Author Interview with Dita Kraus, the Librarian of Auschwitz, and more books for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Dita Kraus grew up in Prague in an intellectual, middle-class Jewish family. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, fourteen-year-old Dita was one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. There, she met Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch, who put Dita in charge of protecting eight precious volumes that prisoners managed to sneak past the guards. And so, Dita became known as the Librarian of Auschwitz.

Dita shares her remarkable life story in her breathtaking new memoir for teens and adults, A DELAYED LIFE. Dita’s incredible story was also fictionalized in the outstanding young adult novel, THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ.

Read an interview with Dita Kraus and find more books to share with young readers for Holocaust Remembrance Day here.

An Interview with Dita Kraus

How did you decide on A DELAYED LIFE as the title for your memoir?
The title of my book was dictated by circumstances. For most of my life I had to wait. As a child it was: “This is not for small children, wait till you are older.” When the war started, life became something temporary. One had to wait until after it’s over and life returns to normal. And so it was in the concentration camps and on and on.

Early in the book, you write “I shall try to gather the fragments and write them down; perhaps a blueprint will emerge that might fill the blank spaces on the mosaic…” Now that your memoir has been published, how do you feel about this stated purpose? Have some of those blank spaces been filled?

In some way a few blank spaces, or rather missing memories, have emerged in the course of my writing. Other unexplained fragments became filled with meaning by hindsight.

Is this the first time you’ve written at length about your adulthood? If so, what was most challenging about it?  

Actually, I began writing down scenes from my life in my late forties. Some because I found them amusing, such as my stint as a cobbler, others because they described experiences from the time of our persecution. These essays were then made into a book by my talented Czech editor Hana Hribkova.

As someone who has spoken at home and abroad to educate people about the Holocaust, are there questions you receive most often (aside from questions about your life after the war)? 

After my talk, when I encourage the audience to ask questions, there is usually a dead silence in the hall. I see their faces. They reflect sadness, pity, even shock. It takes a while until the first hand is raised. The question I hear most often is about faith. “Do you still believe in God, after the Holocaust?”

Are there questions you wish more people would ask?

No, the questions are various, often very intelligent. But I always end the session with a request. “Remember what you heard. If at any time in your life someone should claim that the Holocaust is an invention of the Jews, that no concentration camps existed and that it is not true that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis, tell them what you learned from me today. Tell them that you saw the number tattooed on my arm. Fight the Holocaust deniers.”

Books for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed in April, commemorating the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and the heroism of survivors and rescuers. Here is a collection of books you can share with young readers for Holocaust Remembrance Day:

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe; translated by Lilit Thwaites

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.

Sydney Taylor Award Winner
SIX starred reviews

28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto by David Safier

Warsaw, 1942. Sixteen-year old Mira smuggles food into the Ghetto to keep herself and her family alive. When she discovers that the entire Ghetto is to be “liquidated”—killed or “resettled” to concentration camps—she desperately tries to find a way to save her family. She meets a group of young people who are planning the unthinkable: an uprising against the occupying forces. Mira joins the resistance fighters who, with minimal supplies and weapons, end up holding out for twenty-eight days, longer than anyone had thought possible. Based on true events.

★ “[A] complex novel, rich in evocative detail.”Booklist, starred review

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz
On Sale August 25, 2020

From a beloved voice in children’s literature comes this landmark memoir of hope amid harrowing times and an engaging and unusual Holocaust story.

Uri Shulevitz won the Caldecott Medal for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, written by Arthur Ransome, and three Caldecott Honors for The TreasureSnow, and How I Learned Geography

Claiming My Place: Coming of Age in the Shadow of the Holocaust by Planaria Price with Helen Reichmann West

The true story of a young Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust by escaping to Nazi Germany and hiding in plain sight. A first person narrative, written by author Planaria Price and Helen Reichmann West, Barbara’s daughter. Includes maps and photographs.

“A searing personal account full of unforgettable details.” —The Jewish Book Council

It Rained Warm Bread: Moishe Moskowitz’s Story of Hope by Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet and Hope Anita Smith; illustrations by Lea Lyon

A powerful middle grade novel-in-verse about one boy’s experience surviving the Holocaust. Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet relates her father’s triumphant Holocaust story through the words of award-winning poet Hope Anita Smith. Deftly articulated and beautifully illustrated by Lea Lyon, this is an essential addition to the ever-important collection of Holocaust testimonies.

A Parents Choice Magazine Gold Award Winner
A Kirkus Best Book of the Year
An NCTE Notable Verse Novel
An ALSC Notable Children’s Book
An ALA Notable Book for Young Readers
A Bank Street College Best Book of the Year

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat

The New York Times-bestselling incredible true story of Michael Bornstein—who at age 4 was one of the youngest children to be liberated from the Auschwitz concentration camp—and of his family.

“Both moving and memorable, combining the emotional resolve of a memoir with the rhythm of a novel.” —New York Times Book Review

A New York City Public Library Notable Best Book for Teens

Find more books about the Holocaust in our digital catalog.

Read and listen to more author interviews here.