Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz

Obituary of Dr. Susan Eckstein Cernyak-Spatz

Dr. Susan Cernyak- Spatz
July 27, 1922 - November 17, 2019


Born in Vienna, Austria, daughter of Simon and Friedl Eckstein, Dr. Spatz spent her childhood enjoying theater, opera and dance, as well as the study of history and languages. The German Third Reich and the eventual outbreak of WWII interrupted her life, sending her first to the Theresienstadt ghetto and eventually to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. She survived not only the camps, but also the horrific Death March back to Germany as the war was ending. After liberation by the Allies and eventually reuniting with her father, she married Bernard Fishman, an American serviceman, arriving in the United States in 1946. She later earned her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and in 1972 began teaching German language and literature at UNC Charlotte until her retirement in 1992. She was instrumental in the creation of the Holocaust Studies programs at UNC Charlotte and continued to write and lecture locally, nationally, and internationally on the subject as recently as 2018.


Dr. Spatz was also an accomplished actress who performed in many amateur productions throughout her life. Her memoir, Protective Custody: Prisoner 34042, was published in 2005; it has been the basis of a documentary film, and the inspiration for a theatrical production.


Her later beloved husband, Hardy Spatz, preceded her in death in 2001. Dr. Spatz is survived by her children: Jackie Fishman (Michael Scharf), Todd Fishman (Marcia Kaplan), and Wendy Fishman (Dorne Pentes); grandchildren Sam Beresford (Ashley Mackel) & Lia Beresford (Andrew Landry), Sydney Fishman & Bella Fishman, and Elias Pentes & Eden Pentes.


A memorial service will be held on Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 1:00pm at Temple Beth El (5101 Providence Rd Charlotte, NC 28226). The family will also receive guests at Shiva services Temple Beth El on Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 7:00pm and Monday, November 25, 2019 at 7:00pm.


In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that donations be made in her memory to either:


A fund established to sustain German Studies 3650: The Holocaust through German Literature and Film, a seminar Dr. Spatz created and taught for decades. Please make any checks payable to UNC Charlotte, with the memo line indicating "Dr. Spatz / Holocaust Studies", and mail to UNC Charlotte University Advancement c/o Mark Colone, 9201 University Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223. If you would like to make a gift online, please use this link: go.uncc.edu/Spatz or The Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University. Please contact Talia Goldman at (631) 745-7400 or goldmant@queens.edu.

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Memorial Service

1:00 pm
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Temple Beth El
5101 Providence Road
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States
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