Holocaust survivor meets Army rescuer after 65 years
Michael Woyton • Poughkeepsie Journal • August 12, 2010
Mrs. Falik heard of Frank in the Yediot Ahronot article, a major daily in Israel, that appeared in April 2010 on my project.Thanks to Varda W. in Israel for her major efforts at uncovering more survivors and getting the word out.
RHINEBECK — Frank Towers doesn’t remember the 12-year-old Bruria Falik he may or may not have seen 65 years ago in a crowd of children.
But they met Wednesday for the first time with hugs and tears.
Towers, 93, of was one of a contingent of soldiers who liberated a train filled with 2,500 Jews headed for Bergen-Belsen, the Nazi concentration camp.
He was speaking about his war experiences to a group of people at Arbor Ridge at Brookmeade, a senior living community in the Town of Rhinebeck. Falik, a Woodstock resident, was there to finally meet one of the men who saved her life.
Towers, who now lives in Brooker, Fla., was part of the 30th Infantry Division, an Army National Guard unit from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, making its way through Germany toward the Elbe River.
“We were bombarded by propaganda about the torture and capture of the Jews (by the Germans),” he said, speaking with vigor. “We didn’t believe it. We thought they were trying to make us fight against the Germans all the harder.”
In early April 1945, the division liberated Brunswick and was headed to Magdeburg, Towers said.
“We had heard there were German troops in Fallersleben waiting to ambush us,” he said, and reconnaissance was sent April 13, 1945, to scout the area. No enemy troops were discovered.
“They found something else they weren’t prepared for,” Towers said: an idling train crammed full with about 2,500 Jews.
“The crew’s last order was to take the train onto a (bombed out) bridge and run it into the river,” he said.
“But they had a little bit of brains,” Towers said. “They figured they’d get killed too.”
The cars were so crowded, he said, each meant to hold about 40 people but jammed with as many as 100, it was impossible for everyone to get to the sole bucket in the corner, which was the bathroom.
“There was a horrendous stench,” Towers said. “It was so bad our own American boys had to turn around and vomit.”
Having rations and being willing to share, the soldiers gave what food they had to the starving people.
During their trip, once a day, they were given a thin, cold potato soup that was mostly water.
The food the soldiers shared was too rich for the starved people, Towers said, and they stopped giving them anything and waited for medical protocol. The people were taken to nearby Hillersleben, where they were turned over to the American military for further processing.
They were infested with lice and were dusted with DDT, their clothing confiscated and burned.
After getting showers, the people were given clothing donated by the people of Farsleben.
Towers said it wasn’t until they found the train that he realized what he originally thought was propaganda was, in fact, the truth.
“My own version, my own experience, of one small facet of the Holocaust was repeated 6 million times,” he said.
Before their meeting Wednesday, going through Falik’s mind was, how do you say thank you to someone who saved your life?
Falik said she does not remember Towers.
“But I felt I knew him all my life,” she said.
Calling that April day “glorious,” Falik said her memory tends to focus on the positive things.
“This is a country that dedicates itself to saving people all over the world,” she said.
“And I have a wonderful son as a result of being saved,” Falik said.
Towers said that sometimes the events from 65 years ago invade his dreams.
“And a lot in a bad way,” he said. “What I saw and what people like her (Falik) conveyed the way they had to live, in my dreams, I’m laying on a lice- and tick-infested bunk on a train, and I can feel them crawling on me.”
Towers demonstrated waking with a start.
But then he remembers what he and the other soldiers did that day.
“I had a small part to play in saving her life,” Towers said.
“She has come up in society,” he said, “and I’m partly responsible. It’s quite emotional that we have come full circle.”
Patricia and Donald Weber of the Village of Rhinebeck came to the lecture because the subject is poignant.
“It’s something we should not forget,” Patricia Weber said. “Man’s inhumanity to man is awful. We need to learn what we can do to prevent it.”