72 years ago this very morning, Lt. Frank W. Towers of the 30th Infantry Division arrived to take the survivors of the train liberated the previous day out of harm’s way. What he saw stayed with him for the rest of his life. In 2007, he contacted me after reading about our first reunion. Later, he made it his life’s mission to track down as many of the survivors that he could, serving as the master of ceremonies for many joyful, and tearful, reunions to follow.
As the 30th Division’s liaison officer, I was told about the train initially by my counterpart, Lt. Floyd Mitchell, who was the liaison officer from the 743rd Tank Battalion, and as he was going back to his headquarters, he asked me if I would like to go with him to see it. I agreed to accompany him, and this was my first encounter with ‘The Holocaust’, to witness all that we had heard about through the ‘propaganda’ [we had been told] in previous months—to see it with my own eyes, that our own Allied ‘propaganda’, was in fact true.
The main roads in some places were impassable, so the trip from Farsleben to Hillersleben was mostly over narrow back roads and dirt farm roads, in order to get to the destination in the shortest time. Due to artillery shelling and too much recent rain they were full of muddy pot holes, and the vehicles had to travel very slowly, or cause breakdowns of the vehicles. The drivers were very well aware of the hazards of driving over this type of roads, as they had done so many times before. Fortunately, during these days it did not rain any more. As I acquired the vehicles for the convoy, some were covered, and some were not, but to these people, it did not matter. Rain or shine, they were on the way to freedom, and although hungry, dehydrated and in frail health, they felt that they were going to a better place than they had seen in many months. They were happy in knowing that they were going to a place where they could get food, sleeping space and health assistance.
As best I recall, we started moving these people in the afternoon, and we continued until dark, which at that time was not until after 10:00 PM, so we halted operations until daylight the next morning, and continued on into the day until all were removed from Farsleben. I am not sure just who was involved in assisting the loading of the people at Farsleben, perhaps by some of the troops from our Engineer Battalion and some of the men of the American Military Government and Red Cross personnel, who also helped in unloading the people, orienting them as to where they were to go to get showers and new clothing, then feeding them and assigning them to appropriate quarters. Then their processing began as to who they were, where they had come from, their birthplace, and their hoped for destination. All of this of course took several weeks before they were all processed and shipped to their destinations.
Later, Frank would travel the world, meeting the children whom he had a hand in saving, and their children, and grandchildren. In the NBC News broadcast below, here he was in the Netherlands just a few years back, with ‘new branches on the Tree of Life’. Frank Towers passed on July 4th, 2016, at the age of 99.