Reviewed by Brenda G.
Michael Bornstein was born in an open ghetto in Zarki, Poland, in 1940, after the German invasion. His immediate family included mother, father, and an older brother. He had a large extended family, including his paternal grandmother who lived with his family.
Bornstein begins this work with a discussion of a photo taken from movies filmed by the Soviet Union in the days after they liberated Auschwitz. He had not known the films existed until stumbling upon them and excerpts like this photo. He had long refused to provide details of his imprisonment, until he found images of his four-year-old self on a Holocaust denial site. He was finally moved to share his story as a result.
Bornstein enlisted the help of his daughter Deborah Bornstein Holinstat to tell his tale. With stories from his mother, who survived Auschwitz and other imprisonments, and assistance from other members of his extended family, each with a harrowing tale of survival, Bornstein recounts his experiences in war-time Poland, in Auschwitz, and in post-war Germany prior to his immigration to America.
This story, though written for children, is housed in our adult collection. Adult readers are reminded of a recent similar book We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter; New York: Viking, 2017, 403 pages, reviewed earlier in this column. Fewer members of Bornstein’s immediate family survived than of Ms. Hunter’s. Both tales are harrowing but Bornstein’s family remained much closer to home during the war than Hunter’s did. To be a Jew in World War II Poland was to be in hell, at least to this reader of these two accounts of Jewish life there.
Read this book. Read Georgia Hunter’s book. Repeat the vow, “Never again!”
Survivors Club : the True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. New York : Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2017. 348 pages. Includes photographs, notes on sources, and glossary.