Archive for September, 2022

On August 30, 2022, first and second generation survivors and liberating families met to re-dedicate the monument at Farsleben which we visited and filmed at in April on the 77th anniversary, joined by the American successors the liberating soldiers, the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team. They were welcomed by German and Dutch citizens responsible for the monument.

This article appeared in Israel yesterday; this all started when I interviewed Red Walsh in July 2001. Twenty one years ago. His daughters Elizabeth and Sharon attended; and I think Elizabeth is quoted in the article.

“We thought we were going to die”: the survivors who were freed from the death train returned to [Farsleben]

Nearly eight decades after they were released, a group of Holocaust survivors returned to Germany, to the same point where the death train stopped and they were set free. The survivors met the descendants of the American soldiers who freed them: “Near the monument and the railroad tracks, we felt the victory over the Nazis.” On the memorial erected at the site, the word “liberation” was written in Hebrew.

Itamar Eichner, Ynet News, Israel

10 Sept. 2022

“Near the memorial and the train tracks, I felt the victory of us, the survivors, over the Nazis. With every child born to me, every grandchild and every great-grandson, I said – ‘From you, Hitler, may your name perish, there is nothing left'”: these words are told excitedly by Miriam Muller, a Holocaust survivor 81. She and six other survivors returned for the first time to the German town of [Farsleben], where they were liberated by American soldiers 77 years ago.

2,500 Jews were then on a train liberated by the American 30th Division. They were taken from the Bergen-Belsen camp towards Theresienstadt, a few days before the end of World War II. Recently, the survivors returned to inaugurate a memorial that was placed near the railroad tracks, and on which was written the word “liberation” in Hebrew.

Since all the fighters who freed the train are no longer alive, at the memorial dedication ceremony the survivors met representatives of the 30th Division of the US Army, as well as the children of some of the liberators who came especially. The meeting between the survivors and the representatives of the division and the children of the liberators was emotional and full of tears .

The survivors next to the monument

One of the soldiers shouted in Yiddish: “I’m Jewish too”

The day of the train’s release was April 13, 1945. The Germans on the train received an order that if they could not take the train to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, they must blow it up over the Elbe River – for all 2,500 of its passengers. After six days of travel, the train stopped near the village of [Farsleben] in Germany, near the city of Magdeburg.

The exciting meeting with the representatives of the 30th Division of the United States Army
The exciting meeting with the representatives of the 30th Division of the United States Army.
“We owe our lives to the American military”

Around four in the afternoon, an American patrol vehicle accompanied by a US Army tank arrived from the hill. These were soldiers from the 30th Division. The Nazis noticed the American tanks, and fled leaving behind 2,500 Jews, a third of them children, who thought they were being taken to their deaths.

While the Nazis were fleeing, some of the Jews – mainly women, girls and children – rose up and charged the American soldiers with shouts of joy. Only then did the soldiers notice the terrible sight of the passengers. George Gross, the American tank commander, told about the encounter: “Every one of them looked like a skeleton. They were hungry, sick on their faces. And there was something else: when they saw us they started laughing with joy, if you can call it laughter. It was More of an outburst of pure, almost hysterical relief.”

Those freed from the train near Preslavn in 1945
Those freed from the train near [Farsleben] in 1945.
“We thought we were going to death”

The survivors said that when they saw the Americans they hugged them and cried with happiness. One of the American soldiers, Avraham Cohen, yelled at the terrified prisoners: “Ich bin ochut a-yed” (“I am also a Jew” in Yiddish), and showed them the Star of David that was hanging around his neck.

Miriam Muller, one of the freed – then a 4-year-old girl – was on the train with her family members. “These American soldiers were our angels,” she says. “When they opened the train doors, the Jewish prisoners fell out of the cars like sardines from a can. We knew we were not going to freedom. Why would the Germans send us to freedom?”

Those freed from the train near Preslavn in 1945
The release of the train on April 13, 1945, after the Nazis had fled

“We didn’t know where we were going, whether to Auschwitz or Dachau. They didn’t tell us anything,” she says. “We were pushed like animals, with dogs barking all around. We thought we were going to death. I was on that train with my father, mother, grandfather, grandmother and uncle. I’m the last one left alive.”

“The survivors were the real heroes”

At the ceremony, Mueller tearfully hugged American officers who represented the 30th Division. She even met the two children of the American tank commander, Carol Walsh, who rescued them. Of the 2,500 survivors of the train, only a few remained alive, mainly those who were small children at the time of liberation. Carol Walsh’s daughter said: “My father always said that they were just doing their job and were not heroes. The survivors were the real heroes.”

The new monument with the word "liberation"
The new monument with the word “liberation”

Ron [Chaulet], an American-[Dutch] businessman, initiated the construction of the monument on the site. “We owe our lives to the American army,” said the survivors at the ceremony. “We are grateful that the US military saved us from a horrible death.”

Varda Weiskopf, whose father was a 15-year-old boy on the train, helped organize the ceremony. “Among the survivors of the train, few remain alive today, and it is important that this story be remembered forever,” she said. “We are happy about the initiative to erect a monument at the place of liberation, which will remind future generations of the incredible human heroism of the American army. My father passed away in December 2016, and I am sad that he did not get to see this monument.”

SOURCE: https://www.ynet.co.il/judaism/article/b1kbaf5es

The representatives of the 30th division at the event
The representatives of the 30th division at the event

Additional photos below posted by 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team. “On August 30, a group of 30th Citizen Soldiers led by Hickory 6 attended a dedication ceremony near Farsleben, Germany to commemorate the liberation of over 2500 Holocaust Survivors by elements of the 30th on April 13, 1945- they joined survivors, their families, descendants of the liberators and the local community who made this monument a reality along with other German and Dutch Citizens.”

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At the end of July, I was the featured speaker at the 30th Infantry Division Association reunion. There I met Sarah ‘Hardman’ Giachino, whose father was in the 30th, and she had this encounter to share. -MR

This weekend was meaningful beyond words. I met a special Gold Star family-the daughter of PVT Edward J. Conelly,  30 DIV 117 INF, who served with my dad. Peggy Conelly Remington and her family attended their first 30 INF DIV Association Reunion to honor her father. 

Sarah ‘Hardman’ Giachino, Peggy Conelly Remington and her family, July 2022.

 PVT Conelly was killed on July 10, 1944 and recently, I discovered this memory and quote, written in my dad’s notes:

“PVT Conelly was a replacement I selected as my runner since my last one was a casualty. I took a real liking to him and after I explained his duties, he never failed to be by my side. He said something to me I”ll never forget, but indicated that he was the type of man I could depend on, ‘Lieutenant, I’ll go anywhere you go, but please be careful where you go.’

One sunny day in Normandy, we were attacking across an open field between hedgerows when about halfway across he took a bullet in the midsection. I was unhurt.”

Dad goes on to say that he administered all the morphine and bandages from both of their kits. Conelly knew he was dying and was calling for his mother. The medics soon came in, and my dad found out the next day that he died. He concludes in his notes, “You can’t imagine awful this experience was for me, especially when he was calling for his mother. The cost of war is beyond belief.”

Dad was haunted by this, and I remember him telling us about this incident all of my life. He couldn’t shake off hearing him call for his mother.  Dad felt that he easily could have been hit and Connelly happen to be running with him across the field in when he was in the line of fire and they fell into each other. 

I thought this was very important information and wondered, it’s been 78 years, could I possibly find PVT Conelly’s family?

I posted this information on a 30th INF DIV Facebook page. Thanks to Vincent Heggen in Belgium and Rene Bonatti in France, maps showing the location in Normandy, a Morning Report of July 10, location of his grave in Coal City PA, was sent to me.  But still I had no information on his family until Shawn McGreevy, a genealogist and friend, found his daughter Peggy and granddaughter Shellie. 

Through social media, we arranged a phone call and during a very meaningful and emotional conversation, Peggy said she was a baby when her father deployed. “He was over there for only a couple of days. Her mother and aunt never talked about her father’s death.” She added, “We tried to find out what happened but couldn’t find out anything.”

Private Edward J. Conelly took the hit that spared my dad’s life, and meeting his daughter and her family was an indescribable moment.

~Sarah ‘Hardman’ Giachino

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