I received this email while I was at the last liberator-survivor reunion.
March 27th, 2009.
“Dear Mr. Rozell,
My father was a medical officer with the 30th Infantry. It is astounding to me that I saw the article just now in the NY Times on line, and this week will be my father’s 20th Yahrzeit (anniversary of his death). Cornelius Ryan interviewed him for the book The Last Battle. On page 329 of that book he wrote:
“The psychological effect of the camps on officers and men was beyond assessment. On the Ninth Army front in a village near Magdeburg, Major Julius Rock, a medical officer with the 30th Infantry, came up to inspect a freight train which the 30th had stopped. It was loaded with concentration camp inmates. Rock, horrified, immediately unloaded the train. Over the local burgomaster’s vehement protests, Rock billeted the inmates in German homes–but not until his battalion commander had given a crisp command to the complaining burgomaster. “If you refuse,”he said simply, “I’ll take hostages and shoot them.”
After the book was published, my father received a letter from a Connecticut woman who had been a child on that train, along with her mother. Dad had never spoken about this to me, but he began to talk about it. He talked about the strict orders given about how to feed the liberated survivors; he said that only rice water was to be given for the first several days. I understand that in other places many survivors died in similar situations from gastro-intestinal shutdown from being overfed.
All of my father’s maps and pictures are archived in the Jewish War Veterans’ Museum in Washington, D.C. I do have some photocopies of some of the pictures, including, I believe, the train.
Thank you for keeping alive this outstanding testimony to the heroism of these brave soldiers, survivors and physicians.”
I’m heading to Washington this summer to conduct more research at the Holocaust Museum and to see Rock’s documents at the Jewish War Veterans’ Museum. I have located the woman in CT that this writer speaks of, as well as 60 or so other child survivors. Actually, she located me almost 2 years ago, and now Rock’s daughter has found me.
And to find this information in a major work that was published 4 decades ago is amazing to me. I asked the school librarian to see if we had it yesterday. He handed me a first edition that had not circulated since 1978! It is chock full of references to the 30th Infantry Division, and in the back I even found in his list of interviewees a 30th ID vet from Hudson Falls, NY, our own town! I’ll be chasing down that lead, you can be sure.
Post Script: I was very lucky to find author Cornelius Ryan’s (The Longest Day, The Last Battle, A Bridge Too Far”) daughter as well. He passed away in 1974. When the star studded film “A Bridge Too Far” came out, I remember it was one of the rare moments in high school when my father and I did something together and went to see the film at the local cinema (and I remember it vividly- we both commented how much our butts hurt from sitting for three hours in the uncomfortable chairs, but it was still a father-teenage son moment).
I also called the widow of the 30th Infantry Division veteran that Ryan interviewed for the book from our own small town- he passed away the same year as Ryan, 35 years ago. But his widow remembered the interview well. Now I’m off in search of additional liberators of the train in Ryan’s notes with his archivist in Ohio.
Mr Ryan’s daughter wrote to me a few nights ago (Mr. Ryan was born in Dublin, went to England, and served as a war correspondent before settling in the US):
“This is really a amazing series of events.. Strange, I was watching Schindler’s List on HBO last night and I was so moved by the ending when the living survivors paid tribute to him at his headstone. I guess I will never be able to “get my head around” what happened to the Jewish people and man’s inhumanity to man.
You have certainly touched on a special person in my life, my father. Oh how he would have loved to have heard this. I can just imagine him putting on his high British accent (something he learned to do when he went to England at 19 years old. Apparently having an Irish brogue was not synonymous with being particularly learned.). Anyway, he would have loved this new information and the fact you have located the woman in CT and so many other child survivors. I am pretty sure he would have been thrilled. While I know that my father was quite able to be true to the specific “facts”, I believe what interested him the most were the people. He used to say that the “major players” had plenty of notoriety and any “Tom, Dick or Harry could write about those poor bastards.” But he believed, it was the “little people, caught up in the tragedy of war” who had the real stories to tell. And once again, he was right.”
Cornelius Ryan was the rock star amongst U.S. WWII historians. To find these references in his book and to be in contact with his family… she concluded with:
“How great of you to send me news of this. There are really no coincidences…..these interlocking series of events were all truly too remarkable…Seems to me that someone is hollering at you to follow your dream. “