I consider myself a ferocious reader. I mainly devour Christian theology and ministry books, but also like to read books outside my norm to think—and experience things—from a different perspective. That includes non-fiction, biographies, and history.
I’ve always been fascinated by World War II because of the unique mix of utter human depravity with amazing acts of courage and valor. Those who lived through the horrors of World War II truly are The Greatest Generation.
I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of recommended books on World War II of interest to Christian readers. I have read 1-4 and have put the rest on my “to read” list. Enjoy!
1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
Related Post: The Louis Zamperini Story: Where the Movie Left Off
2. Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI’s Story of Courage and Faith by Dr. John Woodbridge and Maurice Possley
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist teams up with a university scholar in this compelling, untold historical tale of a young man’s courage at a critical time in United States history, and the saga of a dictator’s pistol that continues today. The time is World War II. Young soldier Ira “Teen” Palm and his men burst into a Munich apartment, hoping to capture Adolph Hitler. Instead, they find an empty apartment … and a golden gun. As the authors trace the story of the man and the gun, they examine a time and place that shaped men like Palm and transformed them into heroes. They also follow the strange journey of Hitler’s pistol.
3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
“I pray that God forgive them…”
Corrie Ten Boom stood naked with her older sister Betsie, watching a concentration camp matron beating a prisoner. “Oh, the poor woman,” Corrie cried. “Yes. May God forgive her,” Betsie replied. And, once again, Corrie realized that it was for the souls of the brutal Nazi guards that her sister prayed.
Both woman had been sent to the camp for helping the Jews. Christ’s Spirit and words were their guide; it was His persecuted people they tried to save—at the risk of their own lives; it was His strength that sustained them through times of profound horror.
Here is a book aglow with the glory of God and the courage of a quiet Christian spinster whose life was transformed by it. A story of Christ’s message and the courage woman who listened and lived to pass it along—with joy and triumph!
4. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
WHO BETTER TO FACE THE GREATEST EVIL OF THE 20TH CENTURY THAN A HUMBLE MAN OF FAITH?
As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author. In this New York Times best-selling biography, Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life—the theologian and the spy—and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland.
5. Hitler’s Cross: How the Cross Was Used to Promote the Nazi Agenda by Erwin Lutzer
Six million Jews dead. The monstrosity of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Third Reich’ remains a stunning chapter in the pages of history. Although the power by which he hypnotized an entire nation is legendary, one question in particular begs an answer: Where was the church of Christ? Seduced by the satanic majesty of the Fuhrer, church leaders throughout Germany allowed the swastika a prominent place alongside the Christian cross in their sanctuaries. Nationalistic pride replaced the call of God to purity, and with few exceptions, the German church looked away while Adolf Hitler implemented the ‘Final Solution’ to his Jewish problem. How did this happen?
In Hitler’s Cross, Erwin W. Lutzer examines the dangers of confusing “church and state,” how the German church lost its focus, the role of God in human tragedy, the parameters of Satan’s freedom, the faithfulness of God to His people who suffer for Him, and America’s hidden cross-her dangerous trends. Hitler’s Cross is the story of a nation whose church forgot its primary call and discovered its own failure after it was too late.
6. When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin Lutzer
According to Dr. Lutzer, the German people’s progression from civility to barbarity was not extraordinary, and more than a few benchmarks from their transition can be observed in present day American society (Do any of these sound familiar?): The Church is silenced, the economy is king, the lawmakers determine behaviors, the media controls beliefs, the Gospel and nationalism become inextricably tied to each other, and yet, heroes still have power.
This short, manageable book does not suggest the United States is definitely marching toward authoritarian oblivion, but that we – especially we believers – must be vigilant in our stand for truth, justice, and righteousness. We must take note of these lessons from history. The parallels are real, but the conclusion is not a foregone one.
7. Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis by Edgar Harrell
July 30, 1945–The USS Indianapolis and its 1,196-man crew is making its way toward a small island in the South Pacific. The ship is sailing unescorted, assured by headquarters the waters are safe. It is midnight, and Marine Edgar Harrell and several others have sacked out on deck rather than spend the night in their hot and muggy quarters below. Fresh off a top-secret mission to deliver uranium for the atomic bombs that would ultimately end World War II, they are unaware their ship is being watched. Minutes later, six torpedoes are slicing toward the Indy . . .
For five horrifying days and nights after their ship went down, Harrell and his shipmates had to fend for themselves in the open seas. Plagued by dehydration, exposure, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks, their numbers were cruelly depleted before they were miraculously rescued. This is one man’s story of courage, ingenuity, and faith in God’s providence in the midst of the worst naval disaster in U.S. history.
Listen to an interview with Harrell from The Gospel Coalition:
8. Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose
(For those at home keeping score, this is the book my mom added to the list 🙂 )
The True Story of One Woman’s Triumph of Faith
Newlywed American missionary Darlene Deibler Rose survived four years in a notorious Japanese prison camp set deep in the jungles of New Guinea. Thinking she was never to see her husband again, Darlene Rose was forced to sign a false confession and face the executioner’s sword, only to be miraculously spared.
9. Churchill by Paul Johnson
This pick is one that isn’t a “Christian” book, but made the list because it is a great biography of World War II’s main figures – and it is less than two-hundred pages. (Oh yeah, and Albert Mohler recommended it.)
In Churchill, eminent historian Paul Johnson offers a lively, succinct exploration of one of the most complex and fascinating personalities in history. Winston Churchill’s hold on contemporary readers has never slackened, and Johnson’s analysis casts new light on his extraordinary life and times. Johnson illuminates the various phases of Churchill’s career—from his adventures as a young cavalry officer in the service of the empire to his role as an elder statesman prophesying the advent of the Cold War—and shows how Churchill’s immense adaptability and innate pugnacity made him a formidable leader for the better part of a century. Johnson’s narration of Churchill’s many triumphs and setbacks, rich with anecdote and quotation, illustrates the man’s humor, resilience, courage, and eccentricity as no other biography before, and is sure to appeal to historians and general nonfiction readers alike.
10. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Also not a “Christian” book, but a classic that tells the horrors of the holocaust from a young girl’s perspective.
THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (also known as THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) is a book of the writings from the Dutch language diary kept by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944, and Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The diary was retrieved by Miep Gies, who gave it to Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the family’s only known survivor. The diary has since been published in more than 60 different languages.
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What books would you add?