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Auschwitz survivor to share his story on campus

By Lizzie Lake
On April 13, 2018

Auschwitz. Source: Creative Commons

Holocaust survivor Michael Bornstein, along with his daughter Debbie Holinstat, will take the stage on April 17 at 1 p.m. in Ballantyne Auditorium to present Bornstein’s horrifying seven-month journey through Auschwitz concentration camp as a four-year-old. 

 Born and raised in Zarki, Poland, Bornstein and his family were stripped of their home and taken to Auschwitz during WWII. 

 Bornstein stated, “We will be talking about my background before the war, what happened to me in Auschwitz, a few miracles that happened and also what happened after the war.” 

His daughter, Debbie, added, “We tell our story through photos. We are very fortunate that he survived among his family members and miraculously, photos survived as well so we are able to narrate his life through photos.” 

 When asked what Bornstein remembers, he replied, “Well, you have to remember I was a four-year-old boy. We met the mayor of Zarik, the town I was born in and that was an interesting meeting. The kind of things, the things I basically remember is the smell in Auschwitz of burning flesh, Nazi boots marching and shouting in German.” 

Bornstein later explained how he remembers going into hiding - particularly his grandmother hiding him beneath a bed of straw. 

 “We’ve spoken to churches, schools and many other places. It’s become easy. We went to Poland in September and we had an NBC camera crew with us. It was amazing,” Bornstein recalled. 

Debbie added, “It’s been an awarding experience to know that there are so many people who will remember this story.”

The overall message that Bornstein and Debbie hope listeners take away relates back to watch Bornstein’s mother gave him. Engraved in the back is “gam ze ya’avor”, meaning “this too shall pass.” 

Bornstein also stated that you must stay optimistic. “I went to school and didn’t speak English and I managed to survive.” 

Debbie added, “The most compelling way to fight hatred is with education. The more people my dad can reach, the more empathy. The world will overall be a better place. My father’s message of optimism also relates to the real world today. This too shall pass.” 

 There will be a book signing following the presentation. 

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