2011 American Soldiers-Holocaust Survivors Symposium and Reunion
Hudson Falls High School, Hudson Falls, New York
September 20-23, 2011
Three weeks before the end of World War II in Europe, on the morning of Friday, April 13th, 1945, the 30th Infantry Division and attached units were fighting their way eastward in the final drive through central Germany toward the Elbe River. A small task force was formed to investigate a train that had been hastily abandoned by German soldiers near the town of Magdeburg, Germany. The boxcars were filled with Jewish families that had survived the infamous concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen and were now being transported away from the advancing Allies to another death camp location. Scores of children were among the prisoners. Two weeks later, Soviet troops liberated a second train transport from Belsen.
In 2001, as part of a class project collecting the testimony of World War II veterans, Mr. Matthew Rozell, a teacher at Hudson Falls High School, interviewed one of his student’s grandparents, a tank commander who told him this story. This long forgotten event was about to spring to life. Holocaust survivors all over the world who had been children aboard the death train began to find their rescuers’ narratives and even the photographs of the day of their liberation near Magdeburg in 1945 on this oral history website, www.hfcsd.org/ww2, produced by Mr. Rozell and his students. Mr. Rozell created a second website, www.teachinghistorymatters.wordpress.com, devoted to collecting these testimonies and recording the unfolding organic nature of this reconnection of survivors and liberators.
Today, over 200 living survivors of this train have been located, and now have the opportunity to get together with the soldiers who freed them 66 years ago.
Our 2011 theme is “Repairing the World”. The trauma of the Holocaust and of World War II left its mark on the survivors and soldiers of WWII; this will also be an occasion to remember the sacrifices of the veterans of all wars. In sharing stories, participants have the opportunity to help heal the world, in the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam. The primary focus of the conference will be on education; it will be witnessed by as many as 1500 students and thousands more via a live feed on our school website, and it will be recorded for educational purposes. In 2009, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Bergen Belsen Memorial in Germany sent representatives, and this year will be invited again; researchers from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans may be here as well.
In addition, a book fair and photographic exhibition will be held with several authors in attendance, speaking and signing their books. Major news organizations are expected to cover the event, and it is hoped that a documentary film crew will also be here.
Our high school facilities are “state of the art”, and our auditorium is air conditioned, just a scenic 15-20 minute ride away from hotels at the most beautiful time of the year.
Tuesday, the welcoming reception and dinner will be held at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge Resort (www.sixflagsgreatescapelodge.com). On Wednesday morning, we will have a welcoming breakfast for you with students and school officials at a restaurant near the school. Lunches will be catered between programs at the school, on Wednesday evening, the Lake George Steamboat Company (www.lakegeorgesteamboat.com) has again generously agreed to custom charter a welcoming dinner cruise for our students, soldiers and survivors and our sponsors. Following Thursday’s school program, dinner will be held at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge Resort; the concluding activity after Friday’s school program will be the final banquet at the Dunham’s Bay Resort (http://www.dunhamsbay.com).
The Adirondack Balloon Festival (www.adirondackballoonfest.org) is the same week, and should also provide quite a spectacle.
You may email me at email@example.com for a reunion registration form and a hotel reservation information sheet. Shuttle service is available to and from Albany International Airport (ALB), about an hour south just down I-87, the Adirondack Northway. It is highly recommended that you make your reservations as soon as possible to guarantee your places; rooms now being held will be released after 8/20. With the ADK Balloon Festival the same week, hotels are filling fast; cancellations can be made later, if necessary.
Please join us for this final reunion/educational symposium.