survivors club

Reviewer rating

Format reviewed: Print

The Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein

Michael Bornstein was 4 years old when he was rescued from Auschwitz by Russian soldiers on January 27, 1945, which made him one of the youngest Auschwitz survivors.  A few days later the Russians photographed the children that had been rescued to document the event.  Michael Bornstein didn’t see the picture until he stumbled across it many years later as an adult.  Then he found the picture again, but this time on a website for Holocaust deniers.  He decided it was time to tell his story.

Michael was very young during the Nazi years and too young to know all the events that occurred before he was imprisoned in Auschwitz.  He enlisted the help of his daughter, Debbie Holinstat, to research and write about his experiences.  Luckily (and miraculously) for Michael, his mother, grandmother, aunt and a few other relatives also survived Nazi Germany and were able to tell of the family’s plight during the war.  As a matter of fact, Michael learns through his daughter’s research that out of the 3,400 Jews living in his hometown before the Holocaust, less than 30 survived and most of those survivors were members of his family.

Michael’s story starts with the recounting by family members of the years just before his birth in Zarki, Poland and how their lives changed with the Nazi invasion of Poland. The narrative follows him and his family through his childhood living in an “open” ghetto, through his internment in Auschwitz and later in a Displaced Person camp and his eventual immigration to the U.S.

There are many first-person accounts of the Holocaust, all of which are very important in documenting the horrors of the Holocaust and its tragic consequences.  I found this book to be especially accessible to younger readers who have no previous knowledge of this time in history and are reading about the Holocaust for the first time.  The Survivors Club shows everyday life in a Jewish family including daily customs and holiday celebrations, all told with a sprinkling of Yiddish words and phrases that are explained.

This book shows the ingenuity of Michael’s family and the bravery and love in his family that helped them survive as well as the pieces of luck and providence that also led to Michael’s survival.   I recommend this book to 6th-grade students and up.

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