Ernst’s life story
rebuilding a life from the ashes
Ernst Israel Bornstein was born in Zawiercie, Poland in 1922. He was the oldest of four children. He was educated in Jewish schools and was a talented student who spoke German, Yiddish and Polish. He was incarcerated in seven concentration camps, enduring the infamous “death march” until finally being liberated by American soldiers near Lake Starnberg in Bavaria on 30 April 1945. His parents and two younger sisters perished at Auschwitz. Of an extended family numbering 72 at the start of the war, by its conclusion only six had survived including Ernst and his sister Regina. After the war he settled in Munich where he trained as a dentist and then again as a doctor. He was the founder of the Association of Ex-Concentration Camp Inmates in Munich and a prominent member of the Jewish community in Munich. He married Renee Koenig in 1964 and they had three children. In 1978 at the age of 55, Ernst died of a heart condition acquired during his years of starvation and forced labour. He left three young children who were aware that their father was special but who did not know the details of what had happened to him during the war. Ernst’s wife Renee now lives in Manchester, England.
A happy childhood
Ernst’s early years
“We were a happy family before The Night began, which lasted five years and eight days. We four children (I was the eldest of two boys and two girls), were cared for by good parents and a large circle of relatives. My father, who was a respected and revered central focus of the family, advised on difficult questions and had the final word on difficult decisions, probably because he was the eldest of seven siblings. “His attitude of putting the mental and moral above the material won him the respect and regard of his community. For many years he strove for the education of Jewish youth and was on the honorary parents committee in our town. His work in the Zionist movement took a large part of his free time; I well remember that his evenings were filled up with meetings and lectures for these movements. He saw his life’s work as being active for them. He saw the realisation of the Jewish future in a Jewish State in the area of what was then Palestine. “Our education was strongly influenced by his ideals. I can say that my parents complemented each other in their efforts to prepare us psychologically for our future. Their harmonious family life was only the outer frame of their constant endeavours but, with one blow, our strong family life was derailed.”