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5 Books like The Diary of Anne Frank: Tales of Wartime Life

Jo Ward itcherEverybody knows who Anne Frank is, and what happened to her. But she was not the only person to have suffered in the way she did. So if you are interested in the experiences of others in a similar situation, told in their own words, ‘I Have Lived a Thousand Years’, ‘Edith’s Book’, ‘Nella Last’s War’, ‘The Past is Myself’ and ‘Testament of Youth’ are good places to start.
~ Jo Ward

Paperback Writer

Anne Frank has to be one of the world’s most famous teenagers. Her tragedy is that she will forever be a teenager, as her death in Auschwitz came only a few months before the end of World War 2.

Her writing is lyrical and ordinary at the same time, describing a normal teenager against a background of momentous world events. If you want to read other books similar to The Diary of Anne Frank, then cast your eye over my suggestions.


‘Edith’s Book’ (Edith Velmans, 1998)

A Jewish Dutch teenager whose world is ripped apart by the invasion of the Nazis keeps a diary of her experiences. If you want a book like The Diary of Anne Frank, this is it.

Unlike Anne Frank, Edith Velmans survived the war. Her story is told using a mixture of diary entries from the time, letters from her parents and recollections.

Edith was one of the children who went into hiding. Posing as a Christian child, she hid, under a new identity, with a Christian family, not knowing what had happened to the rest of her own family.

This is a story of despair, but also of love, and of courage, and of hope. Her father wrote to her before he died: “Don’t ever let hate […] overpower your soul, because nothing good has ever come of it.”

There is one final link to Anne Frank. In July 1950, after giving birth, Edith was lying in hospital alongside one Miep Gies – the same Miep who hid Anne Frank for so long. Telling Edith Anne’s story, Miep convinced her to write her own.

Similarity Match: 100%
These two girls were two ordinary teenagers caught up in horrendous events. One would remain a girl forever, while the other would have the chance to grow up.

‘I Have Lived a Thousand Years’ (Livia Bitton-Jackson, 1999)

Born Elli L. Friedmann, Bitton-Jackson was 13 years old when her journey to Auschwitz began with invasion of Hungary. Although she lost her father, she, her mother and her brother survived.

This is a memoir rather than a diary, but it tells the same story as Anne Frank’s: the gradual degradation, dehumanisation and eventual incarceration of Jews. The difference is that Bitton-Jackson lived to tell the tale of what happened in Auschwitz and beyond, where Anne Frank did not.

As the Jewish Chronicle says, it is ‘the story that Anne Frank was never able to tell’.

Together with the sequels, it tells first hand not only of the horror of the holocaust but also of the road to life afterwards.

Similarity Match: 80%
A teenage survivor of Auschwitz who survived to bear witness tells her tale of loss, courage and love.

‘Nella Last’s War’ (edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming, 1981)

What does an English housewife do when war breaks out and everyone is asked to do their bit? Find out. Nella Last kept a diary of her time in church halls and at home – it’s a fascinating insight into ‘normal’ life during an abnormal time.

Similarity Match: 60%
A very different perspective on the second world war.

‘The Past is Myself’ (Christabel Bielenberg, 1968)

English woman Christabel Bielenberg married a German in 1934, and was in Germany living as a German citizen when war broke out. She and her husband joined anti-Nazi efforts, which eventually led to his arrest and imprisonment. This is a book which gives you a new and terrifying insight about what life was like for those who stood up to Hitler from within his own country.

Similarity Match: 60%
Wartime Germany, told by the people who tried to destroy it from within.

‘Testament of Youth’ (Vera Brittain, 1978)

Ok, it’s a slight tangent. Different war, different country, older girl. But just as powerful. Vera Brittain was 18 when WW1 started. Taken in by the propaganda, she urged her brother to enlist, and then watched in horror as many of the people she loved, including her fiancée and then her brother, were killed.

Brittain herself trained as a nursing auxiliary, and nursed German soldiers injured on the Front as well as English ones. The irony of working hard to save the lives her brother was working hard to destroy was not lost on her.

This is a book about how someone keeps going when most of the people they love have been taken away from them. Brittain’s writing is beautiful and powerful – it’s well worth a look.

Similarity Match: 40%
The situations are not really comparable. However, both Anne Frank and Vera Brittain have things to say about war and what it does to ordinary people that are worth listening to.


The Power Of Words

Anne Frank was a wonderful writer, in spite of her age and her environment. These writers have equally powerful stories to tell which between them give a full scope of people in wartime.

If you want to read on, here are more suggestions in my article on books about the Holocaust.

What books have you read that you’d recommend?

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