Catherine was born to Jewish parents in Smolnik, a small village in eastern Czechoslovakia. While still a young child, she moved with her parents and brother to Sighet, Romania. There, in the Carpathian mountains, her father ran a lumber business that exported wood to Germany and Czechoslovakia. At school, Catherine and her brother encountered antisemitism among their classmates and teachers. In 1944, Catherine’s father was arrested and taken to a concentration camp. He died there from starvation and hard work. After the German occupation of Hungary, Catherine and her mother were deported to Auschwitz, where they were selected for forced labor. In December, they were sent on a death march to Germany. In spring 1945, they were liberated by Allied troops. They traveled through Dresden, Prague, Hungary, and finally made it home to Romania where they lived with their father’s sister until 1946. Two years later, after working as a secretary at a displaced persons camp, Catherine immigrated to the United States with her mother and brother.