AUSCHWITZ: The Most Touching Survival Books & Movies You Need To Have.

In BLOG, EUROPE, INSPIRATION, POLAND by Clelia Mattana28 Comments


I’m very sensitive when it comes to talking about the Holocaust. After my first visit to Poland in 2015, I wrote one of my dearest articles on this website, where I talk about the shocking numbing reaction I had while visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps.

I’m not Jewish and I have no direct connections with this tragedy but for some reason, after watching one of the movies I list in here when I was just a child, I became very interested in the topic as I wanted to understand how such madness could have taken place in an otherwise “civilized world”.  


A photo I took to remember my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2015, to commemorate the millions of people who died there.

I’ve read so many books, watched probably every possible movie (fictional and based on real stories) and documentaries about the Holocaust during all these years. I am so attached to them that I have a hard copy of the books and a DVD for each movie at my parent’s house in Sardinia AND a Kindle copy for the books and a downloaded version of the movies on my hard drive for when I travel.


I think they could teach people a lot of things. About life, endurance, suffering, moral values, hope and despair. But above all, they will give you an idea of what the Human Spirit is capable of.

This is why I felt the need to create this list, making a careful selection of what I consider to be the most touching, important and informative material there is out there about the Holocaust.

Whether you are planning a visit to Auschwitz or not, I do believe that reading the books and watching the movies and documentaries will somehow enrich your life.


If you want to visit the concentration camps, I strongly recommend you take a look at my suggestions and, after the visit, you will probably feel the need (just like I did) to read and watch all the material over and over again, realizing that you now see things in a totally different way.


There were tears before visiting Auschwitz, but I can’t even start to describe the empty hole in my chest when I read those books and watch those movies again, crying. Knowing that I walked the path, and touched the soil where millions of people died in such an inhuman way.



Click on the images to check them out


The Pianist

This moving and haunting story of survival is based on concert pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman‘s memoirs. Escaping deportation, the musician is left behind in the Warsaw ghetto and forced to hide in empty flats to evade capture while scavenging for food.

Obviously based on a heartbreaking real story, the Pianist won 3 Academy Awards. Click to check out Szpilman’s moving memoires, definitely a must-read book.

Shindler’s List

Probably the most famous and touching movie about the Holocaust, Shindler’s list was the first movie I’ve watched on the topic (our history teacher brought us to the movie theather to watch it when I was 16) Winner of 7 Oscars, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List follows the true story of Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust.

The Book, Shindler’s Ark is absolutely amazing and a must-read as well.

A Journey Into The Holocaust

Unlike other Holocaust films this movie is a detailed and deeply personal exploration into genocide and how something this atrocious happened . It provides a “formula for the Holocaust” and proves his point. A very powerful movie that will make you think a lot about the tragedy of the Holocaust with what is happening today, after more than 70 years.

An incredble eye opening film, truly worth watching if you haven’t already.

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Life is Beautiful

Even if this movie is not based on a true story it is a true masterpiece centered on the Holocaust, love and sacrifice. Determined to protect his son from the horrors of war, Guido tells him that the camp is all part of a game and that the prize will be a life-size version of the toy tank he loves to play with.

The film won three (well deserved) Academy Awards and a standing ovation from the crowd for Italian actor Roberto Benigni. Grazie Roberto for this incredible gift. <3 

Life Is Beautiful Final Scene

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie you shouldn’t watch this


For those who still want to watch the video, this is the part that, to me, summed up what this movie is really about. It’s obviously centered around the tragedy of the Holocaust, but it tries to give a positive message as well (even if I cry every time I see the ending).

Most of the Jewish community and survivors’ relatives spoke very highly about the movie.

“Jewish actor Moni Ovadia liked it so much that he bestowed the title “honorary Jew” on non-Jewish comedian Roberto Benigni, who directed, co-wrote and starred in the movie” (…) “Italy’s leading research center on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism was an adviser on the film, as were several Holocaust survivors”. 

Sophie’s Choice

A tragic tale of a writer’s love for a Holocaust survivor. Adapted from William Styron’s best-selling novel, it tells the story of two star-crossed lovers and the unforgettable choice Sophie (Meryl Streep) had to make in the concentration camp.

First released in 1983, this old movie is NOT based on a true story, but is incredibly moving and worth watching many times.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

I watched this lovely movie just recently, thanks to the suggestion of a reader who commented on my article about visiting Auschwitz. Based on a true story, a young Polish couple uses their zoo to protect families hiding from the Nazis.

I didn’t know Antonina Żabińska’s story and it’s very touching and inspiring. She saved hundreds of Jewish by risking her own life. I just bought the book and so far is even better than the movie.


If This Is A Man

If there is a book that change my life, this is it.Not just because he was Italian like me, but for the incredible courage it took him to write it, trying to describe the horrors of the Holocaust and his personal experience of being dehumanized in Auschwitz in such detail and “detachment”.

Reading “If this is a man” is not just reading a book. It’s a real journey into the day to day life in a concentration camp. You are there with him, you can almost feel the pain, the fear, the cold. I have recommended this book more times than I can remember and every time I read it, it takes me a while to go back to “normal”. If you haven’t read it, please do it.

Anne’s Frank Diary

Among the most powerful and touching accounts of the Nazi occupation, “The Diary of Anne Frank” is a must read for everyone. I first got the book in middle school, when I was her age and the reaction was so strong that when I lost the book, I HAD to buy it again.

For Anne, for her memory, for the brave young woman she was, facing hunger, the threat of discovery and the worst horrors the modern world had seen.

To remember her, before she was sent to die in Auschwitz just months before the liberation.

Five Chimneys By Olga Lengyel

This book is going to shake you to the very core. If Primo Levi’s one was very hard to read, Olga Lengyel narration is even more detailed, frank and uncompromising. It goes into the most horrifying details of the day to day life in Auschwitz- Birkenau, working to survive and find the strenght to come out of that nightmare alive, after having lost her parents, husband and sons.

Even Albert Einstein was so moved by her story that he wrote a personal letter to Lengyel, telling her how brave she had been to endure the unspeakable and to write about it with such vivid details. A book that everyone should read not once, but many times.

The Complete Work Of Primo Levi

Primo Levi has long been admired for his harrowing account of suffering in Auschwitz, If This Is a Man. Among the thousands of survivors who have written about their experiences, Levi’s work stands out for its understanding of the human condition and philosophical exploration of the polarities of good and evil.

I didn’t write the first part, because I couldn’t possibly find any other words to encapsulate what Primo Levi’s work represents. I consider his complete work priceless. A gift to humanity, before he tragically decided to took his own life, not being able to endure the weight of the memories he had to carry all alone, as no sane person could possibly understand what he went through.


Who Was Anne Frank? – A Bried Recap of Her Story

Less than 4 minutes worth watching to understand the importance of Anne’s Frank life and why her diary, turned into a book by his father, the only Holocaust survivor, is so important to understand the horrors of living in fear through Anne’s words.

One Day In Auschwitz -Kitty-Hart-Moxons

Kitty Hart-Moxon, is a Polish-English Holocaust survivor. She was sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1943 at age 16, where she survived for two years. An incredibly inspiring story of resilience and courage. She is still alive (2018) aged 91.

Prisoner Number A26188 -Henia Bryer Story

Surviving The Holocaust – Irene Fogel Weiss

“You don’t ever expect to be hauled out of your house, marched into a gas chamber, and be choked to death,”. Yet, that is exactly what happened to most of her family in the summer of 1944. Irene was thirteen at the time, and by several twists of fate, she survived.

The Holocaust Auschwitz Documentary

I decided to include this brilliant documentary, although I would have wanted to change the strong preview image, but unfortunately, I can’t. An unmissable video with real images and footage of the Holocaust and Auschwitz’s story and its victims.

So, these are my recommendation, and if you are interested in the Holocaust story, probably you already knew most of the material. Writing this list was more difficult than I expected as emotionally it’s always very hard for me to talk about this, especially after my visit to Auschwitz.

If you have any other book, video or documentary that you think it’s worth making this list, by all means, please leave me a comment.



When it comes to articles related to Auschwitz, even if this is my full-time job, I think it’s wrong to make money out of them. This is why I decided to not place any advertising in the article.

In this case, if you click on the links and buy something, I will receive a small commission (at no extra cost for you).

The money coming from this article will go to a related project I care very much about but I can’t (nor want) to talk about for privacy reasons involving third parties.

I’m always 100% transparent with you, and I wanted to let you know that in case you decide to buy something via this post you are contributing to a good cause. I don’t want a cent of the profits from this article.


Thanks for reading.





  1. I strongly reccomend to read about the midwife from Auschwitz Stanisława Leszczyńska. She was instructed by the german Nazis doctor Mengele to kill evey newborn, she refused. She saved over 3000 babies , she delivered them in unfathomable condictions, all born healthy!!Thanks God!! It is an unbelivable story!! She is a candidate for sainthood in catholic church now:)

    1. Author

      Thanks for your suggestion Ewa, I’ll definitely look into that book and add it to this list. The story itself is definitely worth reading. I’m glad there were still such examples of humanity like Stanisława Leszczyńska.

  2. I read the Librarian of Auschwitz and couldn’t stop reading it. I read it in two days. No other book magnetized so powerfully. Now I want to read books about the Holocaust.
    Dr. Joseph Robbins

    1. Author

      Thanks for your comment, I didn’t know about this book, now definitely on my list.

  3. I forgot to mention the books The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris And The book called Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents’ Tailor by Martin Greenfield

  4. The book called Night by Elie Wiesel
    It is an older book but we read it in school in the early 2000s. Til this day it is one of my most recommended books of all time

    1. Author

      Thanks a lot for your suggestion Becky, I need to devote one day to add all the incredible books you are introducing me to. Thanks again!

    1. Author

      Thank you for your suggestion Aviva, I just checked it out and from the reviews, it’s a book worth reading indeed. nd I most certainly will.

  5. Fateless,’ by Imre Kertesz… My mom said just like being there. “Faithful to the Kertesz Novel The Hungarian film Fateless is the coming-of-age story of one boy, cast against the Holocaust. It’s based on the autobiographical novel by Imre Kertesz,

  6. I would add Fateless,’ “Faithful to the Kertesz Novel The Hungarian film Fateless is the coming-of-age story of one boy, cast against the Holocaust. It’s based on the autobiographical novel by Imre Kertesz,” my mother said just like being there again

    1. Author

      Thanks Aviva, no worries for the other messages, it happens! I will definitely check the movie you suggest, thanks again for adding your input.

      1. Author

        Sorry, it wasn’t a movie but a book! When I replied I was on mobile and rushing now I checked up online and I just bought it. Thanks again!

  7. I was surprised that I didn’t find the popular book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl in your list. I believe it’s a must read book for everyone.

    1. Author

      Thanks Mauricio, I didn’t know that book, definitely on my list now!

    2. Author

      wow, I just saw the incipit of the book, I’m so reading this. Thanks again for the suggestion, as soon as I have some time I will add all your great suggestions in the actual article in case people won’t read the comments.

  8. Author

    Note: Many thanks to all my lovely readers who recommended me to read the book “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”. I just finished the book and I must admit that it made me cry. Highly recommended indeed.

  9. This is really useful. From my experience studying abroad, I got a chance to read about Auschwitz but I didn’t finish it and also kinda forget the details in the book and how it looks like already. Thank you for the picture of the book and a tons of movies. They are all interesting. p.s. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is recommended!

    1. Author

      Thank you! Yes, I’ve heard about “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and I want to first read it and then add it to this list. So many people sent me privately and public recommendations and I want them to come from you too. So thank you again for the suggestion.

  10. I just finished the book “We Wept Without Tears”, which contains testimonies of surviving members of the Sonderkommando.

    The movie “Son of Saul” is a hard movie to sit through, and sometimes I wish I didn’t watch it, but I felt it was my responsibility to see it.

    Another movie “The Grey Zone” should not be missed. It is based on a book authored by Dr. Miklós Nyiszli, who was compelled to work as the primary assistant to Josefe Mengele. I have since purchased his book “Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account” and have yet to read it.

    Both movies focus on the Sonderkommandos at Auschwitz and lead up to the infamous uprising in 1944.

    Each movie and especially the books are not easy to read or watch, and they stay with you for a long time.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your suggestions Andrew! I’ll check them out and add them to this list. To me, each of the movies, books, and documentaries about the Holocaust are never easy to watch/read. I’m overly sensitive when it comes to Auschwitz.

    1. Author

      Tanks Lydia, this article comes after my very touching experience I talk about in the other Auschwitz- Birkenau post. Reading the books, watching the movies and documentaries after that was such a completely different experience…

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