Although this story about rescuing Jews from a train headed to a Nazi death camp was known, this remarkable footage was just uncovered.
Rescuing Jews from Nazi Death
This footage is extremely important. And this story is miraculous. Thousands of Jews were saved here instead of facing certain death. Seeing these US troops rescuing Jews is chilling. The Holocaust is not some made up story, as Holocaust deniers want you to believe. There are still survivors – living proof – that the Nazis brutally murdered six million Jews. There are photos, actual footage, and testimonies. We must continue to tell the stories of the survivors and of those who were savagely killed. We must share the photos, show the films, and educate about the truth of the atrocities the Nazis carried out. This story of rescuing Jews from the death train is just one of many stories that must be told and told again.
“Stunning never-before-seen footage of U.S. soldiers liberating a train of 2,500 Jewish prisoners headed for a Nazi death camp in the dying days of World War II has been unearthed by an American high school history teacher. Dubbed the ‘Miracle at Farsleben’, the rescue operation occurred on April 13, 1945, when a train carrying Jewish prisoners from Bergen-Belsen to Theresienstadt concentration camps was forced to stop near the village of Farsleben to avoid being caught in the crossfire of an artillery battle between U.S. and German forces. The SS officers in charge, facing the prospect of not completing their grim task, had been instructed to execute as many of their captives as possible. But the Nazi officers abandoned their posts and fled when an American jeep and tank arrived on the scene, undoubtedly saving all 2,500 prisoners from the bleak fate that befell some 6 million of their kin.
The newly discovered three-minute clip portrays the aftermath of the liberation, showing the gaunt and battered survivors, many of whom were dressed in torn clothes and suffering from lice infestations, experiencing varying degrees of relief, euphoria and complete exhaustion as they realize they are being rescued. The footage was filmed by one of the soldiers from the American Ninth Army, who happened to have a camera on hand. The newly revealed footage has brought to life the harrowing accounts of the soldiers who rescued the prisoners, and four survivors from the train have since identified themselves. Holocaust survivor Jacob Barzilai, 90, told Israeli media that he spotted his 12-year-old self and his mother and sister in the footage. He told Channel 12 that in the past he has seen ‘innumerable’ photos of the train’s liberation, but had never been able to locate himself or any of his family in the images. ‘It was inconceivable, incomprehensible, and I couldn’t breathe, that I found what I had looked for over years,’ he said.
George Gross, a tank commander present at the liberation, recalled: ‘Everyone looked like a skeleton, so starved, their faces sick. And there was something else. When they saw us, they began to laugh with joy, if you can call it laughter. It was more like an outburst of pure, almost hysterical relief.’
The significant find is credited to Matthew Rozell, a dedicated history teacher from New York, who has been researching the Holocaust for over three decades. His mission to engage his students led him to interview local veterans of World War II, one of whom shared the incredible story of finding the death train at Farsleben. The story piqued his interest and sent him down a path of years of research, during which Rozell painstakingly unearthed more and more information about the Miracle at Farsleben. His efforts culminated in a book, ‘A Train Near Magdeburg: A Teacher’s Journey into the Holocaust’, published in 2016, and a documentary series with ITV. The latest footage was found by a team at the US National Archives after Rozell received a tip-off from a museum associate who had seen a brief clip on a German documentary. Rozell expressed the importance of this discovery, describing the footage as another piece of evidence to undermine the narrative of Holocaust deniers. ‘I don’t want to say I am gratified or vindicated, because even without this footage, this is an incredible story. But to actually see it is another nail in the coffin of Holocaust denial, we hope,’ the teacher said.
The footage’s authenticity has been verified by renowned historians of the Second World War, who emphasized the emotional impact of the scenes captured on film. Guy Walters, one such historian, described it as ‘astonishing’ and highlighted how the expressions of the survivors tell a profound story of both pain and relief. The survivors themselves, not clad in prison uniforms, were from a section of Belsen reserved for individuals who the Nazis believed could have been used as leverage in negotiations with foreign governments. But although they were treated relatively better than those herded directly into death camps, these prisoners still endured considerable suffering, experiencing malnutrition and diseases like typhus as they were starved and crammed into cramped, filthy living quarters.”