On June 9th, 2016, I attended an event sponsored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin to honor Celina Biniaz as the 44th Assembly District 2016 Holocaust Survivor in Camarillo, California. This was an event meant to celebrate Celina and her many life accomplishments with her family, friends and other community members of Camarillo.
From my personal relationship with Celina, I often forget the incredible life she has lived during the Holocaust, as she is such a remarkable woman in countless other ways. At first glance, you see an incredibly kind and generous woman, and would never think of the terrible atrocities she has witnessed or the trying times she has faced in her life. As the youngest female survivor of Schindler’s List, Celina has lived a very compelling life of survival, which she shared with those in attendance at the event.
After returning to Auschwitz for the 70th anniversary of its liberation back in 2015, Celina found herself in a poetry class at a local college where she attends classes. In this poetry class, Celina accidently discovered her incredible talent for writing poetry and was able to express her emotions and stories from her life experiences through her poetry. That evening, we were lucky enough to hear a few of these poems and interpret her life story in such a unique way.
In discussing her experiences, Celina shared her deep gratitude for Oskar Schindler, who saved her life, in addition to Steven Spielberg, who “gave her a voice.” Celina made reference to her life testimony, which can be found in the Visual History Archive, and discussed the gratitude she has for Steven Spielberg for creating USC Shoah Foundation and giving a voice to 53,000 other genocide survivors.
“He had the foresight to capture the stories of the persecuted on film before the generation disappeared. The resulting testimonies have had a huge, I would say transformative, impact on those who watch them. One can read about the Holocaust in history books, but there is no match from listening to a person tell his/her personal story. I find that the human voice is probably the most important vehicle to get attention. So many people have watched my testimony and contacted me to say that it touched their lives. In some cases people have said that it even inspired them to change their lives... “
Celina cherishes the moments she is able to share discussing her experiences with young people. By sharing her life story, she hopes to impact future generations and put an end to prejudice.
Additionally, Celina received several honors that evening, including a certificate from “Echoes of Truth” from the State of California presented by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, a Certificate of Congressional Recognition as “Holocaust Survivor of the Year” from Congresswoman Julia Brownley, and a “Certificate of Recognition” from the State of California in honor of her life experiences.
The evening ended with many meaningful conversations about Celina, the Holocaust, and what we all can do as the future generations to continue the legacy that all genocide survivors hope to leave behind. It was a very impacting evening for everyone in attendance and very important to honor this incredible woman, who has nothing but hope in her heart for future generations.