“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Elie Wiesel

Holocaust Survivor Returns to Iowa City to Tell Family’s Story


Michael Bornstein was just four years old when his family was forced from their home in Poland and taken by train to Auschwitz. He survived seven months at the death camp before he was liberated.

After the war, Bornstein and his mother moved to the United States. In 1966 he graduated from the University of Iowa with his PhD.

Michael Bornstein and his mother, Sophie, shortly after being reunited

His daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat, says her father didn’t talk much about his experience while she was growing up. The motivation to discuss his story in the new book, Survivors Club: The True Story of A Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz, came from finding his photo of himself from the liberation of Auschwitz posted on a Holocaust deniers website.

The website “had captioned his photo and other kids’ photos saying, ‘Look how the Jews lied; they pushed their fallacy that children were killed on arrival. And look how healthy these kids look for a so-called death camp,'” she says. “It was horrifying. It’s disgusting. And it was fuel for us, to know that it’s time. It’s time to make sure these stories are remembered.”

Bornstein says that one of the most important things he got out of researching and writing the book was the discovery that his father “was a good man.”

“He set up soup kitchens in Żarki; he encouraged people to go underground when he found out what was happening,” he says. “That has really helped me with closure.”

Bornstein is coming back to Iowa City to share his story on Wednesday, March 29th at 7p.m. in the Iowa Memorial Union. He will also be visiting two junior high schools while he is here.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Bornstein and Holinstat, co-authors of Survivors Club: The True Story of A Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz.

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