SHABEL: We Must Not Let Novels About The Holocaust Go Out Of Style


Norman Shabel Contributor
Font Size:

At 87, I have lived through many tragic eras.  But few events have left me fearing a return of the horrors of the Holocaust as those we are facing today. With the situation between Israel and its neighbors only worsening since Oct. 7, the growing isolation of the Jewish state and anti-semitic sentiment and violence flaring everywhere, I worry now more than ever about threats to the Jewish community worldwide.

As a novelist, I would have hoped to see the entertainment and literary world continuing to bring stories that keep the memories of the Holocaust and the need to prevent history from repeating itself alive. Narrative works, as brought to life by movies, plays, novels and memoirs, continually breathe new life into the events of the past, making them relatable through characters and their personal journeys. Who could ever forget the plight of Anne Frank, whose diary-memoir continues to inform and enlighten people everywhere three quarters of a century after it was written? “The Book Thief,” “The Boy in Striped Pajamas,”Sophie’s Choice” — all have touched countless hearts and fanned the flames of determination to make sure the real-life events behind these stories, as like their implications, never die.

Yet, new stories about the Holocaust are increasingly rare. A quick look at the publication dates of the books mentioned above speaks volumes: “The Boy in Striped Pajamas,” 2008 —the same year as the film. “The Book Thief,” 2005. “Sophie’s Choice,” 1992. The numbers of forthcoming titles about the Holocaust are painfully low.  Just three are listed in a January Publisher’s Weekly list combining new books about the Holocaust, World War II and wartime leadership.  An Amazon search turns up only two fairly recent novels or memoirs set in, or spotlighting aspects of, one of history’s darkest times.  

Weaving Holocaust events into other genres such as mysteries and thrillers also seems to have fallen out of style. In fact, the Holocaust itself seems to be losing its appeal as a source for storytelling, particularly in the publishing world.

That’s certainly not for a lack of stories to tell.  Even as time marches on, survivors and their descendants each have unique personal experiences to share. The repercussions continue to reverberate across generations, giving rise to new stories to tell.  I for one grew up alongside aunts and uncles who survived the horrors of the camps. In the 1950s, fresh in the wake of the War’s end, I visited the liberated camps. The memories of the gas chambers and survivors speaking about the hell they went through remain painfully vivid in my mind to this day. These events inspired some of my own novels, including “The Aleph Bet Conspiracyand “Four Women,” but there’s still so much more to say.  In fact, the possibilities for telling new stories about these past events are endless.  And they always will be.

That’s why, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I call upon the publishing industry in particular to look beyond current trends and revive the focus on Holocaust stories for these reasons:

Stories about the Holocaust must never not be viewed as “out of style.”  

Regardless of new and emerging societal trends, the historic tragedy of the Holocaust is timeless. We must resist the temptation to file it away as no longer relevant, even as new events arise. Honoring its timelessness as a source for storytelling is essential to the 

There are as many stories to tell as ever before.

There are still survivors living around the world. Survivors not just of the camps, but of deportations, of hiding, of hunger, of death threats and discrimination.  Each unique story deserves to be heard.

Survivors descendants have — and will always have — new stories to tell

The generational repercussions, including trauma, will never end.  As time goes on, the impact on individuals and families continues to evolve, creating new stories that must also be shared.

Storytelling is the most powerful way to prevent history from repeating itself

While historic and analytical works play an important role, their audiences are limited. Narrative- and character-driven stories are infinitely more accessible and relatable to vast numbers of people. Through storytelling, the implications and lessons of history stick in minds and hearts.

My own gesture in support of this call to action has been to re-publish, this year, my novels highlighting the Holocaust. I look to the publishing industry to introduce new Holocaust-based titles that will inspire a drive to prevent a repeat of history for years to come.

Norman Shabel is the author of eight novels, praised by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano as “terrific, fast-paced reads about the dark side of law enforcement and the judiciary.” His novels include “The Aleph Bet Conspiracy”,Four Women” and “The Badger Game.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.