MASON, Ohio – Local Holocaust survivor Werner Coppel, whose remarkable story is on exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, died at age 91 Friday night at the Cedar Village Retirement Community in Mason.
According to the museum, Coppel was born in Mörs, Germany, on Feb. 22, 1925, in a middle-class German Jewish family. At age 15, Coppel got deeply involved in a Zionist youth group called Hachshara. Along with his Hachshara group, Coppel was arrested in 1943 and deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in present-day Poland, where he was forced to work in a factory and nearly killed.
At the end of the war, Coppel traveled to Gleiwitz, Germany, where he met a young nurse, Trudy. Together they traveled to Berlin and hold the distinction of celebrating the first Jewish wedding in Berlin after the war. Along with their baby, Ron, the couple came to the United States in 1948, where they soon had another son, Steve.
The couple settled in the Cincinnati area in 1949, and Coppel spent more than 35 years sharing his Holocaust experience with students and educators. Representatives from the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education in Cincinnati said Coppel dedicated his time to sharing his story, speaking to several schools each week and reaching more than 5,000 students each year.
The exhibit “Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later” at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was created to share artifacts, photographs and powerful personal stories to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp on Jan. 27, 1945.