I’m a teacher.
This blog is about the Power of Teaching.
If you decide to spend a few moments here, you will see what I mean…
Start by studying the photograph below.
I mean, click on it to enlarge, really look at it.
Study the faces.
Imagine being the man behind the lens…
This online journal was begun to chronicle the unfolding of something very special in my career – the re-connection of a train transport full of 2500 Holocaust survivors with the American soldiers who liberated them on April 13th, 1945 near Magdeburg, Germany.
As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction. Still, I have to believe that there are other forces at work.
The project has since located 10% of the passenger list, folks who are still alive. Maybe more accurately is that many of them have found us.
Many have had the opportunity to meet the liberators you will meet inside.
The story begins on an April day in 1945. It is rekindled in a summer conversation between an intrigued history teacher and an animated World War II veteran, two generations later. What happens next changes thousands of lives…
I’ve said for years, since I was first privately shown it by the American tank commander whom I interviewed in 2001, that the above photo would be destined to become one of the iconic photographs of the Holocaust.
Now it looks as if many people agree with me-since being discovered at my website, it’s now apparently being labeled as one of the 40 Of The Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken “A moving collection of iconic photographs from the last 100 years that demonstrate the heartbreak of loss, the tremendous power of loyalty, and the triumph of the human spirit.”
You can also find it in this online collection.Throughout the past decade or so I have worked very hard to bring the story of the American soldiers and the Holocaust to light. I did my own interview with tank commander Carrol Walsh in July 2001. Walsh mentioned the train, almost as an afterthought following two hours of conversation (ABC video here), when prompted by his daughter, and directed me to his friend on the West coast, George C. Gross, who had a negative of the photo and ten others of the train liberation that he himself took. He gave me his blessings and his narrative of the liberation and I posted to my school oral history website in 2002. It sat there for four years, then we heard from our first survivor in Australia, a grandmother who had been a little girl on the train. Chris Carola of the Associated Press (AP) picked up the story, I organized reunions and today we have had 10 of them, with three major ones occurring at our high school to benefit students.
Today, with the help of soldier liberator Frank Towers and survivor’s daughter Varda Weisskopf of Israel we have tracked down nearly 230 survivors who have been very moved to discover fellow survivors and also the soldiers who freed them and who also nursed them back to health. I’ve created this blog to chronicle the unfolding of this story.
We have not yet found the mother and daughter in the photo here. But we have found others who do recognize themselves in Dr. Gross’ photos.
What makes the photos so special is that they reveal the moments of liberation. When you think Holocaust and Jewish prisoners and trains, the images that stay with you are of victims being transported or offloaded at death camps to extermination. In the words of a recent Israel documentary,
Trains in the Holocaust usually carried people to the last stop of their lives. The train of which Matt Rozell heard was a different one.
It was going from death to life.
The blog also includes other items of interest to the history teacher and teachers in general. Thanks for stopping by.
History Teacher, Hudson Falls High School, New York State.
NSDAR National Recipient Founders’ Medal for Education 2012
Organization of American Historians Teacher of the Year 2010
NYS DAR Outstanding Teacher of American History 2009
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow
TO CLOSE: Israeli educational psychologist Haim Ginott writes about a letter that teachers would receive from their principal each year:
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates.
So, I am suspicious of education.
My request is this: Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.