent support to systemic injustice and discrimination, and marginalization and ended with genocidal killing," says a statement from the United Nations. "The theme reminds us of our responsibility to respond with humanity to the victims of atrocity crimes, to counter hate speech, antisemitism, Holocaust distortion and denial, and prejudice—to do all we can to prevent genocide."
One of the most meaningful ways to remember and understand an event has always been through the telling of stories—a way to bring to life the times, issues, and feelings of people and places beyond our own experiences. Here are 5 mysteries and thrillers that touch on the themes of the Holocaust and WWII.
by Kate Quinn
In this novel about war, revenge, redemption, and justice Kate Quinn tells the tale of an Austrian woman with a mysterious past, the stepdaughter who is curious about her, and the stories of the other people whose lives she's touched. Quinn seamlessly weaves several different timelines and characters together until they collide. Despite being an intimidatingly long novel, it is brilliantly paced, impeccably researched, and impossible to put down.
Code Name Hélène
by Ariel Lawhon
Four hundred and forty pages of an epic, delicious, incredibly true, unbelievably brave account of the life of Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, a fierce fighter for the French resistance. Ariel Lawhon's Code Name Hélène is an exhilarating journey in the forests of France fighting Nazis, unpacking shipments of weapons dropped by the British, and getting others out of terrible situations. Nancy is a hero, a warrior, a glamorous woman, a wealthy wife, a trained killer, an expert at codes, and someone who unquestionably risks everything to pursue what she knows is right.
The King of Diamonds
by Simon Tolkien
Set in the early 1960s in England, this is a provocative, cautionary tale featuring Detective Inspector Bill Trave on the hunt for truth after the murder of his ex, a woman with a wealthy diamond merchant family. Author Simon Tolkien, himself a successful London barrister, begins his story in the Old Bailey courthouse, but Diamonds is no sedentary courtroom drama. Thoughtful and complex, this one is sure to intrigue and satisfy discriminating fans of sophisticated mysteries as Trave digs into a family’s sordid past to ask difficult questions that lead to horrible truths involving World War II, Jewish diamond merchants, and the Holocaust.
Mother Daughter Traitor Spy
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Based on a real-life duo, the fictional Violet "Vi" and Veronica Grace, are a mother-daughter spy team who infiltrate Los Angeles Nazi groups in the 1940s to stop a flood of antisemitic propaganda from turning the tide of sentiment at home against the war. Susan Elia MacNeal takes spins a unique angle on WWII, and while not a Holocaust novel, she focuses her lens on the battle against white nationalism and antisemitism closer to home in the United States. In doing so, she draws parallels between Vi and Veronica's time and our own.
The Final Reckoning
by Sam Bourne
Sam Bourne juggles several plots and dozens of characters with ease in The Final Reckoning, never losing the reader among the novel's many names, time periods, or character motivations. It tells the story of Gershon Matzkin, a young, Jewish resistance fighter during WWII, as his life is slowly revealed through the journey of lawyer Tom Byrne, who is hired to deal with the delicate optics of Matzkin's death after the now-elderly Matzkin is mistaken for a terrorist and shot outside the United Nations. Bourne’s searing descriptions of the Holocaust are well-researched, moving, and not soon forgotten.