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February 22, 2016 11:17 pm

Daughter of Holocaust Survivor Decries ‘False Comparison’ With Migrant Crisis; Says Fatigue, Denial Over Nazi Atrocities Rampant (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Ruthie Blum

The book jacket of the English version of Ernst Bornstein's memoirs, translated by his daughter, Noemi Lopian. Photo: Toby Press.

The book jacket of the English version of Ernst Bornstein’s memoirs, translated by his daughter, Noemi Lopian. Photo: Toby Press.

The UK-based daughter of a Holocaust survivor who passed away in 1978 has just published her father’s memoirs, which she translated into English, amid what she decries as a pervading false comparison with the Middle East migrant crisis in Europe, a sharp rise in antisemitism and the shrinking number of those around to bear witness.

Noemi Lopian, a British citizen whose early years were spent in Germany, cooperated with her brother to make sure their late father’s account of the four years he spent in seven different Nazi labor camps did not die out with the remaining witnesses of the horrors of World War II.

A key reason she said she considers the work important is the current migrant and refugee crisis, which “is being compared by many a politician in the US and UK to the Jews during WWII.” This, she argued, “Is a huge danger, as facts are abused, watered down and utterly distorted.”

Furthermore, she told The Algemeiner, following the release of Ernst Bornstein’s The Long Night: A True Story (The Toby Press) — which coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day last month — “The survivors are aging and becoming fewer as time goes by, with current reality turning into past history. Meanwhile, Holocaust fatigue and denial are rampant in Europe. In England, too, overt antisemitism is very much on the rise.”

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“We need to remind the world what the Nazis did, so that it can’t happen again,” she said. “If this lesson is not preserved now, it will become increasingly difficult to preserve it in the future – which is why we must be proactive.”

Bornstein originally wrote the book in Yiddish in the aftermath of the Holocaust, at the recommendation of his doctoral theses adviser. He translated it later into German, and it was published in 1967 as Die Lange Nacht. But, said Lopian, it was hard for him to find anyone to take any real interest in it, including Jews, who wanted to brush the whole issue of the Nazi atrocities under the carpet.

Ironically, Lopian said, “It is easier to garner interest today, though in Europe we literally have only that one day – Holocaust Remembrance Day – for a real platform. More striking, in Britain, we still don’t connect the Holocaust to antisemitism. It is treated like one genocide among others.”

The United Nations, too, Lopian noted “has a Holocaust education department, yet nobody learns there that being anti-Israel constitutes antisemitism.”

Lopian’s brother, Alain Bornstein, who with his wife edited the book, added, “Yes, the Holocaust is being misused as a club to beat Israel with.”

Ernst Bornstein, their father, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 55, while moving his family to Britain from Germany. Lopian was 12 at the time; her brother was seven; and their sister, Muriel Davis, who now lives in Israel, was 11. Their 82-year-old mother, Renée, they said, is proud of their joint effort to have her late husband’s harsh memories published in an international language.

In the introduction to the book, Bornstein, who graduated from the University of Munich as a dentist in 1952 and then as a doctor of medicine in 1958,  explained one of his motives for documenting his experiences, among them losing his parents and three younger siblings, including a four-year-old brother, who were gassed to death at one of the Nazis’ most infamous concentration camps.

I will continue to write because my little brother’s voice is still ringing in my ears; because you were suffocated, you with your happy heart, with your serious child’s eyes with which you watched over my shoulder as I was reading. For you, dear brother, with your innocent eyes which were barbarically extinguished in Auschwitz. You look at me in the darkness when I lie awake, and your eyes warn me, ‘Don’t forget it!’ For you I will have sleepless nights, my little brother. For you I will tell the story of the long, bloody night.

Translating such words, said Lopian, “was both painful and cathartic, because of the horrible things that happened to my father and my people; but it brought me closer to the man I loved.”

Alain Bornstein found editing it “difficult. There was a sense of helplessness, as though somehow I should have been able to spare or rescue him, though I wasn’t even born yet when those things happened to him.”

Lopian concluded by connecting the events depicted in the book to the state of the world today. “Is it our destiny to have to undergo such tragedy every 70 years?” she asked rhetorically, adding, “But I will continue to fight” to prevent it.

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