Posts Tagged ‘531st Anti-Aircraft Artillery’

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.


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


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This originally appeared at the Huffington Post website for Veterans Day.  Maybe it is appropriate to share for Thanksgiving.

The author contacted me in 2007 when news of our first reunion went viral  in the Associated Press. Later, in 2009, he was invited to a gathering of the soldiers who saved his father and other survivors on this train here at our high school. His talk to our gathering can be seen below, published here for the first time.

Praise for the American Soldiers Who Saved My Father From a Death Train

By Lev Raphael

 In early April 1945, my father was packed into a train with 2500 other prisoners from Bergen-Belsen as the Nazis insanely tried to keep British and American troops from rescuing them. The train was made up of 45 cars with their doors sealed shut; the crowding was horrific and of course there was no food or water.

 In the chaos of war, this hellish train wandered for a week and finally stopped at Farsleben, a tiny town not far from the Elbe, sixteen kilometers from Magdeburg, the site of one of Germany’s largest munitions plants. German communications had collapsed and the commander couldn’t get clearance to move across the Elbe, so he ended up decamping ahead of the American troops he knew were coming. When two American tanks appeared on April 13th, the remaining guards escaped.

 Frank W. Towers, a 1st Lieutenant of the 30th Infantry Division, reported that the stench when the locked cattle cars were opened “was almost unbearable, and many of the men had to rush away and vomit. We had heard of the cruel treatment which the Nazis had been handing out to Jews and political opponents of the Nazi regime, whom they had enslaved, but we thought it was propaganda and exaggerated. As we went along [in Germany] it became more apparent that this barbaric savagery was actually true.”

 The troops that had found this train were racing to the Elbe because it was the last barrier to their advance across Germany, and now they had a totally unexpected burden of some twenty-five hundred prisoners to house and provide for. The answer was about nine miles to the west. American troops had just captured several hundred Germans at the Wehrmacht base and proving ground in Hillersleben where tests had been conducted for giant railway guns manufactured by Krupp.

 It was an ironic place for Jews to be sheltered, cared for, and brought back to life. But then what place in Germany wouldn’t have been an ironic location?

 This verdant military setting with its clean, heated quarters for officers and soldiers was a virtual paradise for people who had been treated like animals for years. That’s where my parents met and fell in love. My mother was in Hillersleben because she had escaped from a slave labor camp in Magdeburg and been brought there by American troops now using it as a temporary Displaced Persons camp.

 She and my father had each lost everything in what would come to be called the Holocaust: home, families, countries. So there wasn’t any time to play any pre-war games. “Do you like me?” he asked. She did, and as my father tersely put it years later, from that moment on “She was mine and I was hers.” My mother moved in with him that night, beginning their fifty-four years together.

 Frank Towers, who is 97, is the last surviving soldier who rescued the prisoners on that train, who saved my father from almost certain death and brought about his encounter with my mother. I’ve had the honor of meeting Frank and shaking his hand, and I’ve written about him in my memoir My Germany, but on this Veteran’s Day, with the survivors of the Holocaust and their saviors dwindling faster and faster, it’s more important than ever to thank him in public, and praise the memory of those other “train heroes” who are no longer alive.

The account in this blog is excerpted from My Germany: A Jewish Writer Returns to the World His Parents Escaped.



Five years ago this fall, we put on quite a show at our high school.  High school kids listening to, meeting, sharing, laughing, crying, even dancing  with octogenarian U.S. soldiers and Holocaust survivors. Here, Raphael shares his remarks with the soldiers, survivors, and students about growing up in a survivor household, and his coming to terms with Germany.




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Veterans Day: Hudson Falls teacher’s stories unite veterans with survivors

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications

veterans day

Caption: Photo of Matt Rozell by Andrew Watson.

History teacher Matt Rozell knows where he will be on Veterans Day. He’ll be in same place he is every year: working with students to help veterans. This year, he and 28 of his Hudson Falls high school students will be out raking leaves and doing yard work at the homes of veterans.

In his world, the one he shares with students, veterans are held in the highest regard.

“These soldiers, and what they’ve gone through for our country…” he said, trailing off. Rozell, a member of the Hudson Falls Teachers Association, was standing in the school entryway in front of a new display called The Veterans Wall. It is filled with photographs and stories of veterans from World War II through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Their mission was protection. Rozell’s mission has been to make sure students know what that protection cost and what it preserved. In a metal filing cabinet in Rozell’s living history classroom there are 200 written student interviews with World War II veterans. Each folder includes the interview, positions papers, fact checks, photographs, letters and other primary sources.

[Hudson Falls Teachers Association member Matt Rozell on the history of Veterans Day and keeping history alive through the “power of the narrative story.”]

That’s 200 stories now documented; important pieces of history, of personal lives that intersected and collided with the deadliest war in history. These veterans became part of the Allies Forces in a brutal war from 1939 to 1945 – a war involving most nations of the world, the Holocaust, nuclear bombing, and sobering losses. According to the World War II Museum, there were 15 million combat deaths; 25 million wounded; and 45 million civilian deaths.

The front wall of Rozell’s classroom is covered with the front pages of actual newspapers chronicling stages of the war as it stormed across the world: “France Joins Britain in War on Germany;” “Roosevelt is Dead; Truman Sworn In;” “Germans Take Oslo: Sweden Gets Warning;” “Reich Scraps Versailles Pact.”

But it is on the last wall where the stories uncovered by Rozell and his students are the most personal. Here, there is a map of the world. In certain sections, it is dense with colored pushpins that students insert for tracking survivors.

The pins represent people: Jewish people who were rescued by American soldiers in Germany on a train from Bergen Belsen concentration camp, destined to be killed at the end of the war. The pins also represent the soldiers who saved them and the soldiers’ families.

“There were 2,500 Jews inside,” said the soft-spoken Rozell, whose blue eyes fill with tears telling the story. Some were already dead; all were emaciated. It was April 13, 1945. They were covered with lice. Some had typhus.

“It was at the point in the war when everything was collapsing under the Third Reich,” Rozell said. “Their final order was to murder everyone on the train.” German soldiers were to drive the train onto a bridge and blow up the bridge. But first, they ordered the men and boys off the train.

“They were going to machine gun them,” Rozell said.

Then the Americans, en route to a nearby battle, crested the hill in their tanks. They stayed 24 hours to guard the train, and then other soldiers came in to help transport the survivors.

In the last 10 years, 275 rescuers and survivors have been reunited through Rozell, the web site he created,https://teachinghistorymatters.com/tag/matthew-rozell/, and veteran Frank Towers, now 97. Towers was a soldier with the 30th Infantry Division who was charged with relocating the train survivors to a safe place for medical care and treatment the day after the rescue.

“His job was to move people out of harm’s way. He had trucks. It took all day,” Rozell said.

Towers, 97 has now met children of those train survivors, “people who would not exist if Americans hadn’t liberated the train,” Rozell said.

Rozell’s  determination to have his students experience the meaning of the closing days of WWII drew the attention not only of families and survivors, but also of the media. He and his students have been featured on NBC Learn as part of “Lessons of the Holocaust” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koQCU9Rhys0.

In September 2009 ABC World News with Diane Sawyer named them as “Persons of the Week.”

Rozell also works with the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

His story of action in the classroom began years ago when he had students first start interviewing veterans and videotaping them. Then they would transcribe them and type them up.  “This was before the internet,” he said.

In the mid 90s he began putting the stories online.  Rozell also conducted interviews, and one of them was with the grandfather of one of his students, a WWII veteran. He set up a video camera and the pair talked for two hours. A retired state Supreme Court justice, Carrol Walsh had been in combat in a tank.

“He hated it. Once he was trapped for three days,” Rozell said.

As the interview was winding down, Rozell recalls, Judge Walsh’s daughter stepped in and said “Did you tell him about the train?”

Walsh was one the soldiers who came across the train full of imprisoned Jewish people as they were driving their tanks. He told Rozell how they found the people on the train and scared off the German soldiers guarding it.


Next, Walsh directed Rozell to George Gross, a fellow tank commander who had taken photographs that day from the tank. More recently, Gross had written a narrative about his part in the liberation of the train.

Rozell eventually interviewed him by speakerphone in a class interview.

Rozell posted the transcripts of the interviews with Walsh and Gross – now deceased – on the school web site under a WWII history project.

The site got hits, but it more or less languished for about four years.

Then the trickle started. A grandmother from Australia who had been a little girl on the train contacted Rozell. Then a doctor in London, a scientist in Brooklyn and a retired airline executive in New Jersey found him through his site. They were all survivors from the train.

Rozell decided to host a reunion for them in 2007 at the school, and of course Walsh was invited.

“Judge Walsh – the only soldier there – met them with a laugh, and said ‘Long time, no see!'” Rozell recalls.

The Associated Press picked up the story about the reunion, and the school’s web site got so many hits it crashed the system. Rozell heard from 60 more people who were on that train.

The AP story is how veteran Frank Towers found out about the story. He contacted Rozell and they worked together. Since then there have been over 10 reunions – three of them in Hudson Falls,one in Israel, and many organized by Towers. Besides Israel and New York, they’ve been held in North and South Carolina  Tennessee, and Florida. With the help of survivors daughter Varda Weisskopf in Israel, they have brought survivors and their descendants together with American soldiers and their descendants. Their homes are now in places such as Great Britain, Canada, Israel, America, and Australia.

In 2011, Rozell and his son were given a gift of attending one of the reunions in Israel. There, he met 65 people who were on the train.

“The survivors [and soldiers] chipped in and bought a ticket for me and my son,” he said, still awestruck about the event three years later. “I’ve never been in the Middle East.”

NBC News recently heralded Towers’ quest to reunite survivors in http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/ann-curry-reports/children-from-death-train-reunited-346382403757.

In the video, a young girl cries, trying to express how much it means to her to meet the man who liberated her grandfather on the train.

Rozell, a graduate of SUNY Geneseo, is in his 29th year of teaching history. He says his journey is about “the power of teaching.”

“We can use the power of history to get kids involved, engaged and more empowered themselves,” he said.

The Washington County Historical Society has published some of the student stories in the file cabinet, giving both students and veterans, a voice.


Thanks, Liza, Andrew and Leslie for visiting our school and seeing the power for yourselves.

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Carrol S Walsh Jr. At rest in Johnstown, NY. Photo by Elizabeth Connolly.

Carrol S Walsh Jr. At rest in Johnstown, NY. Photo by Elizabeth Connolly.

Thirteen summers ago, I sat down for an interview with an amazing man. What he would relate to me, and what I would do with it, would go on to change both of our lives.  A seemingly small incident would be recalled almost as an aside in the wider context of World War II, but then would go on to reverberate through time, and space, creating ripples in the cosmos that grew into waves. Big waves that would carry me, and many others, to places we had never thought possible.

You see, on Friday, April 13th, 1945, twenty-five hundred lives were saved as advance elements of the U.S. Army 743rd Tank Battalion, 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, and  30th Infantry Division stumbled across the crime of the century, perhaps of all time.

A train transport stopped at a railroad siding. Open boxcars, sealed boxcars, shabby passenger cars, engine. Some people wandering about, others too ill to move. Sick and emaciated human beings.  Women. Men. Children. SS bands roaming the countryside. Orders to execute. A bridge over the River Elbe ahead to be blown to smithereens. With the transport, and the people on it.

The soldiers told me their stories.  In the course of collecting their narratives, we found others who played their parts and rescued those people.

I listened. We wrote. We recorded, and I posted. Then, the wires began tripping. Seven Septembers ago, we put together the first of many reunions between these soldiers and the child survivors of the Holocaust they rescued.

“Joyful” does not do it justice. What do you say to the men who saved you and your family when you were a child?

Carrol smiles, grips their arms in greeting, and laughs, “Long time, no see!” Sixty-two years, that’s all. On April 13th, 1945, the war weary, “seen-it-all” twenty-four year old second lieutenant is in for the shock of his life.


Five years ago this week, we put on quite a show at our high school.  High school kids listening to, meeting, sharing, laughing, crying, even dancing  with octogenarian U.S. soldiers and Holocaust survivors. ABC World News called my classroom and told me they were on their way up from NYC headquarters to film us. You can see Carrol, and listen to fellow tank commander George Gross’ narrative from our interviews, and hear fellow soldier Frank Towers describe his role in the liberation.

The last evening together, soldiers and survivors from all over the world watched the broadcast together, and we said our prayer of thanksgiving. Hundreds of students became the witnesses for the generations to come.

And so it comes full circle. Nearly ten percent of the passenger list has been found, over 60 years later. Profound things keep happening.


We lost Carrol less than two years ago, George earlier. So I write this week to remember, and remind myself of what a legacy, and gift, they left us. While it may have been a tiny part of  very productive lives (a New York State Supreme Court justice, and English literature professor, respectively), for the rest of my days I will think of the times I got to talk to them, and smile.

And think about their own words: “What are we going to do with all these people?”

Indeed. Just look at the generations that sprang forth, because of what our soldiers stopped to do, in a shooting war. In complex, fluid situations, there are no easy answers, but don’t you think that there is a very important lesson here?

It was not part of the mission. But maybe as a society we should break down and examine the values that made the mission change, if even as a “sideline”.

Sometimes it just feels good to feel proud.

But temper pride with the wisdom of the retired New York State Supreme Court justice:


They don’t owe us anything. Not a thing.

We owe them~

For what the world allowed to happen to them.”


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Matthew Rozell, 30th Infantry Veterans of WWII, Holocaust survivors at Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, March 2, 2012.

Matthew Rozell, 30th Infantry Veterans of WWII, Holocaust survivors at Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, March 2, 2012.

Frank Towers’ invitation to soldiers, survivors, interested parties and their families to come to Louisville in the spring. The soldiers have convened annually since the end of World War II; since 2008, thanks to the project, the 30th Infantry Division has hosted Holocaust survivors and their families as well for very emotional, uplifting, and fun times. Email for details.


Don’t forget the dates!!       April 11 – 12 – 13, 2013

Don’t forget to make your Hotel Reservation

and Registration!!

Hotel Crowne Plaza,  Louisville, KY


Dear Fellow 30 Division Members and Friends:

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday and that the New Year holds only good things for you and your family.

Now that the holidays are over it is time to focus on making your reservations for the Reunion.  Included are the Pre-Registration Form and the Reservation Form and the information to make your hotel reservations. Please do it NOW.

We have a great program planned and will include a trip to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, a professional photographer that will take a picture of you and/or your family (so bring your medals and ribbons to show off).  We will also have one of Louisville’s noteworthy news casters, Ken Schulz, MC our banquet on Saturday evening.  Our entertainment will include a local bagpiper as well as others.

Why come to Louisville?

Louisville, is a city of urban neighborhoods that have been revitalized, and some of our best known shopping areas are the Bardstown Road and Frankfort Avenue corridors with their small shops and plentiful locally owned restaurants.  The homes and buildings in the Old Louisville neighborhood is one of the largest historic preservation districts featuring Victorian architecture in the U.S.  The Downtown area has had significant renovations over the last few years with the construction of the YUM! Center which is home court for our Louisville Cardinals men’s and women’s basketball teams.  The Center, along with Waterfront Park and Fourth Street Live, have attracted new housing, shops and restaurants breathing new life into the area.

Louisville has museums to interest everyone..  Home to the Frazier International History Museum; The Muhammad Ali Center; The Louisville Science Center; The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and many, many more.

Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, is locally owned and operated.  It is near the airport and offers free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel.  The Crowne Plaza also offers many amenities including indoor/outdoor pool, fitness center, boutique shop, 24 hours business center, complimentary Wi-Fi, and more.

You can see Louisville is the place to be, so much so that Louisville was named “The Top U.S. Travel Destination for 2013” by Lonely Planet’s, the world’s leading travel publisher.

We are looking forward to having you here and sharing some of our history and hospitality with you, and most of all, to meet many of your former friends and colleagues.

Best Regards,

Bill Vaughan. President

30th Infantry Division Veterans of WWII


Taps – 2012

(Last 6 Months)

ADAMS, Cleveland L. 30 MP Plat. 7/30/12 Stockbridge, GA

ADKINSON, Bruce 743 TkBn B 6/17/12 Beverly, MA

DUMEY JR, (DuMay) Leon 120-G 11/23/12 Cape Girardeau, MOM

FARKAS, Louis 119-I 12/ /12 Colton, OR

HOGUE, Donald W. 117 K 6/12/12 Montevallo, AL

HOUCK, Arthur T. 120-K 6/16/12 Hampstead, MD

LAZINGER, Sol 117-B 6/13/12 Philadelphia, PA

MAXEY, James C. 120 CN 6/ 29 /12 Tullahoma, TN

MILLER, Edmund L. 120-H 9/07/12 Pewamo, MI

PITRUZZELLO, Joseph S. 119-L 5/02/08* Alexander City, AL

PRUITT, Frank H. 120-2BnHq 12/10/12 Spartanburg, SC

PULVER, Murray S. 120-B 9/21/12 Peoria, AZ

STANFORD, Arna V. Widow 8/18/10* Williamsburg, VA

STECKLER, William 105 Engr. B 9/09/12 Palm Harbor, FL

SULLIVAN, Thomas “Jack” 118 FA 8/07/12 Savannah, GA

TURNER, Woodrow W. 117-F 8/15/12 Littleton, CO

UBBES, Jean M 743 TkBn-B 7/28/12 Kalamazoo, MI

VOORHIS, Thomas K. 120-K 8/06/12 Manteca, CA

WALSH, Carrol S. 743 TkBn-D 12/17/12 Sarasota, FL

YOUNG SR., James E. 120 6/26/12 Butler, PA

Those with an asterisk (*) were received too late for a prior publication.

Our Most Sincere Condolences to the Families of These Lost Heroes


As most of you already know, men of the 743rd Tk. Bn., and  30th Infantry Division, liberated over 2.500 victims of the Holocaust from Bergen-Belsen on 13 April 1945.

We will be honored to have some of these Survivors join with us again at Louisville.  Two of them have never been with us before, so they will give a resume of their life history, so be sure to come to hear these stories that have never been told before.

One of these Survivors will be coming all of the way from Jerusalem, Israel, joining with other members of his family, to meet his Liberators for the first time.  The other Survivor will be coming from San Diego, CA with his daughter, also to meet for the very first time with some of his liberators.

To make it clear, each of you veterans were “Liberators” of this group of victims.  Although you may not have had any personal hands-on experience with them at the time of their liberation, You were doing your job which was supporting the action in the local vicinity of this tremendous discovery and the release of these frail humans to Freedom.

Join with us on this occasion to meet these Survivors that you helped to liberate 68 years ago !!

This will be an Historic event !!  68 years to the date of their Liberation !!!


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Whitwell, Tennessee.

Not much cultural diversity. 50% free and reduced lunch. Industry supporting then devastating the community, then leaving town. Home of the Tigers… sound familiar, Hudson Falls?

Last fall Hudson Falls kids and I had the pleasure of getting to know Joe Fab, the major moving force behind the film  Paper Clips, when he came to our town to speak.On Tuesday morning this week, a few educators and I  loaded into  cars for a pleasant drive from Nashville to Whitwell, to visit the middle school where it all began, and their Children’s Holocaust Memorial, a cattle car from Germany that was used to carry human beings to the killing centers.

The middle school is in  a new building that also houses a special Holocaust Memorial library, which is thought to be the largest single collection in the state, many volumes donated by survivors and congregations worldwide. Every letter they ever received is archived there, including the negative ones that arrived with the paper clips twisted into swastikas. Imagine. Middle school kids not picking and choosing what to save, but archiving like historians for the future.

Linda Hooper, the former principal, greeted the nine of us, and gave us a private talk about the impact of the project and the unbelievable ripple effect it has had on people’s lives across the world. Sandy Roberts told us how the project unfolded in her after school class, when a child raised his hand to say, “Mrs. Roberts, excuse me, but I don’t know what six million is.” Because they took the time to investigate together, students and parents reflected together in a meaningful way on the impact of learning about the Holocaust on their lives. And that is how this project was born.

Before we move to criticize the project as just another counting activity, the collecting and counting of objects to symbolize human life, come to Whitwell and meet the people. Read the letters from the survivors who send in a paper clip, or dozens, and reach out to these children who have touched them enough to tell their families’ stories.

No one can fathom six million plus. But read the letters to feel for yourself individual stories of the millions who were lost. Come to Whitwell and see for yourself the power of a small community excited about learning, and its impact on the world, because they wanted to care about other human beings.

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Israeli educational psychologist Haim Ginott writes about a letter that teachers would receive from their principal each year:

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates.

So, I am suspicious of education.

My request is this:  Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

This has become the mission statement and educational philosophy of some Holocaust education institutions and it really sums up what my mission as  a teacher is all about. But please note  below that I did not intend it that way. At all.

Today I will be a special guest for the Tennessee Days of Remembrance Ceremony at the State Capitol in Nashville with legislative members, the governor and the lieutenant governor. This evening I will give my first address to fellow Holocaust educators.

How does a kid from a small town with no experience in Holocaust education go on to add a new chapters to the stories of thousands of persons’ lives? To become a regarded figure in Holocaust and History education circles, nationwide?

The honest answer is, I just don’t know.

My dad in the classroom. Around the time that I puffed out my chest and claimed I certainly would not be a teacher.

But it happened. This from a kid who distinctly remembers the purposeful slight given to his dad. Dad was a history teacher in Glens Falls, the next town over. He was good, and he loved the students. Everyday he came home happy and sometimes even humming a tune. Who delivered the purposeful slight? His first born son.

Our relationship,  as I grew into the teenage years, was a bit strained. So when he asked me, as a junior or senior,  in the car riding home from school one day down Main Street, the MAIN STREET of the town that produced him, what I would like to do someday after I graduated from high school, I told him, “I don’t know, but I won’t be in HUDSON FALLS anymore, and I SURE WON’T BE A TEACHER…..”- the desired effect was achieved by the angry teen, the wound deep, the twist of the knife distinct…

Yet there I was, eight years later, living in the room out back of the family homestead on that Main Street, fending my way on the other side of the desk in the classroom of my alma mater, and not just any classroom- a history classroom, teaching the exact same subject as the old man…

What if I had never come home, as planned? What if I had not gone back to school for a teaching certificate, after graduating with that “unmarketable” history degree? What if I had landed that job in the college town I called my new home, instead if coming in 2nd for it? I would have never met the tank commanders. Then, what if Walsh’s daughter had not said, after two exhausting hours of combat tales, just as we were about to turn the camera off,   “Dad, did you tell Mr. Rozell about the train?

Things happen for a reason. I think there are no coincidences.

In the words of a former  principal of mine, we are here “to make human beings out of them” (not that they were not before, but you get his point-the exact same point of the speaker noted above.)

I am suspicious of those who will dictate to me from ” on high” what I should be doing in the classroom. Perhaps Dr.  Ginott would have agreed.


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I interviewed a Holocaust refugee and another liberator on Friday last… rolled into one! A special man. A German Jew whose father was mortally injured on Kristalnacht, Henry Birnbrey was sponsored and got out of Germany as a young teen and was given special permission from FDR to join the Army-previously classified “enemy alien” for his German birth- and stumbled upon the train as a forward artillery spotter scouting positions in the lead up to the final battle at Magdeburg.  Henry was in the 531st AAA of the 30th Infantry Division- Survivor Steve Barry mentions forward artillery spotters in his memoirs- and Henry was one of them. Much of what follows is his testimony as given to the Breman Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, interspersed with his memories as privately published in  his war memoirs.

I was born in Dortmund, Germany in 1923. During 1937 and 1938 my parents made applications for me to emigrate to Palestine, New Zealand and the USA. The USA visa came in first and an emergency visa was issued to me the week Hitler invaded Austria, as the various agencies feared that this invasion would be followed by war.

I left Germany on March 31, 1938, leaving my parents behind. In the meanwhile, my father had already been arrested. He was accused of having made statements against the government. He was released with the promise to abandon his business and livelihood. Consequently, we lived without income during the years 1937 and 1938. After I left Germany, my father was picked up again on Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938) and he died a couple of months later from the wounds received when he was picked up and arrested. My mother died a few months later. The death certificate of my father stated the cause of death as “heart failure” and only in 1999 did I finally locate the documents that verified what happened in 1938, but too late to entitle me to compensation, which had been denied because their records showed a natural death.

The Birmingham Section of the council of Jewish Women sponsored my immigration to the US, and the social services were provided by the Jewish Children Service here in Atlanta. I moved to Atlanta in January 1939. In Birmingham and Atlanta I lived in foster homes.

I supported myself by working in a clothing store, later managing a shoe store, and in 1942 I went to work for a local accountant. In 1943 I joined the US Army. In 1944 I was with the Normandy invasion forces. During my service in the army, but towards the end of the war, I came across  a train of cattle cars full of Jewish concentration camp survivors and people who did not survive. We opened the cars and were shocked to see the condition of the occupants of these cattle cars. During this same week as we were advancing toward the Oder River, we passed ditches full of corpses of concentration camp inmates who had been marched to the West to escape the Russian advance. Around April 1945, I became a counter intelligence agent and interrogated German POWs and citizens.

After the war, I found out that most of my family had perished in the concentration camps. My mother was one of ten children, and out of that family, two first cousins survived. These cousins had made aliyah in 1937. My father was one of three brothers and again, two first cousins survived. One had made aliyah to Israel in 1938 and the other one survived behind the Iron Curtain. The rest of the family perished. I found documents in the Berlin archive that showed when these people were born and when they died. What I was not prepared for was the detail of information which included the place they were assembled, the number of the transport which took them to the concentration camp and all sort of sordid details.

Henry continues: During World War II, I wanted to get to our hometown but I could not because the British Army was over there and we were a little bit south of there, but my experience as a soldier I think is worth mentioning. First of all, we were in the neighborhood of Magdeburg on reconnaissance. And we had, we had this horrible odor. We didn’t know what was happening. And it turned out to be one of the freight trains full of Jews being shipped from one concentration camp to another. And therefore I was able to personally witness this terrible inhumanity that was taking place. And all of these were my fellow Jews and brothers and everything else. They were almost, they had been reduced to such a non-human state it was impossible to communicate with them. I mean, all we could do is to try to get them food and ask for help. There was nothing we could do. These people were half dead, half crazy. I mean they’d been locked in these cars, were lying on the floor. It was just a horrible thing to witness, and something I’ll never forget as long as I live.


And from Henry’s memoirs…. skeptics note again a liberator describing “walking skeletons” ….We moved on to the Braunschweig (Brunswick) area. Here, along the highway, we encountered ditches full of dead concentration camp prisoners who had been marched from one camp to another and were shot before they had a chance to be liberated.
…In April of 1945 while on reconnaissance near Magdeburg we encountered a horrible odor. As we got closer we discovered an abandoned train of cattle cars. When we opened the cars they were filled with half dead and dead Jews being transported from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to another camp. The sub-human conditions to which these people were subjected to had reduced them to a very sorry state. We did not know how long they had been in those cars, they looked like walking skeletons and could barely speak. Unfortunately we had no food to share with them, which gave us a very helpless feeling. When headquarters was notified, someone evacuated all German civilians from a nearby village, Hillersleben and turned this village into a hospital. Unfortunately we could not stay around to learn more, to speak to and encourage these people or perform other deeds of human kindness…I was reminded of the words of the prophet Ezekiel-”He took me down in the spirit of G-d and set me down in the valley. It was full of bones.”

…and this is where I (MR) am trying to put the pieces of the story together….


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