Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz

A bold, heroic, courageous life that settles in Iowa.  

Celina Karp arrived in Iowa following the Holocaust. Ask her what changed her life and there’s a good chance she’ll reply, “Oskar Schindler gave me my life, but Steven Spielberg gave me my voice.”  

Saved By Schindler is a remarkable biography of Celina Karp Biniaz, 91, by well-known Iowa historian William Friedricks. A unique look at one of the youngest Holocaust and Schindler survivors and how she and her family lived through the Holocaust and then went on to live a remarkable and brave life after. 

 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, and on to Des Moines, where Celina, her mother, and her father got on with 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. 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.” 

William B. Friedricks is a professor emeritus of history and former director of the Iowa History Center at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. Saved By Schindler is available wherever you buy books. Enjoy these reviews of Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz in the Times of Israel and The Jewish Book Council.