11 books that humanize World War II’s dark history


6. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larsen

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, by Erik Larsen
Image: Amazon

In the Garden of Beasts tells the story of the American ambassador to Germany in the early 1930s, as Hitler rose to power. Ambassador Dodd lives in Berlin with his wife and two children and witnesses the evolution of the country as the Nazi regime came into power. The portrayals of the Nazi leaders are unforgettable, as are the warnings of the growing tension in Germany to American leaders that went ignored.

7. Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII, by Deborah Cadbury

Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII, by Deborah Cadbury
Image: Amazon

While London was bombed on an almost nightly basis, England’s Royal Family was handling it like any normal family — with strife. Princes at War carefully tells the story of the chaos within the House of Windsor, as the brothers struggled to manage the pressures of the war while acting as the face of Britain.

8. War Brides, by Helen Bryan

War Brides, by Helen Bryan
Image: Amazon

With young men everywhere being drafted into military service, the women were left to maintain life at home. War Brides tells the tale of five women with radically different backgrounds who navigate wartime struggles together regardless of the circumstances that ultimately brought them together.

9. Operation Mincemeat, by Ben Macintyre

Operation Mincemeat, by Ben Macintyre
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With the European continent torn apart by battlefields and bombs, desperate measures were needed to bring the war to a close. Operation Mincemeat shares the largely unknown tale of a highly orchestrated, albeit completely fake, plot to invade Sicily to distract from the impending D-Day invasion at Normandy. The tales of espionage and deception are part James Bond and part Sherlock Holmes.

10. Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany, by Jonathan Petropoulos

Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany, by Jonathan Petropoulos
Image: Amazon

European aristocracy often has ties to multiple countries, and it was no different for German Princes Philipp and Christoph. They were descendants of Queen Victoria of England with ties to Italy as well, making them attractive targets and allies of the Nazis. Royals and the Reich profiles their roles in the German government and their quiet acquiescence.

11. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
Image: Amazon

Popular with book groups, The Nightingale tells the story of two French sisters living in contrasting environments — one in the city and the other in the country. While their surroundings are different, their support of the French underground was similar, as they took huge risks to support themselves and others while living in occupied France. While this book is fiction, the story is based on events and experiences that happened during the war.

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