In 1945, Michael Bornstein became one of the youngest prisoners to escape the Auschwitz death camp alive. It’s a memory he had long tried to forget, and one he refused to speak about for the next 70 years – until now.
“Basically, I was ashamed,” he said. “With a tattoo… difficult to talk about it.”
But at the urging of his family, Bornstein finally decided to share his story, in a book he and his daughter called “Survivors Club.”
“I seem to remember the smell of flesh being burned in Auschwitz, the concentration camp,” Bornstein said. “I seem to remember the Nazis marching.”
More than one million prisoners died in Auschwitz during World War II, but Bornstein believes he only made it out alive because he was very sick.
“I was 4, the older kids were starving, they took my bread,” he said. “My mother came in, got beaten over the head for doing it, but it was a miracle because she was able to save my life.”
Footage taken by Soviet soldiers more than 70 years ago shows Bornstein at just 4 years old as they liberated the camp. He was carried out by his grandmother and later reunited with surviving members of his family in Poland.
Of the 3,400 Jews living and working in Zarki, Poland before the Holocaust, less than 30 returned, most of them members of Bornstein's family.
Bornstein hopes by sharing his story, people will remember what happened to him and so many others, so that it never happens again.
“I’m super proud of my dad for taking this leap of faith and understanding the importance, especially now,” said his daughter Debbie Bornstein.