Michael is one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz death camp. At the age of four, he managed to stay hidden and evade murder in the most notorious death camp in world history. Photos of Michael being liberated by Soviet soldiers at the camp have been spotted on museum walls, book covers and film clips around the world and yet he waited more than seventy years to step forward and share his story.
He wrote Survivors Club alongside his third of four children, Debbie, who is a broadcast news journalist and a writer. Along the way, he and his family were stunned to uncover shocking new details about his survival that included a bribery scheme, untold acts of kindness by a German leader, and one perfectly-timed brush with illness.
Michael is a graduate of Fordham University in New York and holds a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics and Analytical Chemistry from the University of Iowa.
That’s where Mike met his wife of nearly fifty years, Judy. Together, they have raised four children (Lori, Scott, Debbie and Lisa) and welcomed eleven grandchildren to their ever-growing family.
Michael is now retired after working for more than four decades as a scientist and researcher in a career that took him from Dow Chemical and Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis to Biotech divisions of Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey. He rose to the rank of director of technical operations and focused the majority of his work on helping to develop life-saving antibiotics, growth hormone and cancer treatments.
In addition to occasional consulting work, Michael now spends much of his time shuttling between New York and New Jersey alongside his wife as they visit grandkids’ science fairs, dance recitals and soccer games. He also speaks regularly at schools, synagogues and business institutions, sharing his experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust.
Debbie Holinstat has spent her career writing for some of the biggest names in broadcast news, including Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield and the Today Show’s Natalie Morales. She is also a freelance corporate media coach. But her greatest professional reward has come from writing alongside her own father, Michael Bornstein, as they collaborated on Survivors Club. When her dad gave her the go-ahead to share his history publicly, neither of them knew how many surprises remained to be learned about his survival. Debbie and her entire family take comfort in knowing that as firsthand Holocaust accounts from aging survivors fade away fast – this story will not.
Debbie did most of her writing in the middle of the night when her busy house filled with three kids, a husband and an adopted dog all slumbered. During the day, she spends much of her time freelancing at NBC and MSNBC news where she has been a producer for 17 years. Hired to cover the 2000 presidential election, Debbie spent her early years at MSNBC field-producing with Lester Holt and Suzanne Malveaux. When the election ended in a virtual tie, she raced to West Palm Beach to witness an historic “hanging chads” recount.
When the World Trade Center was struck by planes in New York City, Debbie sprinted downtown to meet a camera crew just as the towers collapsed. She spent months covering the terror attacks and the military deployment that followed. Field producing with Natalie Morales and other top NBC talent, she produced news packages that would air on NBC Nightly news, The Today Show and MSNBC rolling coverage.
Debbie currently lives in New Jersey and is a media coach. She also freelances part-time at Rockefeller Plaza, helping produce political news shows and juggling her unofficial role as “operations manager” for her children, Jack, Katie and Ellie. Once an education major at Washington University in St. Louis, Debbie now spends time in schools again, speaking regularly with her father about the Holocaust. They remind listeners to always look forward, but never forget.Download Bio
Survivors ClubThe True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz
Farrar, Straus and Giroux - Books for Young Readers
In 1945, in a now-famous piece of World War II archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved his life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational Holocaust survival story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.
Watch Michael Bornstein & Debbie Holinstat discuss their miraculous story on NBC.
Read the School Library Journal‘s interview with Debbie Holinstat.