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A window into the world of a Holocaust survivor

Michael Bornstein shares his story of Auschwitz-Birkenau in recent book ‘Survivors Club’

By Denny West
On October 10, 2018

Last April, Michael Bornstein, a former child prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and his daughter Debbie Bornstein Holinstat visited campus to talk about his incredible life and the book, “Survivors Club,”which they wrote about his experience. 

Bornstein tells us in his book, “Of the hundreds of thousands of children who had been delivered by train to Auschwitz, only fifty-two under the age of eight survived.  

They were the world’s best hiders [and] I was one of them.”    

The story starts before Bornstein’s birth as the Germans have begun to occupy Poland at the beginning of World War II.  

Bornstein and his family endure life as laborers in the ghetto of Zarki, Poland a three-hour drive south from the capital of Warsaw. 

Bornstein’s father, Israel, used payoff money and what influence he had to make life bearable for his family.  

From there the family managed to avoid “selection” and ended up working at an ammunition factory in Pionki, Poland.  And then the horrific train ride to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the concentration camp that was the Nazi’s personal murdering machine. 

 It is here that remarkable determination from young Bornstein’s beloved Mamishu (mother) and Bobeshi (grandma), as well as his own hiding, was what made his survival possible.  

However, he wasn’t the only member of his family to survive.  Although Bornstein encountering many losses, in his book readers are also told that “Thirty-four hundred Jews lived and worked in Zarki before the Holocaust.  Less than thirty returned.  

My family accounted for almost all of them,” and the title “Survivors Club” now needs no explanation.  

Of course, Bornstein’s memories alone weren’t enough to write this book.  

Many years of researching, recording other survivor’s accounts, family accounts, and historical documents helped to fill in the gaps and provide the true narrative of prisoner B-1148, Bornstein’s inked number, and his brave family. 

 This powerful book is written as a young adult novel, but its story and message are a must read for anyone not only interested in these tales of heroism and incredible endurance, but of something else that you don’t get in many biographical texts from this dark time in human history. 

Peppered throughout the chapters are small miracles of timing, or the occasional sympathetic German, or even an illness that proved to be of assistance.  

Through the darkness and almost godless void of the Holocaust and over six million murders at its core, this story ends up leaving you with an incredible emotion to cling onto at the end -- hope. 

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