“I walked over dead bodies everywhere, you could smell the stench in the air,” said Abe Piasek, Holocaust survivor.
Piasek was 12 years old when he was abducted by the Nazis and forced to separate from his family in 1940. He told his story of survival, May 2, at the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
“They told us not to talk about it, so for 60 years, I kept quiet,” Piasek said. “But it’s now time to tell my story.”
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, hosted the Holocaust Day of Remembrance, in which Piasek shared details of his years in labor camps, the end of the war and coming to America.
Piasek, born in 1928, discussed how the German army invaded his country and set up garrison near his town.
While glancing at the audience, he also told a devastating story about his childhood friend.
“Without hesitation, one of the SS (a paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler) took a pistol out and shot my friend in the head,” he said. “I was so nervous that I ran away so fast while they were shooting at me.”
Days later, Piasek was taken to a Jewish ghetto, then transferred to the labor camps of Auschwitz and Weinhausen where he stayed until the end of the war in 1945. Upon his release, he moved to the United States, got married and joined the Army in 1949. He retired in 1955, after serving six years.
After speaking, members of the audience were able to ask Piasek questions. One of the questions asked was, “what were his darkest moments?”
“Having my wife die and losing my daughter to cancer,” he said. “I understand my wife because she lived a long life, but my daughter was only 40.”
Piasek also discussed going to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. for the first time. He talked about how hard it was for him and that he almost passed out because it brought back painful memories.
At the end of the event, participants had the opportunity to pay respects by lighting candles in honor of six million victims who died during the Holocaust.
Piasek had broken his silence by talking about his experience in 1992. He has since spoken at places including the University of Mount Olive, North Carolina, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and students at Cary High
School, North Carolina.
Now living in Raleigh, he is a part of the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust, a state agency. Additionally, Piasek was interviewed by director Steven Spielberg for “Schindler’s List,” which is a part of the USHMM.
“There is too much hatred in the world. If we can stop hating and start loving, maybe we could make the world a better place,” Piasek said.