tv Matthew Rozell A Train Near Magdeburg CSPAN November 9, 2021 7:44pm-8:26pm EST
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weekends on cspan2. >> hi my name is matt roselle i am a retired history teacher from upstate new york. this is my presentation regarding my collection of world war ii interviews that i did over the past 20 years. one story in particular about a train that was liberated by a tank battalion from the u.s. army and the closing days ofd world war ii. what the soldiers of found and what led to 65 -- 70 years later. it is called the train near and it is about the eyewitness accounts of the holocaust and our world war ii generation. a little about me, i am a retired history teacher as i said. graduated from the same high
school i am currently writing my ninth book i i write world war ii oral history. i am also a united states memorial museum teacher fella fromri 2008 -- 2009. i have worn a few awards the american stories of 2010 engagement their national award. i thought a lot of extensive travel of the ups and sites of thee holocaust. my own state, new york, awarded meet their highest award for teaching of the holocaust. and i studied in jerusalem for three weeks. again deep dive into theol holocaust. this is a story bringing together things i learned ith did write a book about it. i was also named a righteous human being by the greater glens fall jewish community in 2018 they gave me this nice
granite stone to commemorate high achievements in bringing together survivors of the holocaust with their american liberators. it is in her village park it's really nice. and now i am not buried under it yet. so this is me again i started teaching in the late '80s. this is some of might world war ii cohorts. he thought it was a really important to spend more thanme thepe required one or two days in history teaching of world war ii. so in the late '80s i would invite these veterans to come into the classroom.i one thing i found out was these veterans, they were ready to tell their stories. i encouraged my students to take home the simple surveys i made up in fact i bribe them with extra credit to have your
grandfather, your grandma that your parents even in some cases fill in the sheets and get them back to me. maybe we will start to invite them in and that is exactly what we did. i'm going to flip there a couple of these sheets but i saw them last night i did it deep dive into my archives this is late 1980s. this gentleman was 66 years old at the time. and as you know are world war ii generation is leaving us in droves. this is at least 30 years ago per here's a machine gunner and was combat seen and wounded. yes shot by a machineji gun okay, some more kept coming in this gentleman was from the european theater of operations he was a surgical technician. he was 75 at the time. combat was seen as hit by
german fighters from christmaser eve through the month of january 1945. he's definitely timeout battle of the bulge here. i had a question at the bottom what does it feel like to know you are part of a great historical epic? the defining event of the century. i'm glad i was part of world war ii where the jobs of bombed harbor everybody wanted to go. we felt it was our duty to fight for our country. so i got a fewew of these. this is a gentleman was a machine gunner, northern france was combat seen yes he was wounded twice. here is a man who was in the pacific read the philippines in december was hit by a typhoon, plus three destroyers in the group we were with.
last three men from thee triple went ashore in the open up. what is it feel like to know you are part of this event? it was a job to be done and we did it, pretty common response. i ended with this question, what experiences or advice can you share the young people of today to help make the second world war more relevant? if you're ever called up for service during that time, do the best that you can to depend on each other you have to survive, survival was working together. war is not a gung ho thing, or is hell. we lost almost half of our company we did not see as much fighting a sum of the other companies that lost most of their men. oneth company ended up with 17 out of 200 men left we must live in peace. they have a message for young people. it was combat seen real? did not enter into combat
because of the m death of two brothers, the law stated as i received the letter from major general and the washington d.c. we have seen some of those telegrams. the death notices were delivered to the families. he continues with this one, describe a memorable experience what is your situation like maybe help define you today. he said this experience i will never asked came when i was notified here's a another gentleman also angry at first to find so many changes such as unemployment and some veterans benefits. 250-dollar bonus from new york. i never use the 52 -- 20 club, $20 a week for 52 weeks.
too proud. i think this new generation is in for some hard times. too much alcohol and drug abuse it. my prayers are for my grandchildren to get a good education and that they will never have to go to war. at the time of meat being involved, partaking some of the events of the time is a very hard time in my life. it was a very patriotic feeling at the same time as it is now. he continues, it is with my thoughts a person young or old of this great country of ours, the good old u.s. of a that show every day life. the wars of the country have had many over the decades for the freedoms that many take for granted. many of your young men have given their lives for us that we can be free in this country thus we should honor them in any way we can. one wrote their grandfather's response they felt they had a job toon do and he did it.
he tries to forget it now. i like this one, so synced. damn glad when it was over. and finally this is one that struck me the most i don't know how you can make the young people of today what it was like to go through a nightmare like world war ii. and that hit me because i don't know, i was not there i was born 16 years after the war ended. but to go through a nightmare like world war ii, how do you make a person understand that? he really can't. i took this as a challenge. so i set the kids out pretty went into the community we began to collect these oral histories while we could. the veterans many times came into the classroom. we had big assemblies in the school library where they would collectively or individually tell their stories. and they appreciate it.
they made a bond with the younger generation that perhaps this bridge, besides their own grandchildren they might not of had before. there is a mutual, mutual appreciation and it was beautiful. i continued going on doing these interviews. one day in the summer of 2001 i was invited to go to a house out of my students grandfather was in town foror the summer c retired supreme court state justice. he told me a story that would eventually wind up changing not only my life but his life. the life of his american combat veteran friends and the lives of the holocaust survivors that he came upon on april 13 covid 1945. the interesting thing about this story in the tank
battalion to shipping overseas to the lowest form of a life landing in normandy in july are working with the infantry's are pushing through the battle of normandy up into belgium. the battle of the bulge, crossing the line and finally into germany. so he told me ten months of stories. some are funny, he was a funny guy. he was 80 years old at the time, very spry. we got to the end of the interview, it was two hours long. great conversation with the man and his daughter chimed in, she had been very in the background. she said dad to tell about the
train question like i said no i didn't. so we started to tell me this story that would wind up changing probably thousands of lives atab this point. so, his friend, he is on the right. his other buddy with the pipe in his arm around the shoulder was a georgia grocer. they are both in the seven or 4d battalion. they both had battlefield commissions in those ten months the each commanded their own tanks. april 13 covid 194587 or 43rd tank battalion which was attached to the 30th infantry was pushing towards the river. they and their major or pulled out of the tank column. somebody said there is a train stalled up by the tracks. we need to figure out what is
going on. there individuals around this train. clarence benjamin he was from california. he jumped in the jeep with his driver and had these two tanks follow him on a scouting mission there on their way tool fight a major battle the final batter battle isn't world war ii. the soviets are coming in, the red army on the other side paid the americans are pushing through central germany butth this train is in the way. the major pulls up, he stands up in the jeep and snaps this photograph first after action report. you can see the drama in this photograph. so showed me the photograph and told me i should get a
hole in california, still alive, retired professor at the university of san diego because gross had a camera to that day. there is the photo in the after action report which is buried in a national archive. this photograph remained buried until it was shown to me by walsh and gross. several photographs are taken by doctor gross. he gave me permission to put this story on her school website because by this time i was taking these interviews, the kids were helping me b transcribe them and we were putting them up at eight world war ii living history project page. got two or three hits a day. doctor gross wrote up this e beautiful narrative of his remembrances. now his tank stayed with the
train over night. walsh's tank was ordered to continue on, they had a battle to fight. this is one of the reasons walsh, for him it was another day in combat as you're going to hear from him later in this talk. not to make light of it he says. so many things are happening but don't forget he almost forgot to tell me the story. so the photographs went up in her school website. unbeknownst to me, at the bergen bells and thus that notorious concentration camp in northwest germany. today there is a memorial there which i visited. the gentleman they are, the historian there had found my photographs they were literally sharing photographs he gave permission to put on the school website. of survivors who were on that train. out of the blue one day i was given a task to my classroom i think it was 2006 of this is
four years after put the stories up i got an e-mail from a woman in australia pretty see her picture here,ra she was a 7-year-old girl that day on the train. she said that when she saw on the website and the photographhe of the date of her liberation, she fell off her chair and started to cry butel she got on the phone and she found doctor gross i put her in touch and today, lexi and her family are close friends with the families of walsh and doctor gross who has since passedd away. well, i got really excited. in fact i shed a tear sitting in front of my computer when the kids are taking their testimony got the e-mail i was in shock. less than a month later i heard from another survivor and by the following fall i had heard from two more.
these people are very highly educated professional man. they were families in a special camp hence you do not see the striped pajamas type uniform, present outfit. but i got thinking, i said you know what? walsh is right here it is september 2007, i note two of the guys. one lives in new jersey the other is a physicist and brooklyn college in new york city the man on the far left is coming in to visit. he was a brain surgeon from king's college in london. very highly educated man. they came up to the high school but i arrange it so they could meet theirlo liberator.ey now, i had a friend who worked for the associated press out of albany. he came up and did a story.
but before it went live he w said matt, i've got to tell you. you better get your teachers ready, your secretaries ready because i think the story is going to go viral. this is in 2007. viral meant a different thing back then. but, he was right. that is exactly what happened. so they met in our school auditorium for the first time. we had a lovely breakfast, students were everywhere invited to breakfast. obviously they were in the audience listening to the testimony of all of these four men. they left and went on their weight but we recorded everything. and the newspaper article, when it hit the wire it got picked up all over the place. the next morning, which is a friday september 14, 2007 i actually shopping for a new computer at staples.
the salesman was trying to get me too buy a monitor go with it pretty pushed a button, the monitor flickered to life and this was the home screen.as it was the front page news on yahoo news pays back when yahoo was a thing. and low and behold there is walsh is a picture of the ap photographer took right in my classroom. it did indeed go viral. it literally shut the servers down and the school over the weekend. i broke the internet. by the end of that weekend i had heard from 60 more survivors. i mean the story went everywhere, canada, united states, israel. so over the course of the years that followed we have heard from hundreds of holocaust survivors who survived and went on to live because of these gentlemen.
we hosted three reunions att our high school, 2007 was the first one. 2009 abc world news came up we were there persons of the week that was really cool. and we did a final one at the high school in 2011. we also did one in israel, a big one. we had 11 reunions over all. i became an official lay member if you will of the veterans of world war ii association. i met the president who happened to bee the liaison officer between the 30th infantry division and the seven or 43rd tank battalion. frank was actually the soldier he was in his mid- 20s, who was the man who took these people on saturday, the 14th of april 1945 and got them out of harm's way. there is an abandoned german base it was a proving ground
for some of their advanced weaponry accepted by their hospital there is, there were german nurses, there were german doctors. this is where the people stayed for six weeks to get healed up. the russians end up taking over the site at the end of the war. i wrote thehe book, i train near magdeburg it took me about ten years. and it just allth came together about this time in 2016. i try to tell the story of the holocaust and part of the presentation today, the story of what the soldiers went through, their story in their end of it normandy, into belgium, battle of the bulge, crossing "over the rhine" river in this liberating scene. that i write about the actual liberation day in the book concludes with the liberators and the survivors meeting each other.
we have a documentary in the works. it should be in pbs spring of 2022. i knew i had to get this book out of meat but i had a lot of questions. for example, how many people were murdered and the holocaust? you probably know that number if you are an educator like me, you think you know that number. what does that number look like? can you picture 6 million dead jewish people? how many camps were there? that is a really good question. it's an ongoing one is you see in the next slide. put it together now, who is responsible for the biggest crime in the history of thee world? how do you make 6 million people disappear in the course of four and a half years? was it hitler alone? i think we know the answer to that which raises more questions. how are the people on this train, a snapshot of european
persecuted by the nazis and others? in otherer words, and researching the b story i found most of the occupants of this train or from a particular exchange camp and this camp was set up so these jews could be used as bargaining chips on the times got tough and they were getting a really tough in april 1945. they had certificates that indicated foreign governments were interested in their well-being. they were going to be used as bargaining chips, that was the plan. can i make people care today about what happened nearly three generations ago? most were of hungarian descent , we had people from the netherlands we had people from
all over their greek jews on that train. they all had stories and they all fit into the big picture called the holocaust. okay so we are collecting this testimony. then you have to ask yourself, why is it important to listen to those people for the first witnesses? what happens when the stories are no longer with us? once people have absorbed the stories do they have a moral responsibility to act on the losses? is there such a thing as being a witness when you yourself were not there, if you listen to this testimony? says yes. about three years before i finish the book and 12 years after i met judge walsh thisic article came out in the "new york times". the holocaust just got more shocking.
42500, did you know that number? this is from an article that's eight and half years old for the scholarship began right around the time i interviewed judge walsh. it is continuing to thisrv day. the figure is so staggering even holocaust survivors had to make sure they heard it correctly. the new numbers are unbelievable. that is a hard word, unbelievable. some people say it never happened it's not believable might think you're an expert but believe me that changes. by the time of 1945 thele
springtime after the americans are closing in on one side the british and the soviets are closing in on the other. this is from april 18 so this map right here shows you some red dots and the red dots or concentration from a book in the late 1980s. this probably 300 dots here. that is where many of these prisoners from these other camps are being shipped to, stay out of the way. so by the time the british liberated the camp on april 15, the transport had left the week before. they found 60000 people here. 10,000 were dead 800 died 800
people who got to see their liberators and died. another 13000 have since died since it was put up in the camp. probably two or three weeks after the british came in. so it's quite inexperienced to visit there. this is the first monument that was put up by the jewish community went there with a j bunch of teachers in 2013. were studying the holocaust here the photograph became a
whole different thing after that for five years coming to the united states or australia it's a very peaceful place today. it is very beautiful. here is our class were out walking in nature like it is a park stroll. this is the scene in the woods of april 1945 taken by the british. this is what the british soldiers walked into. this is what the survivors of the train were leaving. another shot these pictures were taken by the british army
probably about the same place this was photographed back in 1945, pretty graphic. gift to be judicious evenes the older ones you see a channel running towards the latrine same photograph 1945 this guy expired shortly after the photograph was taken. you may know her you definitely know her sister it's a margo and frank. did you know they died yes they were shipped after the discovery from the netherlands to a camp in the netherlands and then to i'll switch in the fall of 1944 by then they wound up or they probably died, while we know they
died. but we do know exactly when, they were sick. march, february, 1945. only a few weeks before the camp was liberated. this particular monument says here lie 800 dead. this may be where those two beautiful girls wound up. it is a cemetery. these are mass graves, here lie 1000 at april 1945. all over the grounds of the memorial today.od it's pretty graphic. a lot of the people obviously died from starvation and disease, typhus was raging through the camp it probably killed the frank roles. some of the train occupants were victims themselves. not a pleasant way to go. the british burned the camp to the ground in the middle of may. about a month after liberation
mainly to combat the spread of this typhus disease disease. today it is not there. you have to use your imagination but the photographs help. this means the keeper of the book of names at the memorial, he contacted mate you can see the photographs in the lower corner that they found on our school website. and then they talk about the train transports. so these three transports the people word exchange papers leftn the camp april 6 i believe the first train left followed by another two in the next couple of days. they were headed to the camp circled in blue the bottom of the map. which is actually the last concentration camp that was liberated it was liberated by the russians on the last day of world war ii may 8. they were trying to get thesese people out so they could do something with them.
they wound up deciding to execute them in the end. so here's the root of the three chains. there liberated by the americans that they were a part of was liberated. the blue line is the oak river. the yellow line is the root of that train. there are two others liberated as well. the first one was liberated by the americans, the second one actually made it through or not exactly sure what happened to the people. the third one was liberated by the russians across the river on the 23rd. here's my friend, steve berry and his a liberator and this is one they meant for the first time in florida. i heard from steve and that weekend after we did our very afirst reunion. he said he was eating a bagel,
drinking a cup of coffee pretty open up the newspaper and spit his food out. he said this is the train i have been looking for for the last 60 years. they found out they live about an hour away from each other in florida. there is a reunion that was arranged. i'm going to give you a link you can watch thell video ofh their reunion. they described the scene of liberation from their ownsc perspectives. the letter you here at the end of the holocaust memorial museum did a presentation that the director herself stood up and asked if they could get that letter and the twos gentlemen agreed tool it. very significant for them you don't owe us anything we owe you everything for everything that was done she when the world did nothing about it. frank towers the man on the
left sitting next to frank junior his son a vietnam veteran the little polish girl who was 11 years old she was like my mom she lives in toronto canada. boy they hit it off.ve frank hit it off with everybody. this is frank init jerusalem got to meet 65 survivors in about 500 descendents who probably would not have been alive had it not been for frank. in the tank battalion from toronto this us with his precocious granddaughter who called his revenge, just love to meet his liberators.
she was four, she was orphaned, she was raised by other women. she had a great story. i visited her in israel a few times.nt she just recently passed away, leslie's gone, steve's gone, ariel is still alive though. there's a cute little girl. when 2011 came around we did our last reunion it was kind of hard to get people to come. they are not really young people anymore. the phone rang in my classroom, i mean my school put a phone in the classroom that had an outside line which is kind of unusual at the time. their fielding calls from all over the world for a while from survivors and soldiers i had not heard from anybody in four years though. the phone rang in the middlee of the lesson. i picked it up during my break time and it was this man.
he said matt i was a combat medic i took care of these people the soldiers would often fought their battles i stayed. he had a pretty dramatic story. i don't know if you've ever heard of this guy but he was a guest of the president in 2019 the state of the union address. he survived the massacre at the synagogue in pittsburgh. he was in a parking lot when the gunmen came out. in other words he was late and many of his friends died. so i read the story in the "washington post" about how he narrowly survived. of course they made a big deal but he was a holocaust survivor who had been saved before. b they started to talk about this train liberated by americans sure enough is on the train. we arrange the film producer, mike edwards and i,il for judah
and walter to meet in scranton, pennsylvania and walter's hometown. i will show the quick clip which is going to be in her film. >> it was a long time ago. over 70 years it is a lifetime sadly you know the time your memories become dimmed. but there are certain events in their lifetime. ♪ ♪ i remember the train stopped in the middle of the forest.
supplies are going to come and kill us all. sure enough you hear a rumble and it opens and the soldier hopped out and my father yelled americans. >> the responses see the star on the green painted tank and jeep is one is unbridled joy for those survivors it meant liberation y. it meant we were saved. ♪
>> that was pretty great moment. a week later, walter came to one of my talks in pennsylvania and he m met another survivor from brookland. it was beautiful. he died the following november. he was 95 a pretty said he read my book four or five times, there is a chapter about him in it. he said i'm not reading it because i'm in it i'm reading it because i want to learn more about the holocaust. his family put the book in his car coffin. that is the end of my story for now. i have several books it's world war ii oral history testimony. if you're interested you go to my website, but look for us on pbs. i know you probably have some questions and i probably went a little too fast for any
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