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In Actor Gal Gadot’s Living Room, Schindler’s List Survivor Inspires Generations

Celina Biniaz engaged in conversation with guests and Gadot, an Israeli actor whose grandfather was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 13 and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
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April 26, 2023
Gal Gadot with Celina Biniaz Photo:: Tori Time / DMWA, online: @tori.time

“Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot opened her Los Angeles home to friends and family earlier this week to commemorate Yom HaShoah by hosting an intimate conversation with Holocaust survivor Celina Biniaz, the youngest female on Oskar Schindler’s famed list.

As the evening sky deepened over the twinkling lights of Los Angeles visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows behind her, Celina, 91, told a group spread on the sofas, chairs, and rugs of Gadot’s living room how she and her family survived the Krakow Ghetto, Nazi labor camps, and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp before being rescued by Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who saved more than 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

The 50 guests at Gadot’s home included numerous children, as well as actors Sacha Baron Cohen, Isla Fisher, and Harvey Keitel, and “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins. Award-winning Israeli composer Tomer Adaddi led the group in song.

Celina engaged in conversation with guests and Gadot, an Israeli actor whose grandfather was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 13 and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.

“Hearing her testimony about the horrors she and her family went through and seeing the strong inspiring woman she became left no dry eye in the room,” Gadot wrote in an Instagram post. 

The remarkable program was a Zikaron BaSalon event. Zikaron BaSalon is a grassroots Israel-based initiative that brings Holocaust survivor experiences into homes and common spaces around the world. USC Shoah Foundation has partnered with Zikaron BaSalon to create intimate gatherings centered around recorded Holocaust testimony and was instrumental in connecting Gadot with Biniaz, a longtime friend of USC Shoah Foundation. Both Biniaz and her mother, Phyllis Karp, recorded testimony for USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive in 1996.

For many years after the war, Celina was reluctant to share her story because she feared no one could comprehend what she had been through. That changed in 1994, when Steven Spielberg brought Oskar Schindler’s story to the screen with “Schindler’s List” and established Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which later became USC Shoah Foundation.

Celina often says that “Oskar Schindler gave me life, but Steven Spielberg gave me a voice.”

Since she began sharing her story nearly 30 years ago, Celina, a retired special education teacher who lives in Camarillo, California, has continued to speak to audiences around the country. And in 2022 her biography, “Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz,” by William B. Friedricks was published.

“I am so glad that new audiences will learn about Celina’s story through her powerful book,” Spielberg said. “As she continues to share her message about love over hate, her resilience in the face of all that she experienced remains an inspiration to me.”

Celina Karp was eight years old when Germany invaded Poland and Nazi troops swept into her hometown of Krakow in 1939. 

Celina Karp was eight years old when Germany invaded Poland and Nazi troops swept into her hometown of Krakow in 1939. In March 1941, German authorities forced the Karps and an estimated 16,000 other Jews into what became known as the Krakow Ghetto.

Prior to the war, Celina’s father, Irvin, had worked for a clothing factory that was taken over by Austrian businessman Julius Madritsch in 1940. Madritsch continued to employ Irvin at the factory and later brought her mother, Phyllis, and then Celina on board.

In 1943, the Nazis liquidated the Krakow Ghetto, killing thousands of Jews and sending thousands more to almost certain death in concentration camps. The Karps were transported to the nearby Plaszow Concentration Camp, but they were able to continue to work in the relative safety of Madritsch’s factory. In 1944, Oskar Schindler approached Madritsch, asking for names of people to add to a list of Jews who could come work in his factory in Czechoslovakia. The Karps were added to Schindler’s list.

Celina’s father was sent to Schindler’s new factory, but the transport Schindler had arranged for the women on his list — including Celina and Phyllis — mistakenly took them to Auschwitz. 

For five weeks, Celina and her mother lived in unspeakable conditions and narrowly escaped being sent to the gas chambers. Then Oskar Schindler arrived at Auschwitz to secure the release of the women on his list. Celina and her mother were transported to Brünnlitz, where Celina lived and worked at Schindler’s factory. On May 7, 1945, Russian soldiers liberated the area. Celina was 14 years old.

At the event at Gal Gadot’s home, Biniaz emphasized the power of every individual to do good. As Gadot wrote in her post:

“At the end of her testimony Celina looked at me and said, ‘Life is just like what you said in your “Wonder Woman” movie — only love can save the world,’ and this moment will stay with me forever.” – Gal Gadot

“At the end of her testimony Celina looked at me and said, ‘Life is just like what you said in your “Wonder Woman” movie — only love can save the world,’ and this moment will stay with me forever.”

Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz” can be found in bookstores and online.


Grace Nielsen is the Celina Biniaz Communications Intern at USC Shoah Foundation. A longer version of this article appeared on the USC Shoah Foundation website.

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