Holocaust Survivors Reunite With WWII Liberators

American GIs meet with survivors of a German prison train they freed in 1945.

September 25, 2009, 4:59 PM

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.

When Rozell's class put their interviews with veterans up on a Web site along with photographs taken by the American soldiers, Holocaust survivors from all around the world began to notice.

"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?"

Click Here to Visit the Website for the Hudson Falls High School World War II Living History Project

A Reunion of Survivors and Liberators

A reunion of survivors and their liberators took place this week at Hudson Falls High School -- for reconnection, remembrance and to reinforce the lessons of history, firsthand.

"This is history coming alive. This is walking, talking, living history. They're shaking hands with the past," Rozell said.

"When they speak to us, you can't say that you feel how they felt. But you get the feeling, you feel like you were there," said Emily Murphy, a senior at Hudson Falls High School.

In an age where those who deny the truth of the Holocaust sill persist, these survivors say they are the living proof of the Holocaust. And the next generation must remember.

"It's not for my sake," Barry said. "It's for the sake of humanity -- they will remember."

Click Here to Visit the Website for the Hudson Falls High School World War II Living History Project

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