Archive for September, 2011


 this was read at the final banquet this year to a hushed gathering of survivors, soldiers, their families, and our students. . Thanks to all for making it very special.

Robert H Miller photo. Final banquet, 9-23-11.

I very much regret that I won’t be with you at the reunion.  Please convey this statement that I wanted to share with you about my hour of liberation which has been on my mind for 64 years.  My name is Martin Spett.  I was born in Tarnow, Poland.  My family and I survived the Tarnow Ghetto, slave labor, a political prison, and two years in Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp.

It was April 7, 1945. as the American and British armies were closing in on the area where Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp was located.  Five hundred people, including my family and myself, were forced to leave our Sonderlager compound. and forced to march 7 km. to a train.  Although I was ill with double pneumonia, I forced myself to follow and keep up with the group.  We boarded the train which already had 2,000 people aboard.  Because of the surrounding allied armies, the train circled for several days.   It stopped in a forest area near the Elbe river.  We were not able to reach our real destination because of the bombed out bridges.  We found out later that we were supposed to go to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.

The German commandant, who was in charge of the train, not knowing what to do with us, went to a nearby village to call Berlin for instructions.  When he returned, we found out that he had orders to kill everyone aboard the train.  You have to visualize this situation.  Here we were in the middle of a forest with seventy German guards that set up heavy machine guns for our execution were waiting for orders from their commandant.  But, he apparently had a change of heart and did not wish to follow Berlin’s instructions because the American army was closing in on all sides.  During the night, we saw the German army retreating near our train and we saw the American army artillery fire that was aimed in our direction.  We huddled together in fear not knowing what our fate was.

The morning found us still on the train with only a small number of guards and a commandant who was waving to us from a bicycle as he was riding away.  It was a beautiful sunny morning in the forest.  All was calm and quiet.

Later that morning , we heard a loud metallic, rumbling sound.  A few minutes later, an American army tank came into view.  As the tank stopped, an American soldier came from behind the tank and he started walking down the hill towards the train.  He could only go a few steps when our people in their great excitement, fell before his feet, kissing him.  At that time, the German guards surrendered and we then realized that we were liberated.

The soldier stood there with tears in his eyes, telling us that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died the day before.  It was now April 13, 1945.

At this point, I would like to thank the brave American soldiers of the 30th Infantry who rescued us from our Nazi oppressors.  Your brave deed has been in my heart for over 64 years.  I never forgot you.

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Hudson Falls High School students hear firsthand of war, peace

The Glens Falls Post-Star

OMAR RICARDO AQUIJE | Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 5:18 pm

PHOTOS- Jason McKibben-The Post-Star

HUDSON FALLS — Through music, literature, acting and video, Helen Patton told a story of war and peace.

Helen Patton, granddaughter of Gen. George S. Patton

Since 2004, Patton, the granddaughter of Gen. George Patton Jr., the U.S. Army officer known for his World War II military tactics, has used the arts to help people resolve conflict.

On Friday, she demonstrated it to the students of Hudson Falls High School – along with sharing tidbits of her grandfather’s legacy.

She shared the tale of Palestinian and Israeli youths, who were brought to her organization she set up in honor of her grandfather, the Patton Stiftung Sustainable Trust in Germany.

The two groups – with 10 members each – spent three days with a songwriter in a castle. They had to live with each other and write three songs.

Helen Patton played a recording of one of the songs to the Hudson Falls students. She sang the lyrics, waved her arms, and soon the students were clapping, waving and cheering, before erupting in loud applause when the performance was over.

After the three days, the two groups were sent home, she said.

“It’s damn hard to kill someone if you’ve written a song with them,” she said after the event.

She showed a video clip of a German news program that did a story on her organization, and she read a passage from a war novel.

She called on the help of a World War II veteran to tell stories of her grandfather. As the stories were told, she often acted out certain scenes.

Helen Patton, who’s an actress, singer and director, was the last guest to speak during a three-day event to teach the Holocaust at the school.

The event, entitled “Repairing the World,” united World War II soldiers with the Holocaust survivors who they freed from a Nazi train in 1945.

There were speeches from the son of a World War II veteran now deceased, a living war veteran and several Holocaust survivors who were children on the train.

Robert Miller, an author of war novels, was a speaker Friday morning. Students also watched “Paper Clips,” a Holocaust documentary.

This week’s event is the third reunion since 2007. Due to the difficulty of arranging it and the age of the war veterans and Holocaust survivors, it’s also the last.

While people were reunited, the event was aimed to educate students.

Following Helen Patton’s presentation, James Bennefield, the high school principal, told students they were the last generation that will hear Holocaust stories straight from the people who lived them.

“I hope all you students realize one thing: You are all very fortunate to hear what you heard firsthand,” Bennefield said.

The event organizers and participants also wanted to teach students the significance of learning the Holocaust to ensure it’s never repeated and to refute the arguments from people who deny it ever happened.

“It was very educational,” said sophomore Tommie Hanlon. “It is something I am never going to forget.”

Fellow sophomore Alicia Russell said hearing the Holocaust stories from people was better than reading it in a textbook.

“I thought it was very interesting to hear everyone’s story,” she said.

After Friday’s afternoon event, students had their photos taken with the former soldiers and Holocaust survivors.

Ariel Guyett, a junior, got an autograph from a veteran for her grandmother, whose husband fought in World War II.

“It’s definitely something kids should learn about because you never want to forget something like this (the Holocaust) exists,” she said.

The former soldiers and Holocaust survivors were honored one last time at the end of the event. Praise was given to the event’s organizers as well.

Matt Rozell, a history teacher and event organizer, thanked the students for their part.

“Don’t forget,” he said. “You are the witnesses. You saw the liberators this week. One person can make a huge difference.”

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“You gave me my second life”

A Final Meeting: Holocaust survivors, rescuers meet in Hudson Falls

by Omar Ricardo Aquije, Glens Falls Post-Star

Photos by Jason McKibben

Holocaust survivor Ariela Rojek, right, was 11 years old in 1945 when she and 2,500 other concentration camp prisoners aboard a train near Magdeburg, Germany, were liberated by American forces including 1st Lt. Frank Towers, left with his son Frank Towers Jr., center. "You gave me my second life," Rojek told Towers Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, at Hudson Falls High School during an event reuniting soldiers and survivors.
Jason McKibben Glens Falls Post Star

HUDSON FALLS — In preparing to become soldiers, they were taught many things, most of all how to fight the enemy. But on April 13, 1945, members of the U.S. Army’s 30th Infantry Division were caught unprepared.

As they cut across Germany, through cold weather and 18-hour days of fighting, they found a train. Inside were 2,500 Jews who were packed together for six days — sick, dirty, with little food, and infested with lice, fleas and ticks.

The soldiers, riding Sherman tanks, knew how to fight, but were not prepared to treat so many people or for the shock of the train conditions.

“What we were to witness in those days was something we were not prepared for,” said Frank Towers, a first lieutenant in 1945, as World War II was nearing its end.

On Wednesday, Towers, 94, discussed his role with the soldiers who found the train, during the first of a three-day program to teach the Holocaust and reunite the former soldiers with the people they liberated 66 years ago.

The event was at Hudson Falls High School and was the third of its kind there since 2007.

Hudson Falls High School students sing the national anthem in the school's auditorium as a photograph of American forces raising the flag at Iwo Jima is projected on a screen behind them during an event on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, reuniting Holocaust survivors and the soldiers who liberated them
Jason McKibben Glens Falls Post Star

Towers, who traveled from Florida, was one of two former soldiers at the event. Along with them were four men and women who were children on the train.

The Nazis abandoned the train, which was traveling to a concentration camp.

While the U.S. soldiers did not have the resources to treat the passengers, they kept them safe until they could be transported to a military base with a hospital, Towers said.

Towers spoke at a morning event to kick off the program. Through speeches, photos and an audio recording from the 2007 event, the story of the 30th Infantry’s discovery was told. In addition, the former soldiers and Holocaust survivors were honored at the event.

Also explained was the role of the Hudson Falls school. A decade ago, Matt Rozell, a history teacher at the school, interviewed Carrol Walsh, a former soldier, to record his memories of World War II.

It was then that Walsh recalled the day his division found the train near Magdeburg, Germany.

Rozell and his students put the story of the train on a website. Then, over time, people who were passengers on the train found the website and contacted Rozell.

That spawned two reunions, the first in 2007 at the high school, where a handful of Holocaust survivors met Walsh for the first time.

Since then, Rozell has been in contact with 216 people who were on the train and three former soldiers from the 30th Infantry. Some Holocaust survivors and the former soldiers have also been able to meet on their own.

This week’s event will be the last at Hudson Falls because of the difficulty of arranging it and the age of some of the soldiers and Holocaust survivors, Rozell said.

The event uses the theme “Repairing the World” to teach about the Holocaust. There will be speeches from Holocaust survivors, author Robert Miller, and Helen Patton, granddaughter of Gen. George Patton. Helen Patton is the founder of the Patton Stiftung Sustainable Trust in Germany, which uses art and culture to create peace between groups that have sometimes been in conflict with each other.

On Thursday, the Holocaust documentary, “Paper Clips,” will be shown.

Walsh, who was present at the 2007 and 2009 reunions but was absent Wednesday because of health reasons, had a letter read at the morning event.

In the letter, he wrote that rescuing the captives from the train was part of his job as a soldier, and thus he’s owed no debt. Instead, he wrote that the Jews are owed the debt for being victims of genocide, of losing their freedom, dignity, family members and lives during World War II.

“We can best pay that debt by keeping the memories of the Holocaust alive,” Walsh wrote in his letter.

Bruria Falik, a passenger on the train who today lives in Woodstock, attended the reunion. She said she was pleased by the extent of the school to study and teach the Holocaust.

She said she felt “unexplainable gratitude” when meeting the soldiers who liberated her.

“It is overwhelming,” she said. “You can’t ignore the feeling you get to be with Mr. Towers and the other soldiers.”

Leslie Meisels, another passenger on the train, came to Hudson Falls from Toronto, where he lives and speaks at schools about the Holocaust.

“There are no words to describe that feeling,” Meisels said of meeting the soldiers and Holocaust survivors.

After the morning event, students had their photos taken with the soldiers and survivors and obtained their autographs.

Cassandra VanEvery, a high school freshman, said it was hard to believe a group of people would attempt genocide.

“It was very emotional,” Cassandra said of the event.

Freshman Jacob Dimick said the event was hard on him, too. Not only was it difficult to hear about the horrors the Jews encountered, but it also reminded him of the stories he heard from his uncle, who was a soldier during World War II.

Holocaust survivor Leslie Meisels, left, signs a program for Hudson Falls senior Taylor Bump during Wednesday's "Remembering the Holocaust, Repairing the World" event. Meisels, who currently lives in Toronto, stressed the importance of relaying his experience to young people "so they remember and fight against discrimination, hatred and injustice."
Jason McKibben Glens Falls Post Star

“It’s a wonderful treat to meet them,” Jacob said of meeting the Holocaust survivors. “But people need to understand that it’s a horrible thing what happened to them.”

By recalling history and meeting others who lived it, people like Towers said it’s important for students to learn about the Holocaust so it can never be repeated.

“The message I’m trying to put forth is these students are our future,” Towers said. “I’m trying to convey to them that this (the Holocaust) should never happen again.”

Read more: http://poststar.com/news/local/a-final-meeting-holocaust-survivors-rescuers-meet-in-hudson-falls/article_4326887c-e4a7-11e0-b6ba-001cc4c03286.html?mode=story#ixzz1syWEPw00

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The final conference is open to the public provided you preregister by calling 518-681-4221. THE LIVE STREAM IS HERE


 Holocaust survivors, WWII vets holding NY reunion
September 20, 2011
Associated Press

HUDSON FALLS — Holocaust survivors freed from a Nazi death train by American troops are getting together with two of their liberators in upstate New York.

The five survivors were children or young adults when they and about 2,500 other concentration camp inmates were liberated by members of the Army’s 30th Division in April 1945, just weeks before the end of World War II.

Four years ago this month, the first reunion of train survivors and the soldiers who freed them was held at Hudson Falls High School. That’s where history teacher Matthew Rozell’s World War II project helped the veterans and Holocaust survivors reconnect.

A welcoming dinner is being held Tuesday night at a resort near Lake George. The last of Rozell’s educational reunions is being held Wednesday through Friday at the high school.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 21,  2011

MORNING PROGRAM 9:30am-10:59am

9:30 am-  Block II at Hudson Falls High School Auditorium


9:40am-  Program begins-

Welcome by Mr. James Bennefield,  High School Principal

Introduction by  Mr. Rene Roberge, Hudson Falls High School / Master of Ceremonies

National Anthem

A Letter from Liberator Carrol Walsh

Speaker: Dr. Tim Gross, son of George C. Gross

Speaker: Liberator Frank Towers

Introduction of members of the 30th Infantry Division ,and Holocaust survivors

10:59 am– End of Morning Program

11:00am- 11:30am-Book Fair/Signings, Media interviews

11:30-1pm-               Catered Luncheon, High School Library

12:00-1pm              Film, A Special Reunion/The Story of the Liberation of the “Train Near Magdeburg”


AFTERNOON PROGRAM (Seating Limited; Middle School Here)– 1:00pm-2:20pm

Block IV- High School Auditorium


1:05pm:Film, A Special Reunion/The Story of the Liberation of the “Train Near Magdeburg”

Speaker: Liberator Frank Towers

Speaker: Survivor Bruria Falik (Hungary; Woodstock, NY)

Speaker: Survivor Fred Spiegel (Germany; Howell, NJ)

2:20 pm   Questions and Answers/Conclusion of Day’s Activities


Thursday, September 22, 2011

MORNING PROGRAM 9:30am-10:59am

9:30 am-  Block II at Hudson Falls High School Auditorium


9:40 am-                 Introduction-Program begins-

National Anthem

A Letter to the Chaplain: A Liberator’s 1945 Eyewitness Account of the Farsleben                Train-Mr. Rene Roberge, Hudson Falls High School

Speaker: Survivor Leslie Meisels (Hungary; Toronto, Canada)

Speaker:  Survivor Ariela Rojek (Poland; Toronto, Canada)

10:59 am– End of Morning Program

11:00am- 11:30am-Book Fair/Signings, Media interviews

11:30-1pm-               Catered Luncheon, High School Library

11:35-1pm              Film, Paper Clips, Auditorium

AFTERNOON PROGRAM– 1:00pm-2:20pm

Block IV- High School Auditorium


1:05 pm:-    Speaker:  Producer Joe Fab, Paper Clips -“What One Person Can Do”

Mr. Fab has received wide acclaim for his work as producer, writer and co-director of the feature documentary “Paper Clips”.“Paper Clips” has been praised by critics and received numerous film festival awards, both from juries and audiences. It was named one of the top five documentaries of 2004 by the National Board of Review and received the Jewish Image Award in recognition of its promotion of cross cultural communication.

2pm: Survivor discussion to follow with q+a with students.


Friday September 23, 2011

MORNING PROGRAM 9:30am-10:59am

9:30 am-  Block II at Hudson Falls High School Auditorium


9:40 am-                  Introduction-Program begins-

National Anthem

Speaker:  Robert Miller, author, Hidden Hell and Portraits of Service          Upon returning home, too many veterans were met with indifference and did not receive continuing support, struggling to rebuild shattered lives to restore a sense of normalcy. Mr. Miller will discuss his fathers’ POW experience and his upcoming portrait book which focuses public attention on the living veterans of all wars who have experienced the horrors of war on behalf of our nation.

Hardcover version of “Hidden Hell” (formally “Finding My Father’s War”) which describes his father’s experiences as a POW in World War II. $20


Speaker:  Survivor Micha Tomkiewicz (Poland; Brooklyn, New York)

Micha Tomkiewicz was born on May 25, 1939 in Warsaw Poland- three months before the German invasion that started WWII. The family lived together in the Warsaw Ghetto. Toward the end of 1942, he was moved to the Christian side of the city. After the Ghetto uprising and the destruction of the Ghetto, most of his family was transported to the Treblinka concentration camp. His father and two uncles jumped from the train;  his father and uncle were shot and killed by the Germans, but one uncle survived and walked back to Warsaw. In June, 1943, Micha, his mother and the surviving uncle were transported to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp as part of a hostage program that was designed by the Germans. On April 13, 1945, the train transporting the hostages was intercepted near Magdeburg, Germany by a unit of the American 30th Division. Micha and his mother were transported to the Hillersleben Displaced Persons camp. After liberation, Micha was educated in Palestine, which in 1948 became the State of Israel. He is now Professor of Physics and Director of the Environmental Studies program at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

10:59 am– End of Morning Program

11:00am- 11:30am-Book Fair/Signings, Media interviews

11:30-1pm-               Catered Luncheon, High School Library

11:35-1pm              Film, Steal a Pencil for Me, featuring train survivors Ina and                              Jack Polak-Auditorium

AFTERNOON PROGRAM– 1:00pm-2:20pm  Block IV- High School Auditorium


1:05pm    Speaker, Helen Patton,  Patton Stiftung Sustainable Trust

In 2004 Helen began drawing from the inspiration of her surroundings to reach out in a personal way for a more empathetic and compassionate world.  She created The Patton Stiftung Sustainable Trust as a natural progression of the enduring peace which her grandfather George S. Patton Jr. helped restore to Europe in 1945. The Trust’s goal is to nurture constructive, sustainable culture in which difficulties can be worked out and dissonance celebrated.

2pm: Survivor discussion to follow with q+a with students.


BOOKS FOR SALE: Rob Miller- Hardcover version of “Hidden Hell” (formally “Finding My Father’s War”) which describes his father’s experiences as a POW in World War II. $25

Fred Spiegel- Once the Acacias Bloomed- Memories of a Childhood Lost– “An extraordinary tale of one man’s indomitable drive to live, and to live in grace despite what happened to him.” $10

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Steve is one of my good friends and Frank is the featured liberator coming to our 2011 Reunion. Steve wishes he could be here and so do I! I miss the guy!!

If you would like to see a nice clip of Steve reuniting with one of his liberators, you can click on the link. Steve became a US Army Ranger after he was liberated by the Americans.

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