Saturday, May 1, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
It wasn’t until five years ago that Charles Pierce, 90, was finally able to open up about his Holocaust experiences.
His brother Abe Price, 87, has been speaking about it for a long time, but they have never talked about their experiences together until they were reunited in Las Vegas on Thursday.
The brothers live on opposite sides of the country and have different last names.
Price lives in Naples, Fla., and Pierce in Camarillo, Calif. They changed their last names from Piasecki after they arrived in the U.S.
They’ve kept in touch over the years but do not get to visit each other often. Their reunion at the Monte Carlo on Thursday was a planned surprise by their families.
“It’s wonderful to be together,” Price said, adding that their visit to Las Vegas is the first reunion they’ve had that hasn’t been prompted by an unpleasant event.
Pierce said Price is his only family member left after the Holocaust. Both are concentration camp survivors and natives of Poland.
The brothers are two of five siblings deported to the Kielce ghetto in 1941, separating them from the rest of their family. Price said his parents were taken to Treblinka extermination camp, where they were killed.
“We were not prepared for that,” Pierce said, holding back tears. “This was the beginning of a big nightmare, because we didn’t know what they were going to do next.”
Pierce recalled the smell coming from the crematorium at Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp built during the Holocaust. When he first arrived at the camp, he said, he was told that 20,000 gypsies had just been killed there.
Price told the story of his experiences working in the Henrykow Factory in the Kielce ghetto. He said a Polish girl befriended him and helped him try to escape. The girl and her family were arrested and he was returned to the factory.
He said he was lucky the Nazis didn’t kill him because those who tried to escape were usually hanged. He said one of the Nazis took his diamond ring that belonged to his mother and sent him back to the factory.
Pierce and Price, 19 and 21 at the time, tried to stay together but were eventually separated into different camps. It wasn’t until 1945 that they met face-to-face again.
Knowing his brother was still alive, Pierce said, he traveled to the U.S. in 1949 and met a cousin in Boston. Price followed in 1951 and lived in Indiana for many years. Both became citizens.
Pierce said he began talking about his experiences after his granddaughter, Lindsey, asked him to come speak to her class. Price said he has spoken at classes for his granddaughter, Monica.
Through family support and perseverance, Price said, the brothers have been able to enjoy their freedoms in this country. “We spent six years in hell and now we live in paradise,” Price said.