DES MOINES, Iowa — This January marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp after World War II. Of the hundreds of thousands of children sent to Auschwitz to be killed, only 52 under the age of 8 survived.
One of the survivors co-wrote a book with his daughter about his story of surviving the Holocaust.
“I was told I was a really good hider and managed to keep quiet,” Holocaust survivor and author Michael Bornstein said.
Michael Bornstein was only 4 years old when his mother hid him from Nazi’s inside the women’s bunk at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“At the time they had a death march, the Nazi’s were losing, and they tried to get rid of everything they had at Auschwitz,” Bornstein said.
He became ill with dystrophy, he was wasting away, and his grandmother snuck him to an infirmary.
“The Nazis are notorious germophobes. They didn’t want to be anywhere near the infirmary if they didn’t have to be. His illness ultimately saved him,” Bornstein’s daughter and book co-author Debbie Bornstein Holinstat said.
In 1945 the Soviets would eventually liberate the surviving Jews.
Holinstat wanted to preserve her father’s story, so she helped him co-write a book called “Survivor’s Club: The True Story of a Very Young prisoner of Auschwitz.” The book landed a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
“For 70-plus years, my dad did not want to talk about the Holocaust period, and honestly, he didn’t really think anybody cared anymore,” Holinstat said.
But people do still care. His story is relevant to things happening in the world today.
“We look around and there’s so much hatred right now. There’s so much hatred, and there’s a rise in hate crimes against Jewish people but also black people, Hispanic people, LGBT minorities, and my dad’s story is a reminder; this is what happens when bigotry is on the rise and you look away. You can’t look away,” Holinstat.
Bornstein has never looked away from his oppressive past, but he also remembers to look forward to a better future.
“My mother gave me this watch. On the back she inscribed a symbol. It stands for ‘Gam Zeh Ya’avor,’ which means ‘this too shall pass,'” Holinstat said. “If you have a bad day, think about ‘Gam Zeh Ya’avor.’ This too shall pass. Be optimistic, look to the future, and things will get better.”
If you want to hear more about Michael Bornstein’s story, he and his daughter will be speaking at Ames Middle School Monday at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.