Posts Tagged ‘history’

I made this video tribute a few years ago for my students. When it ends, they always sit in silence. The speech at the beginning was to striking sanitation workers in Memphis the night before he was killed.

Even though his birthday was last week, we stop and recall today.

For the sake of humanity.

You may enjoy. Five minutes of your time. Click the little gear for HD viewing.

Good also for kids to see to begin the conversation.

Peace and every good wish.

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  I am re-posting this on the anniversary of a car crash that would claim the life of Holocaust survivor and later U.S. Army Ranger, Steve Barry.

My friend on the left described himself at one point in his life as the “Happiest Korean War Draftee”. Steve was a  survivor from Hungary who beat the odds and lived through the horrors of the Holocaust after the Germans invaded that country in 1944 and did their best to kill him on several occasions. He spent his 20th birthday jammed in a boxcar destined for Bergen Belsen, witnessed people dying of starvation and disease by the thousands,  and was liberated on April 13th, 1945 at the hands of the 743rd Tank Battalion and the 30th Infantry Division of the US 9th Army, aboard the train near Magdeburg.  He emigrated to the United States in Dec. 1948 after spending years in a displaced persons camp, applied for citizenship immediately, and was drafted in 1950, only to be assigned occupation duty in a far off nation- you guessed it-Germany. He was so happy to serve his adopted country…

Steve passed away yesterday, January 16th, 2012, after a long and difficult ordeal from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in September. I’ll always remember his special Christmas and Easter cards that he sent to me, made personally on his computer; his funny, self depreciating humor; and above all his overwhelming happiness at being able to finally meet the men who saved him. I hope that the memories sustain his wife Stella and his children and their families, and also the friends that he made later in life and became soulmates with- soldiers Carrol Walsh and Frank Towers, the soldiers who arrived on the scene to free him and help him begin his life anew.

Matthew Rozell, Stephen Barry, National DOR Ceremony, Washington, DC April 2010. This photo was taken the day after the 65th anniversary of Steve’s liberation in April 1945. We had just been honored by the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum before the national ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

I will leave you with a few of his words-and we will remember. Thanks, Steve, for all that you gave us, and for passing the torch to a new generation of students to carry your message forth.

An earlier post… The Holocaust Survivor and the US Army Ranger…

A fantastic national radio interview that I helped to arrange, knowing he would be the perfect speaker…

And the educational films I constructed from them.

 Stephen B. Barry, 87, of Boca Raton, Florida, passed away peacefully on January 16, 2012 following a serious car accident in late September 2011. A Holocaust survivor,who was proud to be an American, he went on to live the American dream. He is survived by his wife Stella of nearly 58 years, his children Barbara (Paul), Jamie (Jerry) and Randy and his beloved granddaughters, Amanda and Victoria and many extended family and friends. Services to be held at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel in Delray. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in his memory be made to The United States Holocaust Museum.
Published in Sun-Sentinel on January 18, 2012

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Dear Mr. Rozell,

Hilersleben -Luca Furnari

 My grandfather, Luca Furnari, is 90 years old and served in the 95th medical battalion with Mr. Gantz at Hillersleben. He has a number of photographs from this period.  For many years he has thought about trying to find a particular young girl who he helped sneak extra rations to at the DP camp and whose mother asked him to take back to the United States. He and some friends actually had a whole plan of how they were going to sneak her onto the boat back to the US, it’s a great story. Unfortunately, as you know, they were told they were going to the Pacific theatre and the plan became impossible.  Her name was Irene / Iren / Irena.  I have a photograph and have searched the manifest on your website, there are 3 possible people of approximately the right ages: Irena Gitler, Iren Roth and Iren Wittels.   I was wondering if you had come across any survivors from Hillersleben with the same name. 

Hilersleben-Irene is in the flowered dress

Also, I know my grandfather would love to be connected to any other surviving members from the US Army that were at Hillersleben.  

 My grandfather is the large picture on the left hand side.  Irene is in the flowered dress in the picture by herself and on the lap of another US soldier, whose name is Turner (?).  The picture with the baby is also Turner, and they are in the DP camp.  My grandfather’s inscription reads

Hilersleben-Turner-boy that kid sure did cry that day — until we gave her some chocolate.

“boy that kid sure did cry that day — until we gave her some chocolate”.  The picture of the building with barrels in the foreground is from Hillersleben too. It has a strange inscription from my grandfather

Hilersleben-some disorderly DPs getting a shower bath (DDT?)

“some disorderly DPs getting a shower bath”.  The one with the two girls just says “Two of the children that lived in the D.P. center we were taking care of. Cute eh hon?” (He was sending the pictures to my grandmother back in the States.)

The child Irene is the girl that my grandfather would like to try to locate. 

Soldier Turner and Irene.

Any help you can provide is MOST appreciated.


Hilersleben-Two of the children that lived in the D.P. center we were taking care of. Cute eh hon?

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“On April 30, 1945, Jewish-American G.I. Richard Marowitz  stormed into Hitler’s bedroom looking for anything he could bring back to headquarters.

Richard Marowitz of Albany , NY was on the scene for the liberation of Dachau. The following day he was at Hitler’s villa in Munich. Here is his story as told to Matthew Rozell and a group of students at Hudson Falls High School ten years ago.  Marowitz is a Jewish war veteran. Read the postscript to learn more about Hitler’s hat.

Richard M. Marowitz-42nd Rainbow Division-

The Liberation of Dachau

interviewed at Hudson Falls High School.

On the 29th of April 1945, my platoon was called into the command post, we were in a little village, I don’t remember the name of it, but it was probably about 25-30 miles from Dachau.  We were given new maps which showed Dachau, and we were told that the 20th Armored were already on the road to Dachau and our job was to take off and get to the tail end of the 20th Armored and be liaison between the 20th Armored and the infantry that would be coming down behind us in two and a half ton trucks, which is kind of idiotic but that’s the way the army was. The reason for that was we were having a race with the 3rd Division on one side of us, and the 45th Division on the other side of us, and they wanted the 42nd to win the race. So we took off on the road going very quickly like we usually do – if we came to a tree, the woods, or a village, we would stop and reconnoiter and find out if it was ok to go through without getting killed – and we kept getting pushed on the radio, ‘where are you,’ ‘what are your Greek coordinates,’ and ‘what’s taking so long? We are going to lose the race.’  After awhile of this kind of nonsense, Lieutenant Short stopped us and he said we to have to make a choice, either we’re going to have to step on the gas and go like hell and let surprise be on our side, or we’re going to lose the race and then everybody is going to get mad at us.  So we decided to step on the gas and go like hell, which is what we did. In the process, we ran into a whole lot of little hornet’s nests – it would have made a movie you wouldn’t have believed anyways – for example, we cut a German convoy in half that was going across a road that we were on, firing as we went through they didn’t know what happened because we weren’t supposed to be there and they were driving off the road. We did the same thing with another convoy that was going on a road in the opposite direction and parallel to ours, and we just fired on them as we went.  We came upon a village, and somebody fired on us and we went up on a small knoll next to the road and we dragged all the junk we had accumulated on the bottom of our jeeps like bazookas, mortars, etc. We fired on them and they probably thought they hit the front of the division. There’s no way they could’ve assumed it was only 28 men. Lieutenant Short stood up, honest to God, he actually said this: “Three men assault the town.” Three of us went in, Larry, myself and Howard Hughes, that’s his real name – great BAR man, Browning automatic rifle …and we claimed the first few houses, we accumulated 160, 170, 180 prisoners who looked around expecting to find more of us.  We broke up their weapons, told them to put their hands on their heads and walk back up the road.  They looked at us like were crazy; we looked back like we weren’t.   We went through another village and a German fired a panzerfaust, which is like a German bazooka, it landed on the other side of us and blew us out of the jeep. We dispatched quickly and we got back in the jeep and took off again.  These are the kinds of things that happened on the way to Dachau. 

When we got close to Dachau, you see there are a lot of smells in war, you smell the death smell all the time, but it’s usually farm animals who were rotting in the fields who were killed, rotting or whatever.  As we got closer to Dachau, we got this awful smell and we assumed it was farm animals, that we were going to pass a farm, or whatever. We finally got to the outskirts of Dachau and were pinned down.  Dachau was a favorite camp of the Germans, their first major camp, it was in Germany.  They didn’t want to give it up the other camps were walkovers.  The Germans just left them, and that was it.  But in this case at Dachau, they didn’t want to give it up too easily, there were a lot of SS guys around.  They were dropping some SS on us, and a lot of snipers – at one point an American tank came out of Dachau.  We were stuck in the ditch at that point, we stood up and realized we made a mistake when the gun came down on us – but at that instant, an American tank destroyer came up behind us and blew the tank away.  It happened to be an American tank that had been captured by the Germans and the guys in the tank destroyer knew that we didn’t have any tanks in there so therefore it had to be a captured tank.  I kissed a tank destroyer that day.     

    At that point, they told us to clean out the snipers and then proceeded to go into the camp.  At the outskirts of that camp, we went into a house – we banged on it, it was like a little small farm on the outskirts.  The door opened and there was a mother, a father, a daughter and a dog.  The mother had buckteeth, the father had buckteeth, the daughter had buckteeth, and when I looked down and saw that the dog had buckteeth, I was just hysterical.   It was the funniest sight, I was tense you know, and I could use anything at that point for a laugh.   Of course the other guys looked at me like I was nuts! Anyway, we did find some snipers – one we did away with that was firing away from a house nearby.  After we silenced him, we went up to see who it was.  He was eleven or twelve years old, one of the Hitler youth, who were actually worse than the SS.  They were just so brainwashed … we ran into a lot of those kids in their short pants. 

On the siding, you saw pictures of it in the slides, outside of the camp, adjacent to the camp, there were actually forty boxcars of bodies and

American soldiers of the U.S. 7th Army, force boys believed to be Hitler youth, to examine boxcars containing bodies of prisoners starved to death by the SS. USHMM

we found one man alive in that forty…there are some pictures of that one man, I don’t know whether he survived or not.  The prisoners were just walking skeletons, and they just dropped where they were and died.  There were piles of bodies, of bodies that had been gassed and readied for the ovens.  Some of them still lived because those boxcars were brought to Dachau to burn those bodies.  It was a total mess.  And the smell was not a farm; it was Dachau that we had smelled miles before we got there.  And yet, people in the village who were right next to the camps said they didn’t know what was going on.  People in Munich, which was actually only nine miles from Dachau, didn’t know what was going on.  Now if you want to believe that, the Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale.

    I never went back and I don’t intend to, I don’t feel like I want to.  But it is almost impossible to describe the feelings, so I’m not going to try.  But when you looked around some of these tough soldiers were throwing up and crying all over the place.  It is not possible to really describe the number of feelings you get when you walk into something like that.  Because that’s a scene that … well, first of all nobody told us about the camp!  We had no idea what a concentration camp did.  We were going to Dachau, period.  It was another village as far as we were concerned.  That’s kind of a shock to get all at one time. 

Interview recorded on May 3, 2002.

See Rich and I in a 2014 NBC LEARN video here.


“On April 29, 1945, the 42nd Rainbow Division 222nd I&R platoon entered the gates of Dachau. One of many units sent to liberate the death camp, they saw first-hand the horrors of Hitler’s death machine.

The next day, 12 men of the I&R were ordered to search Adolph Hitler’s Munich apartment for military intelligence. Jewish-American G.I. Richard Marowitz, self-appointed wiseacre of the unit, stormed into Hitler’s bedroom looking for anything he could bring back to headquarters.

All he found was a black top hat.

Still angered by what he had seen at Dachau, Marowitz flew into a rage and jumped on the hat, crushing it, imagining Hitler’s head still inside. Then Marowitz, known for his comic antics even under stress, put Hitler’s crushed hat on his head and marched through the apartment with his best imitation of Charlie Chaplin doing Hitler from The Great Dictator. Tense from the day before, the I&R unit cracked up. Years later Marowitz found out that the same day he stomped Hitler’s hat, the Führer committed suicide in his bunker.

Marowitz returned home to Albany, N.Y., with the ultimate war souvenir stuffed into his duffel bag. He became a clothing manufacturer and professional magician and rarely talked about his war experiences. For the next 50 years, Hitler’s hat fittingly sat in a brown paper bag, buried at the bottom of his magic trick closet.

Following Marowitz to a Rainbow Division reunion, Hitler’s Hat interviews his I&R unit buddies to retell the story of Hitler’s hat. Daring and innovative, the documentary presents a rare mix of humor and history in an original take on World War II.”

“The Story of Hitler’s Hat”,

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April 17th. (1945)

Dear Chaplain;-

Haven’t written you in many months now, its funny how a few moments are so hard to find in which to write a letter way past due; it’s much easier to keep putting it off the way I’ve done. I’ll try to make up for it in this letter.

Today I saw a sight that’s impossible to describe, however I’ll try. Between 2400 and 3000 German refugees were overran by my division during our last operation; most of them were, or had been, inmates of concentration camps, their crimes the usual ones, – Jewish parentage, political differences with der Fuhrer, lack of sympathy for the SS, or just plain bad luck. Not one of these hundreds could walk one mile and survive; they had been packed on a train whose normal capacity was perhaps four or five hundred, and had been left there days without food.

Our division military government unit took charge of them, and immediately saw what a huge job it was going to be, so they sent out a call for help. Several of our officers went out to help them organize the camp they were setting up for them. The situation was extremely ticklish we soon learned; no one could smoke as it started a riot when the refugees saw the cigarette, and we couldn’t give the kiddies anything or they would have been trampled to death in the rush that would result when anything resembling food was displayed. The only nourishment they were capable of eating was soup; now the army doesn’t issue any of the Heinz’s 57 varieties, so we watered down C-ration[s] and it served quite well.  It was necessary to use force to make the people stay in line in order to serve them. They had no will power left, only the characteristics of beasts.

A few weeks of decent food will change them into a semblance of normal human beings; with God willing the plague of disease that was already underway, will be diverted; but I’m wondering what the affect of their ordeal they have been through, will be on their minds; most will carry scars for the rest of their days for the beatings that they were given. No other single thing had convinced me as this experience has that Germany isn’t fit to survive as a nation. I’ll never forget today.

I was going to write mother tonight but thought better of it. I’ll be in a better frame of mind tomorrow. I’m only a few dozen miles from Berlin right now, and its hard to realize the end is in sight. I’m always glad to receive your scandal sheet. You perhaps missed your calling, as your editorial abilities are quite plain.

As ever,

Charles.             (transcribed by Kaylee Merlow, HFHS ’11.)

March 11th, 2009

Dear Mr. Rozell:

My father-in-law was 1st. Lt. Charles M. Kincaid. He was a Liason Officer with the 30th. Division Artillery.  He was honored with an Air Medal in the battle of Mortain and a Bronze Medal in the battle of St. Lo.  In the battle of Mortain he won his Air Medal by calling in artillery adjustments while flying in a Piper L-4 over 4 panzer divisions on August 9, 1944.

first-lt-chuck-kincaid-sept-1944He rarely wrote home. He did write home to his minister about one event that evidently really caused him to stop and think. Attached is a copy of that letter that his sister transcribed – making copies for others to read.  The letter describes the Farsleben train and his experience there.

I need to thank you for your website and work. You and your students work enabled me to connect the letter with the actual historical event. It further enabled me to show my children the pictures and to make their Grandfather’s experience real, not just an old letter – that this event so affected him that he needed to tell his minister before he told his mother.

Thank you,
Mark A.

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Holocaust survivor recalls kindness of US troops

Another survivor of the train near Magdeburg appears. International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2012. I hope she finds her way to this site so she can meet her actual liberators! Thanks for Leslie Meisels for tipping us off to the article. Aliza’s memoir of life in the Warsaw Ghetto and beyond is very moving and can be found here.

By GIL SHEFLER 01/27/2012 00:34

“The American soldiers didn’t know what to do and they showered us with chocolates and cigarettes.”

Aliza Vitis-Shomron on Thursday vividly recalled her brush with death on the eve of her liberation from the Nazis in 1945.

The survivor, who spoke on a panel at the Kibbutz Yad Mordechai Holocaust Museum the day before the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, said a rumor had spread among the group of Jewish prisoners she was part of in Poland that they were about to be murdered.

Rather than surrendering them to the Allies closing in from the east and west, the prisoners feared their captors were planning to plunge their train into the Elbe River and drown everyone.

“Panic and fear spread quickly,” recalled the Polish-born Israeli who survived the Warsaw Ghetto and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. “Just as we were at the point of despair, two American tanks came rolling down a hill and saved us.”

The feeble Jewish prisoners emerged from the train and embraced the stunned soldiers of the US 30th Armored Division.

the tank commanders who freed her.

“We were crying with joy,” she said. “The American soldiers didn’t know what to do and they showered us with chocolates and cigarettes.”

Vitis-Shomron said she did not feel that she had defeated the Nazis.

“I did not triumph,” said Vitis-Shomron, an educator who has four great-grandchildren.

“What happened accompanies me, but I try to live and live well. I try to teach humanitarian values to our youths. We must never do upon others what was done to us.”

The panel Vitis-Shomron was part of at Yad Mordechai, the kibbutz named after the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Mordechai Anielewicz), included Simcha “Kojak” Rotem, who fought in the uprising, and former defense minister Moshe Arens.

It was one of many events held in Israel and around the world commemorating the remembrance day.

On Wednesday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris and members of the newly formed World Forum of Russian Jewry met at United Nations headquarters to honor the memory of those killed by the Nazis.

The AJC head said the lesson learned from the murder of six million Jews required the world to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.

“This past September, indeed on these grounds, the notorious Holocaust denier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke,” Harris said. “To their credit, several UN member ambassadors walked out, but, shamefully, the majority stayed in the General Assembly hall and applauded his remarks.”

The president of the World Forum of Russian Jewry, Ukrainian businessman Alexander Levin, joined the call urging the UN to take action against the Islamic Republic.

More Holocaust memorial events are planned for Israel and around the world on Friday.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and ambassadors from more than a dozen countries including Germany, the US, Egypt and the Philippines are set to gather at the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak near Netanya to take part in a memorial ceremony.

The UN designated January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005. It is marked by governments and organizations around the world.

Israel, however, observes its official Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 26th of Nissan, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, according to the Jewish calendar. Its selection reflects the Jewish state’s preference to emphasize Jewish resistance to the Nazis.


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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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