Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold, who defied all odds to live nearly 100 years, passed away on April 15 due to complications from COVID-19.

He was born on March 23, 1923 in Warsaw to Aron and Ruchele Feingold, the eldest of three brothers. His mother encouraged music early on and young Joe took to the violin, which he cherished his entire life.

When the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, chaos took over Warsaw and closed in on the Feingold family. Just a teenager, Joe Feingold fled with his father to the Soviet-occupied part of Poland after Aron was threatened by the Gestapo. His mother and youngest brother, Henryk, were to be looked after by his brother Alex, only 18 months younger than himself.

But the plan went awry. Joe and his father were sent to separate hard-labor camps in Siberia, only to be reunited later on during the war. The remaining Feingolds were forced into the Kielce Ghetto in Poland, where they endured unspeakable horrors. Ruchele and Henryk eventually were transported to Treblinka, where they perished. Alex was a prisoner at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, where he was eventually liberated.

After the war, Joe and Aharon returned to Kielce to find their family, but walked straight into the 1946 Kielce pogrom—a massacre perpetrated by Polish soldiers, policemen and civilians after a fabricated kidnapping charge supposedly undertaken by Jews. It left almost 42 Jewish civilians dead, where Joe himself was brutally beaten and left for dead.

They eventually found Alex 19 months after the war ended in a displaced persons camp in Germany, when they learned what had happened to the rest of the family. Joe wrote in his memoirs that although Alex never brought up his departure early in the war, the feeling of guilt that he abandoned his family never left him.

They chose the United States as the place to rebuild their lives, settling in New York. Joe earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture and eventually started his own firm. In 1971, he married Regina Gilbert, a divorced mother of two.

Feingold went on to become a successful architect in Manhattan and continued playing the music begun in his childhood.

In 2014, Joe donated a 70-year-old violin to a Bronx girls’ school. It wound up in the possession of 12-year-old Brianna Perez, and the two bonded over music. The story formed the basis for an Oscar-nominated short film in 2016 titled “Joe’s Violin.” Feingold later self-published a memoir of the same name.

When Alex was diagnosed with pneumonia in March at the age of 95, Joe wasn’t granted permission to visit him in his last days. After Alex’s passing on March 17, Joe became noticeably despondent.

His stepdaughter, Ame Gilbert, said he had a dream in his final weeks where he was in the gas chambers with Ruchele and Henryk.

In addition to Gilbert, Feingold is survived by nephews and grandchildren. He was predeceased by wife, Regina, in addition to another stepdaughter, Karen.

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