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Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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From School Library Journal
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
“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 . . . Remarkable.” ―Ruta Sepetys in the New York Times Book Review
“A wrenching, shocking, and ultimately inspiring memoir, a tale of unrelenting optimism and resilience that is no less than miraculous . . . [Survivors Club] is hauntingly timely.” ―Esquire
“Enhanced by meticulous archival research, Bornstein’s story unfolds in novelistic form . . . This moving memoir [is] an important witness to the capacity for human evil and resilience.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[An] exceptional book of memoir and history . . . worth reading more than once. It is compelling; there is something novelistic about it. It certainly reads with more verve and detail than most straight testimonies . . . Although listed for ages 10 – 14, it also makes excellent adult reading.” ―Jewish Book Council, starred review
“A tenderly wrought tribute to family, to hope, and to the miracles both can bring. A powerful memoir.” ―Booklist
“The most memorable part of this extraordinary nonfiction work is the hope amidst tragedy and the ways individuals and families banded together despite unimaginable odds, including the challenges to rebuild after breaking free from the concentration camps only to find a world still filled with hatred and fear.” ―VOYA
“A powerful reconstruction of family history . . . An ideal follow-up selection for students who have read The Diary of Anne Frank.” ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Middle schoolers will be engrossed by Bornstein’s account . . . The book is written in a soothing tone, which helps balance some of the grim details of Jewish life under the Nazi regime . . . The storytelling is fast-paced, and readers will be fascinated by this family’s survival and endurance. Few Holocaust survivors are still alive; Bornstein’s account is an excellent addition to middle school collections.” ―School Library Journal
“In today's world, it remains more important than ever to remember these survivors.” ―Kirkus Reviews
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Michael did not tell his story for most of his life for four major reasons. First it was traumatic to talk about. Second, people didn’t want to hear about it at first. Third, and most importantly, he saw his photo on a Denier page with the statement that it didn’t happen because there were no children in Auschwitz. Michael was in a film the Soviet’s made of the children leaving the camp. First, he was in the middle with his Grandmother carrying him and then he is in the forefront of another picture of the children holding their arms up to see the numbers. Fourth, he knew his story would be used as a basis for history and he didn’t want to get anything wrong. Since he was so young, he was afraid he would mix things up.
Michael was born May 2, 1940 in the Warsaw Ghetto. Poland had been under Nazi rule since September 1, 1939. Michael had one older brother, Samuel. From stories, Samuel was elated to have a little brother. After his Mother would put Michael down to sleep, Samuel would get him up and make him play school with him. Of course, Michael was still a baby at that time and had no idea what was going on. All Michael has for knowledge of his older brother and his Father are the stories his cousins, Aunts and Uncles, and his Mother told. As far as he knows, no pictures remain of Samuel although he does have one of his Father. Both were gassed in Auschwitz. Michael, his parents, Samuel and his Grandmother were sent to Auschwitz. Later, Michael’s Mother was sent to another camp leaving Michael with his Grandmother. On January 17, 1945, Michael got very sick and his Grandmother took him to the infirmary. Luckily for him, the Nazis were getting ready to leave and only a German doctor with some humanity was there. He gave Michael and his Grandmother beds to sleep in and told them there would be an evacuation but they would be safe here. About ten days later, they were liberated.
The book gives a different view of Auschwitz-Birkenau than other books have. What is interesting is they, like almost all other survivors do not differentiate between Auschwitz I and Birkenau. The book is written in such language that students in junior high could read it and understand what is going on.
This extended family takes the high road despite so many tragedies. The book "gifts" incredible strength, intuition, valor, heroics and will teach the reader that despite life seeming to be not worth living, it reaches the reader how to overcome and strive with hope that wins in the end despite sadness during life's storms. The positive wins out.
Lastly, this should be required reading for others unaffected such tragedies. The willingness to strive for hope, think positive futures, strive to maintain humanity and compassion are treasured gifts. Most importantly, those unaffected by tragedies won't understand the evil that can lurk right in front of us. History will be repeated if everyone thinks it could never happen. We are only two generations from this kind of madness. And while we aren't exposed to such madness, all the more reason to make this book mandatory reading.
To the author; thank you for letting us know what most of us can't perceive.
Candidly, I am not a big 'reader'; however, this book was hard to put down. I felt invested in each character's storyline and read it swiftly over the course of four days. As such, I highly recommend for any and all!