Klara Weisz was a powerful force. A Holocaust survivor who never took no for an answer and always quick with a comeback — even at 99 years old — Weisz was set to turn 100 in June. Her family says she was looking forward to her party, when she suddenly got sick and died.

“She almost made it, if it wasn't for the coronavirus,” said daughter Erika Feder. “We would have had this wonderful party to celebrate her life.”

Weisz had a life that was filled with difficult decisions. She was born in Hungary to an upper-middle class family, but all that changed with Hitler's invasion. Weisz, her mother and her 3-year-old daughter were put on a cattle car to Auschwitz.

“She had the opportunity at the train station in her city to get off because one of her neighbors who worked for the railroad actually got her false papers,” said Feder. “When my mother found out that the false papers were only for her, she refused. And when they arrived in Auschwitz on May 27, 1944, her daughter's birthday, that was the last time she saw her mom and her daughter.”

Weisz almost died, but Feder said she got lucky.

“She said she was in the gas chamber with lots of other people and they were standing there, standing there when all of a sudden the doors opened because they needed people for labor,” said Feder.

After the war, Weisz went back to Hungary where she met another Holocaust survivor, who had a son. They got married and had a child. The family fled the country in 1956, after anti-Semitic threats.

“We finally arrived in the United States in New York City on January 16, by boat,” said Feder. 

The family eventually settled in Sunnyside Queens.

Weisz and her husband owned a grocery, and their family grew to seven grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and 20 great-great grandchildren. 

She was still living in her Sunnyside apartment when she fell ill. Her family said she often had a cough that would clear up, but this time it didn’t.

“We are going to miss her terribly and this is how life is, but we are luckier than most because we had her for all these long years,” said Feder.

Even though her heart is breaking, Weisz’s daughter says her family is still planning to have a birthday celebration for her mother when this is all over.