Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later: Werner Coppel

Werner Coppel

Werner Coppel was born in Mörs, Germany, on February 22, 1925. Werner was from a middle-class German Jewish family. At the age of 15, Werner became highly involved in a Zionist youth group called Hachshara, one of many such groups that were set up throughout Europe.

While Werner was with Hachshara, he received a message that his mother, father and little brother were being deported. He asked for permission to be deported with his family, but his request was denied. He never saw his family again.

The Gestapo arrested Werner and the rest of his Hachshara group in 1943, deporting them to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Upon their arrival, Werner was selekted for factory work in Auschwitz-Monowitz (Buna). Werner and his Hachshara mates stuck together, and many survived together. In January 1945, Werner was forced on a death march but managed to escape.

At the end of the war, he traveled to Gleiwitz, Germany, where he met a young nurse, Trudy. Together they traveled to Berlin. He and Trudy hold the distinction of having the first Jewish wedding in Berlin after the war. Along with their baby, Ron, they came to America in 1948, where they soon had another son, Steve.

Years after the Holocaust, Werner learned the fate of his family: his father was killed in Riga, Latvia, and his mother was deported from Riga to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was murdered. The fate of Werner’s brother remains unknown. It’s assumed he was deported to Auschwitz with his mother.