Ernst Bornstein’s story of suffering at the hands of the Nazis during World War Two was all too common for Jews living in Europe at the time. But Bornstein was one of the few who came through that almost unimaginable ordeal. He managed to survive, unlike some 6,000,000 of his fellow Jews.
Ernst Israel Bornstein was born on 26 November, 1922, in the Polish city of Zawiercie. It had a substantial Jewish population at the outbreak of World War Two. Some 7,000 Jews lived in the city, something like a quarter of Zawiercie’s population. Along with his three younger siblings, Bornstein had spent his childhood there.
History records that shortly before Bornstein’s birth, there had been pogroms – vicious mobs targeting Jews – in Zawiercie in 1919 and again in 1921. Three Jews were murdered during the violence, with many others injured. Some of those who had participated in the pogroms were later imprisoned, however.