Celina Karp Biniaz

Celina Karp

In 2017 and 2019, the Iowa Jewish Historical Society (IJHS) presented a series of programs featuring Celina Karp Biniaz, one of the last living survivors from Schindler’s List—and the only one who graduated from North High School and Grinnell College in Iowa.

During her visits, Celina shared her personal story, which included nearly five years in the Krakow ghetto and the Plaszow labor camp, the transfer to Auschwitz, and her terrifying encounter with Dr. Josef Mengele before she, her mother, and the other women on Schindler’s list were rescued by Schindler and were reunited with her father at Schindler’s factory.

Celina also recounts her family’s immigration to Iowa and life in the United States. When she spoke at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in 2019, it was especially fitting as this was the synagogue that her parents, Phyllis and Irvin Karp, attended during the 50 years they lived in Des Moines.

In October 2023, IJHS published Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz, a remarkable biography by well-known Iowa historian William Friedricks.  Click here to read more about this detailed account of Celina’s experiences during the Holocaust and how she and her family built remarkable and brave lives afterward. 

The Impact

More than 4,000 people of all ages and backgrounds participated in the two series of events and hundreds more listened to live-streamed presentations. Celina’s story and messages for future generations will not be forgotten.

“My heart was touched for her compassion for humanity and for the world. How can that be after all that she has been through?”

“That was an amazing experience… the inspiring/moving/graceful presentation by Celina… I will never forget her stories and the message of hope I took from them.”

“It was powerful to see the intergenerational effect on these young people… Just as Celina spoke about the nun who had changed her life, I felt that you could see how she was herself changing the lives of those in the room.”

Listen to Celina’s History

Watch and read about Celina’s presentations in 2017 and 2019 and the special event that celebrated the publication of her biography Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz.

This presentation was recorded at Valley High School on Sunday, September 10, 2017.

This presentation was recorded on September 12, 2017, in the Melva and Martin Bucksbaum Auditorium at The Caspe Terrace. This talk includes poems Celina wrote after participating in the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz in 2015.

This presentation was recorded at North High School on September 13, 2017, and is courtesy of the Des Moines Public Schools.

On April 1, 2019, the Memories and Melodies of Auschwitz event at Tifereth Israel Synagogue featured Celina, her grandson Alex Biniaz-Harris, and Ambrose Soehn. The evening included a short video and performance of an original piano piece by Alex and Ambrose that was inspired by the testimonies and the music of Holocaust survivors. It was followed by Celina’s retelling of her experience visiting Auschwitz as an adult as well as the donation of the Schindler Scissors. Video is courtesy of the USC Shoah Foundation.

Related News Coverage

Celina speaks at the Des Moines Area Community College’s Urban Campus on April 2, 2019. The video is available on YouTube courtesy of DMACC.

Related News Coverage

On October 23, 2022, the Iowa Jewish Historical Society celebrated the publication of Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz.  Although Celina was not able to be at the event due to the recent death of her husband of 69 years, Amir “Bini” Biniaz, her presence was felt with video clips from earlier presentations.  In addition to the video clips of Celina telling her story, the presentations included a roundtable with the author William Friedricks, IJHS Director Sandi Yoder, the book’s publisher Steve Semken, and several of Celina’s friends and family. Robbie Winick, Ann Blumberg, Scott Temple, and Moses Gaynor shared their personal reminiscences of Celina and her family.