Holocaust Survivors Reunite With WWII Liberators
American GIs meet with survivors of a German prison train they freed in 1945.
Sept. 25, 2009— -- In 2001, high school history teacher Matt Rozell began an oral history project. He and his students interviewed family members in the small town of Hudson Falls, N.Y., to capture fading stories of World War II. The students ended up unearthing a forgotten chapter in history.
Near the very end of World War II, on April 13, 1945, the American 30th Infantry Division was pushing its way into central Germany. They found a train carrying nearly 2,500 emaciated Jewish prisoners -- many of whom were children. The prisoners were traveling from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to another camp – a place where certain death awaited.
"All these people, men women and children, jampacked in those box cars," said Carrol Walsh, a member of the 30th Infantry Division. "I couldn't believe my eyes. There they were."
"We had never seen anything so filthy," said Frank Towers of the 30th Infantry Division.
The American soldiers rescued and fed the prisoners, evacuated them to safety and then moved on to other missions they faced in the war.
"I searched for 44 years looking for anything that mentioned a memory of that train. It didn't exist!" said Stephen Barry, a survivor from the train.
"We heard from a woman in Australia who had been a 7-year-old girl on the train. It hit me like a steamroller," said Rozell.
"It was amazing when I looked at one of the pictures and I discovered myself," Barry said. "How many people have a picture of the moment of liberation forever?"