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A personal account of a microscopic event in the Holocaust - as seen from the survivors and their liberators
on September 23, 2016
Tell him about the train ...
In July 2001, history teacher Matt Rozel initiated a project to create testimoniews of World War II veterans, as part of an course to teach history to his students. When interviewing Carol Walsh, he learned of the story about how they came to a place where there was a long train of boxcars. As it turned out, it was full of concentration camp victims, transported from Bergen-Belsen to an unkown location. Unbeknownst to them, they were scheduled to be blown up on a bridge spanning the Elbe. But the Americans intervened, and the German SS guards had left the night before. They were free.
This is how it all started.
Matthew Rozell put this story on his website and thought nothing of it. However, he was suddenly contacted by a 'child survivor', who found his website and decided to contact him. This sat things in motion: Matthew Rozell was contacted by more and more survivors and decided to set up a reunion, to get the liberators and the people they liberated in contact.
This book describes the experience of not only Matthew Rozell, but the survivors and their liberators. Matthew wanted to do justice of the narrative by the Holocaust, as evidenced by this microcosmic event of the liberation of the train in the backdrop of the vastness of the macrocosm of the Holocaust. He utilizes the voices of those who were there, both f the surviviors and their liberators.
This book gives a dramatic and emotional account of how the lives of people - both survivors and liberators - were impacted by the events. It gives a good overview of the impact of the Holocaust in the eyes of simple people who just happened to be Jewish, but were people all the way.
The book is roughly divided in three parts, glued together into the narrative of the author. The first part deals with the Holocaust, the experiences for the people involved. The second part deals with their Liberators, how they experienced the discovery of the train. And the third part deals with the effort from Matthew Rozell, who set up the first reunion and the many more that were to follow, giving the survivors the chance to thank their liberators.
One moght think why this book should be read: there are so many books about the Holocaust and yes, we know it happened. But in no book that I have read up to this day, the story comes to live in such a personal way. How the lives of innocent people were impacted, what they went through and how they were formed by their experience. By zooming in on this particular event, you get to know what it was like - not only for the victims, but also for their liberators.
Or, as quoted in the book: It is important to have the past in front of you - not in the rearview as one moves forward.