With the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, a big-budget film about the English army’s unlikely escape across the channel during a key battle of World War II, we took a look at some of the WWII books hitting shelves. Like Nolan’s film—which depicts how the Allied forces stayed alive, against the odds, after being penned in on the beaches of France (thanks to an assist from a number of civilian boats and a tactical error by the Germans)—these books offer up tales in which everyday people, in their fight to survive, committed unsung acts of heroism.
Sons and Soldiers
Pub. Date: July 25
In this work of nonfiction, Henderson (Rescue at Los Baños) tells the story of a group of young German Jews, known as the Ritchie Boys, who, after fleeing Europe as children in the 1930s and growing up in America, returned to the continent as moles for the Allies. Trained by the U.S. government, the Ritchie Boys—there were roughly 2,000 of them—were taught German language skills and interrogation techniques, then sent to Europe to infiltrate the ranks of the Third Reich as American spies.
Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pub. Date: Mar. 7
Bornstein, a childhood survivor of Auschwitz (he was filmed by Soviet soldiers, at four years old, being carried out of the camp in his grandmother’s arms), recounts how his Polish family survived the Holocaust and the war. Written with his daughter, the book draws on Bornstein’s memories, as well as interviews with various members of his family.
The Unwomanly Face of War
Svetlana Alexievich, trans. by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: July 25
This translation of Belarusian Nobel Prize–winner Alexievich’s 1985 book showcases the unsung tales of Soviet women who fought on the front lines. Their contributions to the war effort have remained largely untold and nearly forgotten.