Cover image for Survivors club : the true story of a very young prisoner of Auschwitz
Survivors club : the true story of a very young prisoner of Auschwitz

First edition.
Physical Description:
xviii, 348 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 22 cm
Remember the cup -- Bloody Monday -- The round up -- What snuck in with the laundry -- The judenrat -- Look forward -- Money talks -- Predictions from the underground -- Cousin Ruth -- Last-chance decisions -- Trapped -- The parting gift -- B-1148 -- Punishment at Auschwitz -- News from the fence -- An unexpected departure -- A lucky illness -- Visitors for Ruth -- Picture in history -- Home -- Aunt Hilda -- Ghostface -- A knock at the door -- A splash of yellow in Zarki -- Survivors club -- American dream -- At a crossroads -- All that remained -- Backyard encounter -- City of rubble -- The dark side of Munich -- The lady with the swastika necklace -- The bar mitzvah boy.
Reading Level:
890 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
"The incredible true story of Michael Bornstein--who at age 4 was one of the youngest children to be liberated from Auschwitz--and of his family"--


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 940.5318 BOR 1 1
Book J 940.5318 BOR 1 1
Book J 940.5318 BOR 1 1
Book J 940.5318 BOR 1 2
Book TEEN 940.5318 BOR 1 1

On Order



A New York Times bestseller

In 1945, in a now-famous piece of World War II archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother's arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father's courageous wit, a mother's fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved his life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational Holocaust survival story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.

This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.

Author Notes

Michael Bornstein survived for seven months inside Auschwitz, where the average lifespan of a child was just two weeks. Six years after his liberation, he immigrated to the United States. Michael graduated from Fordham University, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and worked in pharmaceutical research and development for more than forty years. Now retired, Michael lives with his wife in New York City and speaks frequently to schools and other groups about his experiences in the Holocaust.

Debbie Bornstein Holinstat is Michael's third of four children. A producer for NBC and MSNBC News, she lives in North Caldwell, New Jersey. She also visits schools with her father, and has been working with him for two years, helping him research and write his memoir, although she has grown up hearing many of these stories her entire life.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

After Bornstein discovered an image of himself as a child and other young Auschwitz survivors being used as Holocaust-denying propaganda, he resolved to research his history and share his memories. Assisted by his daughter Debbie, a news producer, he learned that out of 3,400 Jews living in Zarki, Poland, before the Holocaust, fewer than 30 survived, almost all from his family. Enhanced by meticulous archival research, Bornstein's story unfolds in novelistic form, beginning with the arrival of Nazi soldiers in Zarki in 1939. Through the retelling of harrowing eyewitness stories, the authors recount the increasing degradation, deprivation, and terror of Zarki's Jewish citizens, and the courageous attempts of Bornstein's father to save many neighbors from death. Bornstein's family's fight for survival included his aunt and uncle leaving their three-year-old daughter at a Catholic orphanage while hiding in a neighbor's attic; in Auschwitz, Bornstein's mother hid him in her barracks. The story of a silver kiddush cup, which Bornstein's father buried and his mother recovered after the war, bookends this moving memoir, an important witness to the capacity for human evil and resilience. Ages 10-14. Agent: Irene Goodman, Irene Goodman Literary. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

In 1940, Michael Bornstein was born in Zarki, Poland then a Nazi-occupied ghetto. In 1944, Michael and his family arrived at Auschwitz. Miraculously, in 1953, Michael celebrated his bar mitzvah in New York City. Here, with the help of his television news producer daughter, he recounts the spectacular story of his survival. The duo chronologically document the Germans' ruthless occupation and eventual liquidation of Zarki; the Bornsteins' compulsory stint at an ammunitions factory; their tragic trek to Auschwitz; and the aftermath of the war in a land ruptured by unconscionable brutality and bigotry. But this account is shaped less by events than it is people: Michael's father, Israel, with his dangerous devotion to a crumbling community; Michael's infinitely courageous Mamishu; his ever-resilient grandmother; and his stubbornly spirited slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sprinkled with Yiddish and appended by an informative afterword, captioned photos, and brief glossary, the first-person narrative is a tenderly wrought tribute to family, to hope, and to the miracles both can bring. A powerful memoir for the middle-grade set.--Shemroske, Briana Copyright 2017 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

DURING THE HOLOCAUST, hundreds of thousands of children were transported to the murder mill that was Auschwitz. It is estimated that in 1945, only 52 under the age of 8 were liberated. Michael Bornstein was one of them. Born in 1940, Michael was the son of an accountant and one of 3,000 Jews living in Zarki, Poland. He was among the few to survive. "Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz" chronicles the harrowing experience of Michael's extended family during the Holocaust, its aftermath and into the postwar years of immigration. The arc of their journey is both moving and memorable, combining the emotional resolve of a memoir with the rhythm of a novel. The first half of the book recounts the Bornsteins' devastating experience in the Jewish ghetto of their hometown, followed by their internment in Treblinka, Pionki, and their eventual arrival and separation at Auschwitz. Upon arrival at the camp, Bornstein becomes B-1148, a series number he later learns was possibly recycled by the Nazis to avoid an excessively high death toll. The second portion of the book poignantly depicts the unfathomable challenges faced afterward by young survivors like Michael. This book is published as narrative nonfiction for young readers, but the equal measures of hope and hardship in its pages lend appeal to an audience of all ages. Younger readers will appreciate the compelling chapter titles, swiftpacing and unflinching descriptions of soap machine nightmares and uniforms that hang "like skin hangs from raw chicken." The heartbreaking accounts of fathers giving final hugs "that must have carried the weight of a thousand bedtimes" and a child believing, against all odds, in the return of his mother will resonate with adults. The authors include Hebrew terms and Jewish rituals and holidays, grounding the reader in the family's faith and the beautiful bond they share. The stories of Michael's family - his father, who helps many escape death; cousin Ruth, who hides in a Catholic orphanage; and dynamic Aunt Hilda, who survives Buchenwald - are rich and meaningful additions. The investment a reader develops in this family provides emotional resonance to another important survivor: the family Kiddush cup. Also included are the stories of little-known heroes who touched the lives of many, such as donors to CARE and Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Poland who risked his own family's life to issue thousands of transit visas for Jews to flee to Japan. Its conjuring of the power of family and the human spirit are not the book's only strengths. Another important element, especially for young readers, is the depiction of the terrible and quiet truth that was war after war in Poland. For many Jews, the terror did not end with the liberation of the camps. Bornstein describes families - his own included - who survived, only to face anti-Semitic Polish residents who had seized their homes and further threatened them with violence. Upon arrival back in Zarki, young Michael and his elderly grandmother cannot return home but instead live in a chicken coop. Many readers and educators will also appreciate the afterword and extensive back matter, including a moving photo album, family Who's Who and extensive glossary section. A map would have been a welcome addition, enabling young readers to see the locations in Poland. One of the unusual aspects of "Survivors Club" is the fact that it's co-written by Michael Bornstein and his daughter Debbie Bornstein Holinstat, a TV news producer. She describes this collaboration with her father as the most important work of her professional life. It raises the question of why this duetformat memoir between parent and child is not more common. So many other remarkable stories must lie in hiding, waiting to be shared with the world. The Bornsteins' important work provides an inspiring reminder: What could be more rewarding than capturing and preserving family history? Perhaps the experience of creating a true historical archive - together. RUTA SEPETYS is the author of the novels "Between Shades of Gray," "Out of the Easy" and "Salt to the Sea."

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-8-Middle schoolers will be engrossed by Bornstein's account (written with the help of his daughter) of his and his family's survival during the Holocaust. Bornstein was born in the town of Zarki, Poland, which had largely become a Jewish ghetto after the Nazi invasion. For years, his parents survived through bribery and good fortune, but ultimately they, along with the entire Jewish population of the town, were sent to concentration camps (the Bornsteins to Auschwitz, specifically). When the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz, Bornstein was four years old and accompanied only by his grandmother. (His father and brother were dead, and his mother was presumed dead.) The remaining Bornstein clan would eventually immigrate to the United States. The book is written in a soothing tone, which helps balance some of the grim details of Jewish life under the Nazi regime. In the preface, Bornstein explains why he chose to finally chronicle his experiences (a picture of him during the camp's liberation was being used by Holocaust deniers). The storytelling is fast-paced, and readers will be fascinated by this family's survival and endurance. VERDICT Few Holocaust survivors are still alive; Bornstein's account is an excellent addition to middle school collections.-Esther Keller, I.S. 278, Brooklyn © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Michael was only 4 when he miraculously survived the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945.Filmed by Soviets liberating the camp, he saw his image years later, but he was not ready to tell his story until he saw his picture on a Holocaust-denial website. He enlisted his daughter, a TV journalist, to help him uncover further information and to co-author this book. In the preface, Holinstat writes: "we tried to keep the book as honest as possible. While the underlying events are entirely factual, there is fiction here." The father-daughter pair found documents, diaries, and survivors' essays to supplement the limited memories of a very young child, and they write about this process in the preface. The first-person narrative begins with the events of September 1939, even though Michael was not born until May 1940, which feels artificial. Horrific as the experience was, the Auschwitz chapters are just part of Michael's journey. Living in an open "ghetto" in his hometown, moving to a forced-labor camp, then to the extermination camp where his older brother and father die, returning home where Jews are not welcomed, and then living in Munich as a displaced person for six years until he can emigrate to the United States with his mother, the chronicle of Bornstein's first 11 years parallels the experiences of many other surviving victims of the Final Solution. In today's world, it remains more important than ever to remember these survivors. (afterword, photos, characters, glossary) (Memoir. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



'Michael, I have to go, my darling,' Mamishu told me as tears streamed down her face. 'I promise, I will see you again someday. We'll be free and I will find you. But right now, I have no choice. I have to leave you for a little while.' Excerpted from Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Michael Bornstein
Preface: It's Time to Talkp. ix
1 Remember the Cupp. 3
2 Bloody Mondayp. 12
3 The Roundupp. 25
4 What Snuck In with the Laundryp. 35
5 The Judenratp. 47
6 Look Forwardp. 52
7 Money Talksp. 63
8 Predictions from the Undergroundp. 68
9 Cousin Ruthp. 77
10 Last-Chance Decisionsp. 91
11 Trappedp. 105
12 The Parting Giftp. 111
13 B-1148p. 121
14 Punishment at Auschwitzp. 135
15 News from the Fencep. 146
16 An Unexpected Departurep. 155
17 A Lucky Illnessp. 159
18 Visitors for Ruthp. 167
19 Picture in Historyp. 175
20 Homep. 187
21 Aunt Hildap. 199
22 Ghostfacep. 208
23 A Knock at the Doorp. 219
24 A Splash of Yellow in Zarkip. 229
25 Survivors Clubp. 237
26 American Dreamp. 247
27 At a Crossroadsp. 254
28 All That Remainedp. 262
29 Backyard Encounterp. 267
30 City of Rubblep. 271
31 The Dark Side of Munichp. 279
32 The Lady with the Swastika Necklacep. 287
33 The Bar Mitzvah Boyp. 297
Afterwordp. 307
A Bornstein Family Who's Whop. 315
A Survivors Club Photo Albump. 319
Glossaryp. 335
Notes on Sourcesp. 339
Acknowledgmentsp. 345