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World War II Books

Studs Terkel, The Good War (1984)

In this oral history collection, Studs Terkel presents interviews with dozens of people who, in some way, were affected by World War II. His subjects discuss fond memories, regrets and longing, nightmarish experiences, and reflections on the future. Terkel's book humanizes war and helps us understand the ways in which many different lives were affected in complex ways by worldwide crises.

Phillip McGuire, ed., Taps for a Jim Crow Army: Letters from Black Soldiers in World War II (1982)

This rich collection of letters from African-American soldiers to the United States government illustrates the frustration and anger felt by those serving in segregated military units. An essential—and rich!—primary resource for those interested in the origins of the civil rights movement.

Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989)

Historian and World War II veteran Paul Fussell illustrates the odd incongruities between wartime rhetoric and frontline realities. In his humorous, vulgar, and heart-breaking descriptions of what American and British soldiers experienced in what has been called "The Good War," Fussell dissects euphemisms, demystifies common assumptions, and offers you a gripping image of one of history's most violent wars. It's half history text, half memoir. A must read!

Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986)

Historian Richard Rhodes carefully documents the events that led to the creation of the atomic bomb and tells the stories of those who were forced to grapple with the ultimate, devastating effects of their research.

John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (1986)

Historian John Dower explores the racial dimensions of the Pacific front in World War II, explaining, "the Japanese were more hated than the Germans before as well as after Pearl Harbor." Provocative and disturbing chapters describe the ways in which Americans dehumanized and demonized the Japanese in popular culture. Dower also explains how Japanese defined themselves with respect to their American foes. This fascinating book includes several pages of illustrations including American political cartoons and Japanese propaganda posters. A page-turner!

Wiesel, a survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, vowed not to speak of the horrors he had experienced for 10 years following his liberation in 1945. Exactly a decade later, in 1955, he began writing this semi-autobiographical novel, a devastatingly direct account of the Holocaust experience. Wiesel went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)

Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl just 11 years old when Germany invaded and occupied the Netherlands, where she had been living with her family since 1933. Nazi rule meant increasing persecution of Holland's Jews, and in 1942 Anne's family went into hiding in the "secret annex"—a hidden attic—of an Amsterdam row house. For two years the family hid there, before they were betrayed and arrested by the Germans, then deported to the death camps of Poland, where Anne died in 1945. Only her diary survived to tell her tragic story.

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