Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Soon after liberation, surviving children of the Auschwitz camp walk out of the children’s barracks. Poland, after January 27, 1945. — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

I study this photograph,

and so it begins.

Seventy Years Later.

The war comes to a devastating conclusion.

The discoveries unfold:

Eyewitness encounters with the most horrific crime in the history of the world.

Battle-hardened tough guys cry.

They stomp their feet in rage, and get sick,

but the lost are lost.

The Survivors ‘carry on’.

The Soldiers ‘carry on’.

Now, it is Seventy Years.

But it is not over,

because ‘closure’ is a myth.

And for the rest of humanity-

How much have we learned?

How much have we forgotten?

Is it even important, for us to stop and think

about snowflakes on little boys?

*****

U.S. survivor Jack Rosenthal

In Focus, Jan 26, 2015, 27 Photos, The Atlantic

By Alan Taylor

Remembering Auschwitz: 70 Years After Liberation

Tuesday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the passage of 70 years since the January 27, 1945, liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet soldiers. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz I and nearby Auschwitz II-Birkenau were the extermination camps where an estimated 1.1 million people—mostly Jews from across Europe, but also political opponents, prisoners of war, homosexuals, and Roma—were killed in gas chambers or by systematic starvation, forced labor, disease, or medical experiments. About 200,000 camp inmates survived the ordeal. On Tuesday, a number of heads of states and aging survivors will attend a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary at the site in Poland, now maintained as a museum and memorial.

See the Altantic’s photo essay here.

*************************************************************

Matthew Rozell teaches history at his alma mater in Hudson Falls, New York. His first book, The Twilight of Living Memory: Reflections of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA is due out this spring. His second book, in the works, is on teaching and remembering the Holocaust.

Last Thursday evening I got out of bed because I could not sleep. The news of the day stayed with me long after I sat down to read it before dinner. So I got up and sat down at the computer in my office and I typed  out my thoughts in the stillness of the late evening hours, burning to get the words out of me.

The post ‘And am I teacher, or a technician?‘ was born, and I sent it off. On a good day, I’ll get 100 hits on the blog you are reading, Teaching History Matters, which I have been rambling on at for the past seven and a half years.

Well, thank you for stopping by. In the last 96 hours, 28,000 people like you have had a look, and the response has been overwhelmingly favorable. My late night existential angst hit a major nerve and tapped a wellspring of grassroots anger. It was pretty amazing and also a little frightening to see the magnitude, but HUGELY comforting at the same time to learn that so many people shared the same sentiments as I. (And as the man said, “if you liked this, come back next week and it’ll be even better!” You can sign up for email updates on the right or just hit the follow button. If not, that’s fine too. My wife doesn’t even “follow” me.)

Perhaps my favorite comment was, just, ‘It gives me hope to read your words’.

*****

Here is some more crucial perspective for us as educators but also as Americans. Frank McCourt was one of my role models. As you may be aware, Frank spent a whole career as a New York City educator before knocking out his first book upon retirement, which took the world by storm. His last book, Teacher Man, is required reading in some ed. classes.

My late mom loved him and was also the product of Irish parents who had recently emigrated from the same county (as McCourt) in the 30s’ to NYC, narrowly missed growing up in Depression-era Ireland herself. Mom was also a passionate educator, a dedicated school nurse teacher, who constantly advocated on behalf of the struggling kids who came to her for help, going toe-to-toe when she had to. “Nursey Rozell” would also not hesitate to kick your ass if you just wanted to get out of class, but always with a sympathetic and keen eye for compassion.

This first appeared on the PBS website, and I used it in a post in November of 2012 near the anniversary of mom’s passing. I repost it in memory of Frank, and my mother.

‘What’s the most precious material we have in the country: children. If we don’t give them the best keepers and mentors and teachers, we’re destroying them. We’re destroying the country.’

It’s a good fight. Remember that. And come back next week.

*****

Interview With Frank McCourt
Frank McCourt, the author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis, is a retired English teacher. He lived in New York City; he passed away in July 2009.

Q: What do you see as some of the major obstacles to improving public schools in our country?

We don’t like our kids. This is a country, this is a nation of people who don’t like their kids. Therefore, the teachers are baby sitters. We don’t look at teachers as scholars the way they do in Europe. In Spain you’re called a professor if you’re a high school teacher, and they pay teachers, they pay teachers in Europe. We don’t here. We resent if, we resent giving them pay raises. If they rise up and say we need a cost of living adjustment, [we say], “Oh, what do you mean you need a cost of living adjustment? Look at all the time you’ve got off. You’re finished at 3 o’clock, never mind that you go home with a bag of papers to correct, and then you have the summers off. These teachers with their summers off! Oh my, I wish I were a teacher.” Well, there’s nobody stopping you from becoming a teacher! Go and become a teacher, dammit! All these so called professionals, investment bankers and lawyers, [they say], “Oh these teachers have their summers off.” You know what most teachers do? They go out and get a job to subsidize their miserable pittance they get from most community boards and boards of education.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

When I got out of the army I had the GI Bill. Since I had no high school education or anything like that, I came to NYU and they took a chance on me and let me in. I suppose I was what you might call a mature student of 22. And, I thought, I’d like, at one time I thought I’d like to become a journalist, but because I had no education, and because I’d come from this horrible background of poverty and so on, no education, no self esteem, so I didn’t see myself mingling with two-fisted, hard-bitten journalists. I would dream of going up to the New York Times and asking them if I could please be a copy boy or let me scrub the toilets or something like that. But I couldn’t rise to those heights. So the two things I liked most of all were books and children. I used to see American movies where the teacher is there in the classroom and all the kids file in — it was usually a movie about Nebraska or something like that where everybody’s white and blue eyed, and there’s Doug the quarterback and Susan the beauty queen, and they sit there with their pens poised while you discourse most eloquently on John Donne, and they’d all sit there and they would love me to death and I would be the hero of the community. Well, it didn’t turn out like that. I became a teacher all right. I wanted to become a teacher because I had a misconception about it. I didn’t know that I’d be going into, when I first became a high school teacher in New York, that I’d be going into a battle zone, and no one prepared me for that. They’re all natural enemies, teenagers are all natural enemies, they’re really animals, but I love them, I love animals, and the average teenager should be sent to some remote place like Australia, till he’s 20. But I like the teaching because it keeps you on your toes all the time. You can’t back off, and some teachers say, “Oh, give them busy work.” Well, when you’re with bright kids you can’t give them busy work, but..it keeps you… in a sense it’s like Hemingway talking about grace under pressure. You’re facing the bull, and that moment that the bull’s horn comes close to you is the moment at which you could die. That’s what it’s like going into the classroom — you could die in there.

Q: How did you learn to be a successful teacher?

There was what you would call a turning point in my life. I was ill-prepared and insecure — because I had never been in a high school in my life — in this first job. I knew nothing about American kids and their strange tribal ways, and it seemed to me that they were throbbing with sexuality, which you wouldn’t find in Ireland, because they’d knock it out of you. But here, there’s boys and girls in the class, and I didn’t know what to do; and the only models I had for teaching were Irish school masters, and that was all threat, sticks, straps, and physical beatings. So, of course I wasn’t gonna, there was gonna be no physical beating…there were kids in those classes who were on the football team, and would’ve broken me in two. But I would become frustrated and I would yell at them, I’d say to them, “You better keep up now, you’re not doing the work, you’re not bringing in your textbooks,” and so on, and I’d rant and rave. ‘Til one day there was a little African-American girl sitting in the front row — Sylvia — and she was beautiful and always impeccably dressed. And one day she said, “Mr. McCourt!” “What?” “Mr. McCourt.” “What?” “Chill Out!” So, that was the first time I ever heard that expression, but I knew what it meant, so I chilled. What that meant was I became more and more of a human being. I dropped the Irish schoolmaster mask. It didn’t work anymore. What I learned then was the main device, if you want to call it that for a successful teacher, was honesty. I said look, we’re in this together, I’m learning, I would say that, I’m learning. This is what I discovered years and years and years later, I was the big learner out of this teaching experience.

Q: Tell us about your first teaching experience.

When I got my first teaching job, which was on Staten Island in 1958, I took over in midterm spring of ’58 for an old lady named Ms. Mudd, m-u-d-d. And she was just, she just, the kids were driving her crazy. And she said to me, “They’re driving me crazy,” she says to me, “You look out this window,” and the school overlooked New York Harbor. She said, “You look out this window in a week, and you’ll see this ship passing by, and you’ll see me waving from this cruise ship, and the two things I never want to see again is Staten Island and teenagers!”

She left me with mounds, piles of old papers and books, and I went rummaging through the old papers, and I didn’t know what to do with the kids, so I had them reading these old papers, and some of them went back to the Second World War. And they were compositions written by young Staten Island students at that time, who later went off to war, off to the Second World War. And some of the kids in my class discovered these papers, and they were overcome: “This was my father, this was my uncle, this was my cousin Vinny,” and so on. And it was so exciting, and I said to them, “This composition paper is crumbling,” and they would copy them, and they were taking them home to their families, “Look what Uncle Vinny…” And this was a tremendous moment. It was my bridge to the kids. There was such a feeling of community, and emotion, because sometimes the kids, girls and boys, would come across some item from the Second World War from somebody in their family who had been a student at McKee. And, they would be overcome and have to run out of the room. That was one, I think that was my first bridge to them.

Q: How did you balance the emotional needs of students with their intellectual ones?

These girls would come from, I had one class of 35 girls come in these white dresses, uniforms or whatever they are, with hair, hairdos, these beehive hairdos, where you could raise a sparrow in each family. They came into my class and they sat, this first day they sat down, and they took out little boxes, and they started doing their nails and plucking their eyebrows, and fixing their eyelids and so on, eyelashes, and I said what — this was a vocational high school — I said, “What shop is this?” “Cosmetology.” I said, “What’s cosmetology?” “Beauty culture.” And then they’d comment on me, they’d say, “Yo teach, your hair is a mess, your nails need work. Why don’t you come up to beauty culture and we’ll do you?” That was an invitation I declined.

But all of this was human stuff and it had nothing to do with the curriculum. In the meantime, I’m finding my way, because nobody was there to help me. I’m finding my way through this education minefield. I’d go up to the teacher’s cafeteria at lunchtime. On one side of the cafeteria the old timers were gathered — they’re giving me advice, and they’re saying, traditional and conservative and they’ve been through it, and they say you know, “You’re the boss in that classroom, you tell them what to do, don’t ever tell them anything about yourself, nothing private.” Then I’d go to the other side of the cafeteria, and there are the younger teachers who were progressive, you know, students of John Dewey, and they’d say, “Well, you know, these kids are people. These are real people and we have to meet their felt needs.” I didn’t know what a felt need was, but I guess I tried to meet their felt needs. It was a long, slow process, because there’s no, there’s no method or technique by which you can become a successful teacher overnight. It takes years. And it’s like writing I suppose, or like any art, or any human endeavor — you have to find your own way. You have to find your own style, techniques and style. So, I found my own style after a while, and sometimes I would imitate other teachers who had certain ways of dealing with classes. Didn’t work, never worked. It’s like being a writer. You imitate Faulkner, you imitate Hemingway, you imitate Scott Fitzgerald, but in the end you find your own voice, and your own style, and that’s what I had to do as a teacher.

Q: Describe a typical day of teaching as you remember it.

Most teachers would have, first period on the second floor, then it’s up to the sixth floor for the second period, down to third floor for the third period, and in between, in between the second and third period you had what they call homeroom, official class. You had this group of kids, and you had to take their attendance, give them bus passes and food vouchers and whatever, and get excuses for the previous day’s absence. You had to keep all these records. You were like a big clerk, a bookkeeper. And then you go to your next class. So there were five classes, so you’d have lunch, and then you’d have what they call, somewhere along the line, a building assignment. And my building assignment most the time was to supervise the student cafeteria. And you’d go in there and you’d hear them feeding, swilling, and whining and moaning about the food and you see kids throwing food away and you think of your own childhood when we would have eaten the stuff out of the garbage can, and I was convinced, they’d say, “Oh, this is terrible, this hot dog.” I was convinced that most of these kids were gourmets. They went home to bouillabaisse every night or fine wines. Then, if you’re an English teacher, if you’ve been foolish enough to give them an assignment, they hand it in. And you take it home in a bag. You go home and your heart is heavy because you have 170 kids. Now if you give them an assignment 250 words, multiply 170 by 250, and that’s like reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. And there’s another book you’d like to read or a movie you’d like to see, or you’d like to talk to your wife once in a while, but you have all these papers. Sunday night comes. That’s the worst night of the week for any teacher in the country because they know this stuff is piled up and they’re in such a state of despair. And you try to do it, and like any kid who has homework to do, “I’ll get up in the morning and do it.” Well you know you’re not going to do 170 papers, so you do what you can, and try to get it back to them, but the load never lightened.

Q: Why are teachers important in our society?

What’s the most precious material we have in the country: children. If we don’t give them the best keepers and mentors and teachers, we’re destroying them. We’re destroying the country. They are the future, and the teachers are there everyday with the future. And we’re so careless about that. We underpay teachers, we hire poorly prepared teachers, and we don’t help them. We don’t go into the schools and help them, “What can I do?” We don’t participate. It’s a matter of taking care of the children. If you have a child who’s ill, you want the best doctor. You want the best surgeon, “I want the best surgeon for my child.” But do we say that about teachers? No, we don’t. We know that surgeons are well paid, they better be well paid, they don’t want to have worries at home. It should be the same way with teachers. They’re the single most important profession in the country because they’re shaping the future. And some of them are misshaping the future or they’re not being helped by us. And as I said before, we don’t like our children. Because the proof of it is how we treat our teachers. That’s the one fine and significant proof: how you treat your teachers. And they’re treated badly.

Q: What can we do to help improve our nation’s schools?

One of the reasons the schools are in such a state is no one consults the teachers. I used to watch some of these programs on television and you’d have somebody from some corporation, and you’d see some jerk from the think tank, and then you’d have a union official, and I’d call… One time I called Channel 13 in New York, they had one of these discussions about schools, and I said — they were inviting us, calls from the outside — and the lady said, “Well what would your question be?”

And I said, “Why don’t you have a teacher on this panel?”

“Oh, that’s a very interesting question…”

I said, “It’s about schools, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

But I never got through. One never gets through.

http://www.pbs.org/onlyateacher/today8.html

Your comments are always welcome.

*************************************************************

Matthew Rozell teaches history at his alma mater in Hudson Falls, New York. You can contact him at marozell[at]gmail[dot]com. His first book, The Twilight of Living Memory: Reflections of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA is due out this spring.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address and executive budget proposal at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address and executive budget proposal at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll*)

I opened the newspaper today when I got home from work- I don’t have time to read it beforehand- and the Governor of New York’s State of the Union address was dissected on the front page. The headline read, “Teachers, taxes, wages targeted: Governor calls teacher evaluations ‘baloney’.”

Now I understand that this headline is an editorial decision, but it doesn’t make you feel too good to come home from a day of nurturing, guiding and mentoring young people to feel like your back is in the cross-hairs of the most powerful man in the state. But unfortunately, I’m getting used to it. The photo that accompanied the article is a ‘classic’, in every sense of the word. Our Governor strikes a pose not unlike a Roman orator of old. There is a certain irony in that, I think to myself.

*Then I realize that I know the photographer- that he has in fact come up to my upstate school and into my own classroom to photo-shoot a lesson which would go on to change the world. He came to see me.

Me.  A lowly public school teacher, one of 600,000 in this state.

*****

From the State of the State: “While Washington fights and gridlocks, we find compromise and move forward…their politics divide, and our politics unite.”

Sorry, but when it comes to the state overseeing the education our youth, that is just not the case. Respectfully, it’s more like divide and conquer. Accept and funnel the dollars from Washington, siphon off the sustenance of the upstate youth to parts elsewhere, and sub-out contracts to multi-national corporations. Hold the money high in the air. Pit one district, one region against the other.

“Last year we said if a school didn’t complete a teacher evaluation system, they wouldn’t get state funding – the excess funding. Low [sic] and behold, 100% of the teachers now have a teacher evaluation system. 100% of the schools adopted a teacher evaluation system. That’s the good news – we have teacher evaluation systems for every school in the system. The bad news is they are baloney.”

Excess funding? Upstate schools have been stripped by Albany for more years than I can count. I teach in a high-needs community, the same community that raised me. I’ve been here, in this school, on one side of the desk or the other for 46 years of my life. In that time I have seen many changes, but few for the better in the economic and social sense, in the decades that we have been held hostage to Albany politics. Just listen any local superintendent. Please.  ‘Lo and behold’? And how many local administrators don’t feel like their hands are tied behind their backs?

“To reduce the over-testing of students we will eliminate local exams and base 50% of the evaluation on state exams.”

The Governor is upset because too many teachers are rated ‘effective’ or even ‘highly effective’ under the system that has been in place for only a year, a system that tries to be one-solution-fits-all, and is frankly fairly irrelevant. It doesn’t work, but tossing in a rating that includes a 50% mandate for high stakes exams is literally tossing the baby out with the bathwater. Many young teachers are overstressed as it is, and if enacted, will be “washing out” or heading to the door of their own volition. Eliminating local exams is also irrelevant- the state does not count them anyway-and practice test after practice test, written by an educational conglomerate, are headed your kid’s way. “Over-testing” is just getting warmed up.

Under the “baloney” system our Governor originally called for, I’m rated on the kids who may not find it important to come to school, who despite the best of our efforts just don’t buy into the value of the test “for their own good”-  in other words, many, many kids. I’m rated on the performance of the kids who spent all last night gaming or texting, or who come to school not having eaten since the last time they were here. I am rated on the performance of kids who have stolen my personal possessions, or worse. So I guess I’m not surprised- we get used to directives and unfunded mandates- but I’m having a problem with the whole 50% thing.

So I can imagine the response: Well, there’s the door, Mr. Rozell. But now  imagine your child’s youthful teacher, once excited and energized, skulking out of meeting after meeting where draconian admonitions are relayed over and over from on high. She’s feeling stomped on, deflated, crushed.

And she doesn’t know, but I can hear her trying to console herself on the way back to her classroom, quietly lamenting the twenty-five years she has to go to until retirement.

Imagining again: There’s the door, Ms. So and So.

This is what I see, in the New York State of mind.

*****

So back to the photograph taken of the Governor this week, and why it matters to me. You see, the very same Associated Press photographer Mike Groll came to my classroom on September 13, 2007, to do a photo-shoot for an article that featured me and my students and the impact that we were making not only on our community but on the world. AP writer Chris Carola did an article that hit the wires and went not only across our great state, but to every state in the Union and all over the planet.

This history class made history. And Mike was there to record it, seven and a half years ago. Thanks, Mike, and Chris.

Later, we would go on to be named ABC World News Persons of the Week. For achievements in the classroom, I would be awarded many top state and national awards for teaching (I even had a national medal pinned on my chest!), and would be recognized by my own SUNY GENESEO alma mater as their 2013 Educator of the Year. NBC Learn even came up from New York last spring to record a lesson with me and my students, in which my seniors really blew me away in demonstrating their knowledge.

So how did the Educator of the Year rate in his own 2013-14 Cuomo Administration teacher evaluation? I scored an 89/100. Not even honor roll. None of the above achievements with students were counted or ‘measured’- and maybe rightfully so, I don’t know. But ‘Mr. History Teacher of the Year Multiple Times Over’ IS NOT highly effective in New York State.

Sour grapes? No thanks. I know where I make a difference every day. It’s just going to get real interesting should this 29 year classroom veteran be rated  ‘ineffective’  or ‘developing’ with the new proposals. Maybe even comical.

*****

Maybe I don’t have the answers, but I know what I see. My parents were teachers. My wife is a teacher, and her dad and his twin were both teachers, everyone of us right here in New York State.  Today my wife and I are nearing the close of our careers, with our own high school age children, and now we are also primary witnesses to the sapping of the energy and strength of the very individuals who spend the most time in our young people’s lives- our fellow teachers. Apprehension and fear is not the climate you want for those who teach your kids.

“We would pay any teacher who gets highly effective, a $20,000 bonus on top of the salary that that teacher is getting paid because we want to incentivize high performance….they have achieved the highest scores on tests.”

Sure, at the end of every other week there is a check in our box. But we don’t need the extra $20,000 to want to make a difference everyday, to take the time to listen, to smile and guide when it matters most. Think about the persons who made you feel like you mattered, who took an interest, who influenced you and maybe even changed or turned your life. Maybe there is a value to that that can never be quantified or measured, nor ever compensated. But in the Governor’s proposal, in New York State, that is not the point. In his world, that is what is irrelevant.

If our teachers are to become testing technicians for our children, then we must accept the consequences. Lesson planning and sound instructional time has already given way to more beta testing, data analysis, spread sheets, clinical trials, and so on. Now we want to jack it up on steroids? And no amount of testing is going to make up for the real ills that plague us as a society, the lack of pride and civility, of responsibility and respect, that at one time was a given.

Our teachers were at one time our role models.  As a young teacher, I got into this game years ago to teach-to create- to nurture- my  fellow human beings.

Despite the rhetoric, I’m joyful that I still feel this way-and respectfully, Governor Cuomo, no door is going to hit me on the way out.

Matthew Rozell teaches history at his alma mater in Hudson Falls, New York. You can contact him at marozell[at]gmail[dot]com. His first book, The Twilight of Living Memory: Reflections of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA is due out this spring. Even though this original NY State-based narrative history is a collaboration between the instructor and his students, he can pretty much guarantee that it will count for little in his state evaluation.

 This is a good a time as any to announce that I am going to be launching my first book this spring, tentatively titled ‘The Twilight of Living Memory: Reflections From the World War II Generation of Hometown, USA’.

The opening line right now is:

I hope you’ll never have to tell a story like this when you get to be eighty-seven. I hope you’ll never have to do it.

It’s a collection of narratives-oral histories, really-woven around the story of the most cataclysmic war in humanity. You might not think so, but we were all affected by it, even the generations born way later.

So here is a recent post from my younger brother. He’s a solo skier but he always comes back with good stories. Not everyone will come home from war shattered. but they will be trying to make sense for the rest of their lives. And maybe that is a part of what we are here for. The things this guy saw will ripple through the generations, and not just his lifetime. I’ve seen it so many times.This is why I go to Nashville to these reunions 75 years after the war, and this is why in reading my brother’s take on things I know I have to get my own book out of my head and into people’s hands.

*****

I loaded my skis and took my seat in the gondola. I’d have the ride to myself, another perk of midweek skiing. Hell, I’ll kick my feet up and take a few moments to express my patriotism with an American Spirit… But just before the doors closed, a man racked his skis next to mine and entered the cabin. I wondered why he didn’t just take the next empty gondola, but my question would be answered quickly.

1000 YD STAREHis eyes demanded my attention. Big. The whites showing all the way around the iris. “Crazy eyes.” And those eyes darted side to side, unable to fixate on any point for more than two seconds. Stillness had left him long ago. We talked, because that’s what you do during a 13 minute gondola ride with a stranger. Really, he talked and I listened because that’s how these interactions have taken place all my life. He had been in the service, moving back to the area for his medical issues. Several times in the telling of his story he just stopped mid-sentence, explaining how his brain “just blanks out” now. His wife and he were having issues and she now lived an hour away with his two young daughters (the same ages as my kids). In short, the dude was shattered. And our ride up the mountain was enough to tell me that there was no glue that would ever put all the pieces back in place.

I moved on with my day, but obviously this guy stayed with me. What really struck me is that this is the 3rd such conversation I’ve had with vets around my age on gondola rides over the past year. (A helo pilot, taking a ski day while on leave from Afghanistan, immediately started sharing grisly tales of his missions with no prompting from me.) Each man struck me as caught in a powerful current, a current that they sensed was wanting to pull them under for good.

I don’t know why so many people tell me their stories over the years. I can just tell you that I consider it an honor. As best as I can figure, these men spoke to me because that wanted to process their own stories, they wanted to come up with some narrative that would help them makes sense of how their lives were unfolding, a narrative that would provide an answer for their unrelenting question of “how did I get here?”

Pick up a copy of Dr. Drew Rozell’s latest book, Let It Go,  and read his other musings, at www.verycoollife.com.

Tom Lea_-2000YardStare

Peleliu, Sept. 1944. My forthcoming book is based in part on narratives from this battle. Combat artist Tom Lea’s painting, ‘The Two Thousand Yard Stare.’

Nashville is Next!

Received from Frank Towers,97 yr old Sec/Treasurer of the 30th Infantry Division Veterans of World War II.  I am going to be there. I hope to see all you survivors there, Holocaust and World War II,  for this last hurrah…love these guys. It will be the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the “Train Near Magdeburg”. In the pic below are soldiers and Holocaust survivors, and yours truly, in Nashville from 2010.

#30th Infantry Division, Survivors, M. Rozell

Nashville is Next!
And sadly to say, it will be the LAST Reunion of the“30th Infantry Division Veterans of WWII”….

30th Infantry Division Veterans of WWII
National Reunion April 15 – 18, 2015
Holiday Inn- Nashville-Opryland/Airport
Nashville, TN

The time has come when all good things must come to an end. We have had some great times in the past few years, but time and age is taking a toll on our membership, and the numbers are dwindling faster than we would like. Our Executive Committee has decided, that since our numbers of attendees has dropped off, it is becoming a financial burden to continue having reunions without adequate financial support. It takes a great deal of work on the part of the Exec. Sec-Treas. and the Reunion Chairman, Mrs. Nancy-Lee Pitts and Family, to prepare all of the necessary paper work, contract, preparing a program and the process of cleaning up and winding down from the Reunion. At our age, this is becoming a burden and almost prohibitive, so, very sadly, we must call it Adieu !!

So, all we ask is that as many of you who are able, Please come to this Reunion, to have a good time and enjoy the company of each other, and make this a memorable reunion.

This may be the last opportunity that you will have to see and visit with “old buddies”, whom you have known for the past many years.

Remember, Nashville was the site of the very first Reunion of the 30th Division Veterans in 1947, and it is quite appropriate that we should have the last one at this same site.

Come One and Come All, and make this a Big Blast, for the last time.

We will be looking forward to seeing ALL of you.

Pre-Registration Form- email marozell@gmail.com

Old Hickory Re-Enactors

As usual, many, many thanks go to all of the guys who were representing the Old Hickory Re-Enactors, by Posting the Colors at each event as required, tending the bar in a most efficient manner, and best of all, their Artifacts, Weapons and other Memorabilia which is always a big hit with everyone. If you have not visited their displays, you are missing a lot ! We need to give these guys a big hand for what they do for us.

 

Holocaust Survivors

We cordially invite all of the Holocaust Survivors from the Farsleben Train, to join with us for this special event. If you have not been with us before, please do not pass up this opportunity to meet your Liberators. This will be the last time that you will have an opportunity to meet them, as we will not be having these Reunions any longer, so this will be your last chance. Many of you have been with us before, and we hope to see you all again. Kosher food will be available for all of those who require this.

Weferlingen – Walbeck – Grasleben

On 10 April 1945, Brunswick, Germany was captured by the 30th Infantry Division, with the next objective being Magdeburg.

The following day 11 April 1945, proceeding on towards Magdeburg, the town of Hillersleben was attacked and captured with little or no major battle. At the edge of the town, there was a large German Luftwaffe Airbase and an Armaments Research Center. This base was composed of several operations buildings, several 2 story block barracks, and several private homes for the officers and a small hospital.
Continuing to press on towards Magdeburg, during the 12th of April, the 120th Regiment over-ran the village of Walbeck, and the 117th Regiment over-ran the village of Grasleben, and in between these two villages, was another small village, “Weferlingen”, which was liberated by the 120th Regiment. [Ed. note: On 13 April the train at Farsleben was discovered.]

No mention was ever made in the journals of these regiments, about the capture of these villages, nor was any mention made of them in the 30th Division History Book or either of the Regimental History Books. Only from the Journal of the 30th Military Government, was this action discovered recently. (2012)
At Weferlingen, the site of a former potash mine was discovered – a mine operated by Jewish and D.P slave laborers, under the direction of their Nazi slave-masters. This mine had been enlarged and deepened, from its original size as a potash mine, and was in operation of fabricating submarine engines, airplane engines and rocket engines. It was deep and well protected from American bombing attacks.
This “camp” was named “ Camp Gazelle” by the Germans, and it was a sub-camp of Buchenwald, and when discovered, consisted of 421 (political prisoners), slave laborers. As any of these laborers became ill or otherwise incapacitated, they were sent back to Buchenwald, and fresh laborers were sent to the camp to take their place and to keep the labor force consistent with their needs. All of these prisoners were found in very poor physical condition, due to malnutrition because of being underfed, and overworked for 12-15 hours per day. Almost all of them required immediate medical attention.

Arrangements were made with the Burgomasters of Walbeck and Grasleben to furnish adequate food for these people. Our own 105th Medical Battalion personnel furnished them with immediate needs of medical supplies.
They were almost immediately sent back to the American Military Government and the American Red Cross, then located at Hillersleben, Germany, for appropriate processing and repatriation back to their homelands wherever possible.
It was on the basis of the liberation of this “CAMP” that the 30th Infantry Division was given the distinction of being named a “Liberating Unit” by the Center for Military History and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, thereby allowing our Colors to be displayed in the lobby of the US. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This is to honor the men of the 30th Infantry Division who had a part to play in the liberation of numerous Jewish slave laborers of the Holocaust.
This was actually the very first viewing that any man of the 30th Infantry Division had of the “supposed” propaganda of the “Torture of the Jews by the Nazis”, later to be known as “The Holocaust” .These liberating soldiers had no training as humanitarians- they were trained to be soldiers, fighting a war against Nazi aggression and really did not know what they had on their hands, nor the scope of this captivity of the Jews. -Frank Towers

Taps – 2014

ADKINSON, BRUCE 743 TkBn-C Garden City, NJ
BERKEL, John J. 119-I 5/26/14 Belleville, IL
BIGOS, Adolph J. 119 Tom’s River, NJ
BURLEIGH, James 117 Golden, CO
CONLEY SR., Leo J 119 Framingham, MA
COX, Henry G. 117-F 8/17/10* Loris, SC
COX, Joe M. 117-D 5/20/14 Bluff City, TN
DEAN JR., Preston A. 531 AAA Hq
ERICKSON, Mervin L. 119-K Windom, MN
FLOYD, Thomas A. 119-G 9/30/13* Forney,
GIACCHETTI, Hugo J. 119 E Chicago, IL
GRAPKOSKI, Walter E. 119-G 11/23/11* Danbury, CT
HOFFMAN, STANLEY 120-B 1/19/14 Princeton, NJ
HOLLOWELL JR, Ernest L. 105 Med D
HOUTEKIER, Louis 119 G 7/15/14 Big Rapids, MI
IACONO, George D. 197 FA Svc, 9/30/11 St. Petersburg,
JORDAN, Joseph S. 105 Med. BN A 7/26/12 Wilmington, NC
KEATING, Hubert M. 113 FA/A 6/06/13* Paducha, KY
LEY, Charles E. 120
MARKHAM, Cameron L. 117 1BnHq 5/15/14 Charleston, WV
MARSIGLIA, Joseph M. 119 Hq. 12/.03/14 Algonquin, IL
MARZILLI, Rocco D. 30 QM Co. 10/27/13 Waterbury, CT
MC MICHAEL, Roscoe 105 Med. Bn 10/08/13* Newnan, GA
MITCHELL, Kenneth 120 C
NOWLAND, Maland C. 30th Recon E. Vassalboro, ME
ORTIZ, Oscar A 105 Med B San Francisco, CA                                                                 OWENS, Livis 120-C
PARKER, Kanneth 120 B
POLAND, Claude E. 120-G 4/49/14 Columbus, IN
RINELLA, Donald. 105 Med Bn. C 5/11/14 Truckee, CA
SMALL, George 120-A 12/19/13 Augusta, MI
SUPER, Seymour 119-A Boynton Beach, FL
WAUGH, Wilford D. 120-I Buffalo, OK
WHITE, Carlton L. 120-K 1/29/12* Elizabeth City, NC
WILEY, A.P. 120-M 6/24/14 Dallas, TX
WYATT, Nell (Wid) W 2/06/14 Waynesville, NC

 

I wrote this narrative. Jessie found his body.

A 16 year old from our small town finds the 18 yr old from our small town at Pearl Harbor. Taken at USS Oklahoma Memorial, Pearl Harbor, 3-27-2013. Note Arizona Memorial in background.

On Sunday, December 7th, 1941, the Japanese Empire commenced her early morning attack on Pearl Harbor. In New York State, it was early afternoon. Some local kids were out hunting, only to hear it on the car radio as they returned home. Some families heard the announcement as they were traveling to relatives’ homes for Sunday dinner; many others were at home, huddled around the family radio. A good many were at the theaters in Glens Falls or Hudson Falls to see the latest Abbott and Costello release when the show was interrupted and the announcement made. For young people and their elders, the response was the same: outrage, followed by the universal question- “Where the heck is Pearl Harbor?” The other universal feeling was the uneasy realization that life was going to be significantly altered from here on out.

A few local boys were already well aware of where the Pacific Fleet was anchored; they had joined the Navy already and on December 7th, were on board ship in Hawaii for the attack. At the time, over 180 ships and vessels were moored in the harbor. At 7:55 am, the first of two waves of Japanese planes struck.

USS Oklahoma at sea in 1937. from http://bit.ly/10WHiaw

Hudson Falls native Harry Randolph Holmes was on board the USS Oklahoma serving as a fire controlman. “Randy” had left high school early, and had arrived at Pearl Harbor a few weeks before. having just turned eighteen, he was probably the youngest sailor out of nearly 1900 crew members.

Dating from World War I, the “Okie” was an older ship with thin armor plating, but had lately made a name for herself evacuating Americans trapped in Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Like many ships, she was in a state of complete unreadiness at the moment of the attack.  Having returned to port following sea maneuvers only the day before, the ship has its anti-aircraft ammunition locked away and the normally closed watertight compartments below the water line opened in preparation for a fleet admiral’s inspection the following Monday, the 8th.

Barely minutes into the attack, as the airbases at Hickam and Wheeler Fields billowed smoke and flames and Battleship Row was coming under fire, the Oklahoma was struck by three Japanese torpedoes dropped at low altitude; crew members actually saw the torpedoes in the water with virtually no time to react.  The explosions ripped through the port side with Randy and over 400 crew members trapped below her decks. The order was given to abandon ship but as the ship listed and more torpedoes were taken into her port side, the men inside were plunged into darkness, with water flooding the open compartments and their world now slowly turning upside down.

The Okie is struck. Captured Japanese film. US Navy Archives.

In desperation, many tried to make it up to the shell deck, from which it might be possible to climb to the top of the ship and jump overboard, the difficulty of which was compounded by the oil pouring over them from the damaged machines above, and the fact that the ship was still listing.

As the ship gradually rolled, dozens of 1400 pound shells on the shell deck broke loose from their tie-downs and barreled towards the desperate sailors and they were crushed to death. When the ship took her fifth -some sources say ninth-torpedo, she capsized around 8:08 am.  It had taken all of perhaps fifteen minutes. The “Okie” lay at 151 degrees with her masts in the Pearl Harbor mud.

 the crippled Oklahoma capsized... from  http://bit.ly/10WHiaw

The Japanese wheeled, and dove in again. The USS Arizona suffered a direct hit with a nearly two ton armor piercing bomb which penetrated below the main deck and instantly ignited stores of aviation fuel and gunpowder for the ship’s 14 inch guns, the subsequent explosion essentially broke the ship in two, lifting the vessel out of the water and instantly killing 1177 crewmen on board . When the battle had ended two hours later, over twenty ships had been sunk or damaged.

The tragedy of the USS Oklahoma was the second greatest loss of life aboard a ship. A frantic rescue operation by civilian shipyard crews with jack hammers and torches along the bottom of the ship over the next two days had saved some 32 men, but it was discovered

Oklahoma after attack, capsized, right, next to the Maryland.

later that some of those trapped below had lived as long as three weeks in dark, inaccessible parts of the vessel.

Randy Holmes was now the first kid from our town, Hudson Falls, or in Washington County, and perhaps New York State, to be killed in what would become World War II.

**********************************************

By the time I walked the halls of this school in the 1970s, no one remembered him. I certainly did not know about him. But by chance in May 2000, as a teacher returned to my alma mater, I overheard a gathering of World War II veterans I had invited to the high school discussing him: “Do you remember Randy Holmes?”  “Why yes, didn’t the Class of 1942 dedicate their yearbook to him?”

Naturally, my next step was to search the old yearbooks in the district vault and sure enough, there was his Navy portrait with the senior dedication underneath:

Randy Holmes, 1942 Hudson Falls school yearbook dedication page.

“RANDOLPH HOLMES- MISSING IN ACTION…

Word was received soon after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, by Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Holmes, that their son was ‘missing in action’. The young sailor was on board the steamship Oklahoma, when it was struck by a Japanese bomb. Randolph would have been a member of this year’s senior class if he had remained in school. He enlisted in the Navy New Year’s Day, 1941, and was sent to Newport, R.I., where he was in training as a machinist. Later he was transferred to the Great Lakes Training School in Chicago. He graduated with the rank of Seaman, Second Class.

In August of last year Randolph was ordered to report for duty to the S.S. Oklahoma. He was stationed on this boat in Pearl Harbor when the attack was made by the Japanese.

This young sailor was a popular student in Hudson Falls High School and both faculty and students keep in their hearts kind thought and happy memories of his manly qualities and sterling character.”

*             *             *             *             *             *             *

According to the 1940 census , Randy had a sister but she left the community, as far as I can tell, becoming a nurse in the war. His parents passed away, brokenhearted. They were the ones who probably signed the release papers so that he could enter the service at age 17.

Jessie and Mackenna

In the years that followed my trip to the vault, I told the story of the “Okie” and wondered aloud to my classes where our native son lay buried.  Finally, one of my students, Mackenna Wood,  took me up on the challenge, conducted her own research, and discovered the following from the National Park Service website: “Resting in the main channel of the harbor, a major salvage operation began in March of 1943. This massive undertaking involved the use of winches installed on Ford Island, which slowly rolled the ship back into place in an upright position. The ship was then pumped out

Righting the USS Oklahoma March 1943.

and the remains of over 400 sailors and Marines were removed.”

Two years later, a California salvage company bought the ship for scrap and began towing the USS Oklahoma to Oakland in the spring of 1947. On May 17, the ship began listing to port and the tow lines had to be cut. The USS Oklahoma sank approximately 540 miles northeast of the Hawaiian Islands. The spirits of 429 lost souls may have silently cheered when this tribute to the loss of the Oklahoma was written:

“Good for you, Oklahoma!

Go down at sea in deep water, as you should, under the stars.

No razor blades for you!

They can make ‘em from the ships and planes that did you in.

So long, Oklahoma! You were a good ship!”

So now we had an idea where Randy rested. Eighteen months after they died, the remains of the 429 men were recovered and buried in a mass grave at Pearl Harbor. Only 35 have been identified. The ship did not even have a memorial until 2007. But every Dec. 7th in our school now we make an effort in our history classes to remember Randy.

*             *             *             *             *             *             *

So, back to the story of the first photo on this page.

In the days before our 2013 Easter break, my 10th grade history student Jessie Johnston told me that she was leaving with her family for a vacation to Hawaii- she wanted to give me notice, so that she could keep up with her assignments.  Since she will be missing a class or two (and she’s heading to Hawaii and I am not!), I give her an extra assignment, never dreaming that she will actually pull it off:

FIND RANDY.

My heart is gladdened when I arrive in school the day before Good Friday, open my e-mail, and find this photo. Maybe Randy and all of the soldiers, sailors, and Marines are resurrected-maybe they are no longer dead.

The kids remember.

In the words of Susie Stevens Harvey, who lost her brother in Vietnam and advocates for all POWs/MIAs,

“Dying for freedom isn’t the worst that could happen.

Being forgotten is.”

*             *             *             *             *             *             *

POSTSCRIPT

JESSIE INFORMS ME TODAY THAT HER BIRTHDAY IS DECEMBER 7TH.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP.

MR

A timely email…

I’m reprising some words of wisdom, on teaching, on what would have been my late father’s 83rd birthday.

From: Philip M.  Sent: Sunday, December 02, 2012 6:26 PM

Subject: Your Dad

I just wanted to take a moment to send you an e mail. I was in your Dad’s classes from 1977- 1978 at Glens Falls HS, He was a teacher who inspired learning.

He was my favorite teacher along with Mr Cubbins, I went on to teach French, Spanish, Social Studies, Economics, Government, World History, and many other classes…

Also I was able to earn a pension after many years from the US Army at the Rank of Major. Without good teachers, I never would have accomplished anything.

My Dad was a teacher also and he passed away 10 4 2004. Sincerely, Philip M.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Today, Dec. 4th, would have been my dad Tony Rozell’s 81st birthday. He passed away in 2000. Phil’s email above was a reminder. Good timing, Phil! From  father to son! About the time you had my dad in the classroom I was trying to figure out how to get away from him, and this town!

A couple Dad stories.

tonewritin2Dad (Tony) entered the Air Force at the outbreak of the Korean Conflict and quickly rose through the ranks. He was a superior clerk and administrator who served in the war zone and saw death and destruction near the 38th parallel. There is one story Dad used to relate that I really like. In the early days of his service, he was singled out for abuse by a mean-spirited corporal who particularly delighted in bullying the 88 lb. runt from Hudson Falls. Years later, after Tony had proven his abilities and achieved the rank of Tech. Staff Sergeant, this same corporal came to his office to receive his orders. He avoided Dad’s eyes as Dad handed them to him, and Tony asked quietly if the corporal remembered him. The former bully’s eyes darted around the room and back to his feet, as he nervously replied, “No, sir!” With that, Dad nodded and bid his former tormenter farewell without the dressing down he so richly deserved. He could have shipped the guy to Timbuktu.

Dad had a large impact on a great many lives outside of the immediate family, and was a great influence on me as a teacher, though I never saw him teach myself. I do recall early in my teaching career going into his school with him to get some materials and encountering three boys kicking a crushed milk carton back and forth in a stairwell. I wondered how my father (the teacher) was going to handle this- would they be sent to the office? Reprimanded? Told to pick up the milk carton and exit the building promptly? I think they were wondering this, too, when Dad just jumped in the middle and began to kick it around with them…

He rarely had discipline problems because he loved the students more than he loved the authority and power he had over them. He was never sour or burned out. He always came home from school humming to himself and generally in an upbeat mood. I can remember him saying on many occasions how much he loved his career “because the kids are always different-no two are ever alike.”

Before he retired in the early 1990s, the Glens Falls Post Star ran a feature article on DaRozells profile Feb. 3, 1992d and I as teachers. I think Dad hit it right on the head when he said, “Teaching is not a matter of how smart you are, it’s a matter of personality…If you know your subject and you’re fair, it doesn’t make any difference what you teach.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feb 3, 1992 Glens Falls Post Star story. Captain and the Kid.

Rozell Family has “history” of teaching

By Laura Rappaport, Staff Writer

February 3, 1992

When history teacher Matthew Rozell was a youngster, his parents made him stay inside all day to watch the first moon landing on television.

“I remember being so angry, but I’m glad they did that, now,” Rozell said.

Now, some 20 years later, that history lesson and others led the naturally curious boy to follow his father’s footsteps to the head of a history class. Not as a student, but as a teacher.

Matthew and his father Anthony Rozell both teach history at area high schools, the father at Glens Falls, where he is chairman of the social studies department; and the son at Hudson Falls, where both Rozells went to school.

“I’ve never known anything but being in school,” Matthew said in a recent after-school interview in his classroom at Hudson Falls High, “It just depends on which side of the desk you’re on.”

But despite sharing an interest in history and students, the Rozells have never seen each other teach. Not that the son hasn’t grabbed bits of wisdom from his dad, who’s going on 30 years at Glens Falls High School. It’s just that there’s been little time for observation when each is so busy in his own classroom.

“He gave me access to things I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to,” the younger Rozell said. His father did give him some visual aids such as filmstrips and slide programs, as well as a few tips on teaching. But overall, “Matthew’s very independent,” his father said. Maybe so, but the younger Rozell credits his parents with kindling his interest in history by exposing him and his four siblings to it. On trips to Boston and New York City the family would visit the major museums and historical sites. “I was always very interested in what I saw,” said Matthew Rozell, adding that he usually had more questions than his brother and sisters. Also, with a father who teaches summer school, (Anthony taught summers in Hudson Falls for 21 years) it was hard to get away from school subjects – even for a few months. On summer afternoons or evenings, the father might play tapes or show slides of what he was working on in school. “It wasn’t like he would sit and make us watch it,” said Matthew. “I wasn’t enthralled, but at the same time I was exposed to it.” And his parents made sure their kids paid attention to important world events, like the historic moon landing. “He gave me money to go to the newsstand” for the momentous, occasions, Matthew said.

The elder Rozell is also a collector who hangs onto magazine and newspaper articles about the big stories of the day. His classroom bulletin boards at Glens Falls are covered with yellowing newspaper pages.

Contemplating retirement at the end of the next school year, the senior Rozell said he fell into teaching “out of the blue” in 1958 when there was a lack of teachers in the state. He had wanted to be a minister and started his education at St. Joseph’s Catholic Seminary in Yonkers. He already had almost all of the necessary graduate credits in history and was offered a chance to take a few more credits to become certified and guaranteed a teaching job. “I could not help but do that,” he recalled. “Once I got into it, everything fell into place, and 1’ve enjoyed it ever since.”

His son, now 30, followed a tougher path: jobs were scarce when he finished his teaching degree at State University of New York at Geneseo in 1985. He looked for work in the western part of the state, and even had the opportunity to run a restaurant or become a chef. But Matthew Rozell felt he shouldn’t throw away his education. “I spent too much money on my education to just give it up,” he said.

Failing to find a job in western New York, the young Rozell came home to Hudson Falls and stayed with his parents. He finally landed his present job – with a little help from dad,.- midway into the 1987 school year after a year at St. Mary’s Academy. He was the third teacher the class had that year, and it was a tough assignment. “When I first came here I was more interested in survival,” he acknowledged. “It’s like throwing a piece of meat to the wolves.” The more experienced Rozell helped his son through some of the rough spots in the beginning, and Matthew Rozell turns to his father less now, in his fifth year teaching.

Father and son are close, but they don’t spend a lot of time talking about education and lesson plans. The teachers’ wives may actually have been brought closer together by sharing similar work – in the South Glens Falls Central School District, Matthew observed. His wife Laura teaches special education at South Glens Falls, while his mother, Mary, is the school nurse teacher there. The two women have become very close, and usually go to staff meetings together, according to Matthew.

“They like to wear the same outfits on those days and see if anyone will notice,” he said.

Anthony Rozell looked back on his own long career in education and ahead to the future his son will face in the classroom. “A teacher today has access to so much material,” he said. “I didn’t have one iota of a film strip or a tape … I

21 years on. Article for release Feb. 2013. Dad is gone but spirit is raging. Erica Miller photo.

just had to drum it into their heads,” Kids are different today, too, the father noted. More come to school with problems at home that can interfere with their studies. The students he gets the most joy from are those who bring with them a good attitude toward learning and toward life. “The ones you have that are happy people, smiling people, polite people, those are the ones you never forget,” he said. And those are usually students whose families take an interest in their learning and well-being. . “They know that they belong,” he said. “Their parents are really caretakers. That’s nice.”

And in the final analysis, said Anthony Rozell, there’s not a lot a father can really teach a son about the profession or art of teaching.

“A teacher finds, eventually, their own niche, their own method,” he said. “Teaching is not a matter of how smart you are, it’s a matter of personality …. If you’re strong and , fair, it doesn’t make any difference what you teach.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Old Man was tickled when this letter to the editor appeared in the Post Star shortly thereafter…

I just had to write

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers