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Lives Lost: Brothers who survived Holocaust die weeks apart

NEW YORK (AP) — The brothers didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.

As young Polish Jews, each came out of World War II with scars that forever shaped how they viewed the world, and each other.

One survived Auschwitz, a death march and starvation. The other endured cold and hunger in a Siberian labor camp, then nearly died in a pogrom back in Poland.

Alexander and Joseph Feingold chose New York City as the place to start over. It is where they became architects, lived blocks from each other and lost their wives days apart. It was there that they died four weeks apart, each alone, as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the city.

Joe, 97, died April 15 of complications of COVID-19 at the same hospital where Alex, 95, succumbed to pneumonia on March 17.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of stories remembering people who have died from coronavirus around the world.

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Joseph Feingold never escaped the guilt of leaving his mother and two younger brothers to escape the Nazis.

When Alexander fell ill, Joseph called his stepdaughter from his assisted living facility and asked her to take him to his brother.

“Joe was wanting to go sit with Alex, to say goodbye and I think, too, to make amends,” Ame Gilbert recalled. “It broke me up having to say no, and having to explain to him that no one could visit because of the virus.”

The siblings were childhood rivals, separated in age by only 18 months. As little boys playing in Warsaw, they pretended to be Native Americans. Firstborn Joe always got to be chief, he recalled in a memoir.

Their youth was shattered when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and the Soviet Union seized Poland’s eastern half two weeks later. World War II had started. Joe was 16 and Alex not yet 15.

By the time they were in their early 20s, both brothers had witnessed the horrors of war. But only one bore a concentration camp tattoo on his arm. Joe had been the luckier of the two. Both brothers knew it.

Joe and their father, Aron, who was threatened with arrest by the Gestapo, fled to the Soviet-occupied part of Poland. They were eventually arrested and sent to separate labor camps in Siberia. Conditions were harsh but improved later in the war and father and son were reunited.

Back in German-occupied Poland, Alex was forced i

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