Saved By Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz | William B. Friedricks | $21.95 | Trade Paper | 272pg | ISBN 9781948509381
Review in The Times of Israel | Jewish Book Council
USA Today, Des Moines Register | Iowa Public Radio, NPR interview
“Oskar Schindler gave me my life, but Steven Spielberg gave me my voice.”
Celina Karp Biniaz was just eight years old when the Germans invaded her homeland of Poland in 1939. Over the next six years, the child from Krakow endured the Holocaust as the Nazis took away her schooling and civil rights, then herded her and her family into a ghetto. Life grew worse when the ghetto was liquidated, and the family was sent to Plaszów, a slave labor/concentration camp where they lived in constant fear, witnessing unspeakable horrors.
Ultimately, Celina and her parents landed on “Schindler’s List,” but before being sent to safety at Schindler’s factory, Celina spent several terrifying weeks at Auschwitz where she faced down the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. When the war ended, she and her family eventually made their way to the United States, where Celina got on with her life.
With great strength and resilience, she moved forward and embraced the American dream. She finished her education, got married, had a family, and eventually enjoyed a career in teaching. But she kept her Holocaust experience a secret because the years were too terrible to describe, and she did not believe anyone would understand.
That all changed with Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List, which brought the Holocaust and the story of Oskar Schindler to millions around the world. The movie prompted Celina to confront her painful past and begin speaking publicly about it. As she often explains, “Oskar Schindler gave me my life, but Steven Spielberg gave me my voice.”
Praise for Saved By Schindler
“The incredible story of Celina Karp Biniaz, a child of the Shoah who was a witness to the greatest Nazi horrors. It took many miracles for Celina to survive PlaszÓw the most notorious concentration camp in Poland where Amon Goth, ‘the most evil SS Nazi murderer’, was the commander. During her brief stay in Auschwitz, when she was only 13 years old, she confronted Dr. Josef Mengle, ‘the angel of death.’ She was one of the youngest children saved by Schindler and his wife. This book is a precious gift about an amazing woman, who still teaches us how to remain human, despite all the evil in our time. As she always says in her talks, ‘Don’t hate, try to see the good in people. Nobody is better than anyone else.’’’
—Harold Kasimow, George A. Drake Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
“It is hard to fathom that this story was almost never told. Celina Biniaz’s eyes have seen the darkest of evil, the deepest of generosity, the greatest of courage, and the most inspiring of miracles. Saved By Schindler is a relevant, timely reminder of the need to stand up against injustice, no matter the risks.”
—Debbie Bornstein Holinstat, NY Times bestselling author, Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz
“Bill Friedricks has done a superb job writing this very readable biography of Celina Karp Biniaz who after her 8th year lived through the most horrendous childhood imaginable but was able to mature into a well-educated, compassionate woman and caring teacher to all she has encountered.”
—Robbie Winick, President Emeritus, Iowa Jewish Historical Society
“Deeply researched and well written, Saved By Schindler details the horrors of the Holocaust, but maybe more important, it captures survivor Celina Biniaz’s dogged determination to rise above this past and carve out a well-lived, impactful life.”
—David Wolnerman, the last known Holocaust survivor in Des Moines, Iowa
“Long reluctant to share her story, Celina Biniaz now gives generously of her memories and wisdom. As the U.S. Holocaust survivor population dips below 50,000, this new biography of an eyewitness to Nazi genocide is precious indeed.’’
—Elinor Brecher, Author, Schindler’s Legacy: True Stories of the List Survivors
William B. Friedricks is professor emeritus of history and former director of the Iowa History Center at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, where he taught for thirty-three years. His first book, Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California, won the Historical Society of Southern California’s Donald Pflueger Award for the outstanding book on Southern California history. Since then, he has written eight books focusing on Iowa topics, including histories of the Des Moines Register, the Iowa State Fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation, and several biographies. He was the recipient of Humanities Iowa’s Iowa History Prize. Friedricks lives with his wife Jackie in West Des Moines.