After two-year delay, author Matthew Rozell visits Magdeburg, Germany | Local & More News Here

HARTFORD — The story began in his classroom.

History instructor Matthew Rozell and his college students interviewed World War II veterans for the Hudson Falls High School World War II Living History Project he began within the Nineties.

A 2001 interview with retired U.S. Army Sgt. Carrol “Red” Walsh of Johnstown unearthed the story of the liberation of a practice close to Magdeburg, Germany — a narrative that changed into a e-book and an upcoming documentary movie.

On April 13, 1945, close to the top of World War II, Army Sgt. George Gross and Walsh have been deep within the coronary heart of Nazi Germany, a part of the U.S. thirtieth Infantry Division and the 743rd Tank Battalion, after they noticed a practice sitting on the tracks.

The practice contained 2,500 Jews being taken from Bergen-Belsen focus camp to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, a Nazi focus camp within the Czech Republic. The American troopers discovered the practice abandoned on the tracks and liberated the Jewish prisoners, saving them from extermination.

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Rozell shared images of the liberation on the varsity’s web site and ultimately turned the story into his second e-book, “A Train Near Magdeburg — The Holocaust, the survivors, and the American soldiers who saved them.”

A bunch of highschool college students close to Magdeburg discovered Rozell’s images and began the “Stranded Train Committee” to lift cash to construct a monument to recollect the day of the liberation, a topic the German college students by no means discovered about.

Rozell and filmmaker Mike Edwards have been planning to seize the monument dedication ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation in Germany in 2020.

But the occasion was canceled as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, a lone red-headed highschool scholar named Johanna Mücke positioned a bouquet of flowers on the web site.

Over Easter, Rozell lastly made the long-awaited journey to Magdeburg, a central German metropolis on the Elbe River, to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the liberation — two years later than anticipated. He introduced alongside a movie crew to conduct interviews and movie the dedication ceremony.

“After that first gig got canceled, we kind of decided we didn’t need to film all the hoopla,” Rozell mentioned, “we wanted to go and interview people. Unfortunately in the last two years, I lost like four or five survivors that we never got on film.”

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Rozell and the movie crew shot scenes at Bergen-Belsen, which is the place Anne Frank and her sister died. There is an exhibit there based mostly on Rozell’s e-book.

The place now seems to be like a park with mass graves, Rozell mentioned. The British liberated Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945.

“When the British got there on the 15th, there were 60,000 people there and a lot of them were sick and dying,” Rozell mentioned. “Eight hundred of them died the day the British arrived. So it was a nightmare. There were close to 10,000 corpses piled up.”

Rozell walked the route taken by the American troopers who liberated the practice. He met up with now-20-year-old Johanna Mücke, who acted as their tour information and translator and took them on to the liberation web site.

“I’d never met her before, and I’d never been to Magdeburg before, and I’d never been to the liberation site before,” Rozell mentioned. “This is what I’ve been doing with my life for the past 20 years.”

Rozell and a cameraman hiked down a ravine to the railroad tracks where the famous liberation picture was taken in 1945. When he arrived at the tracks — still a very active train route — a train rushed by, giving Rozell chills.

Seventy-seven years to the day, on a beautiful spring day, Walsh and Gross liberated that train.

Rozell is most impressed with the German students who have asked questions and learned about a past that many Germans want to forget. Many of the students had never met a Jewish person. They hadn’t learned about the Holocaust in school.

“Nobody knew, even though it was in their backyard, about this story,” Rozell mentioned.

Rozell took home rocks to remember his travels. He picked up a rock at the train site. 

“It’s actually a piece of that place that’s with me forever,” said Rozell, who remarked upon the details of a trip 20 years in the making.

The story has come full circle, he said, but the chapters are not yet complete.

“Just when you think it’s over, the phone rings or the email chimes and there’s a new survivor — quote unquote new — somebody who had never known the story before,” Rozell said, “and the book and the film is helping these people heal.

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“It’s bringing together the new generations with the ones that are leaving us,” he continued. “It’s bringing together former enemies, these dedicated German historians, who dedicate their lives to helping these Jewish families get a sense of closure. So the whole experience has been one of healing, and it’s healing for the soldiers and the families of the guys who fought in combat.”

Gretta Hochsprung writes options and hometown information. She might be reached at 518-742-3206 or ghochsprung@poststar.com.

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