The True Story Behind This Stunning 1945 Liberation Photo



A view outside of the Farsleben train at the moment of liberation, Friday the 13th of April, 1945. Two American tank commanders in Sherman light tanks and their major in a jeep liberate the train, deep in the heart of Nazi Germany. Stunned survivors come to the realization that they are saved from imminent death. Major Benjamin snaps the photo.


The story of how this photo came to light starts with New York History teacher, Matthew Rozell, who in July 2001 interviewed World War II US Army tank commander Carrol Walsh.  Though he was reluctant and first, his daughter prompted him to speak of the Farsleben train and a good friend named George Gross who had the negative of this photo as well as ten others.  Mr. Rozell found Mr. Gross and took down an amazing narrative, and after posting that narrative and photos on the blog, he figured the project was more-or-less over.  

A few years later, people who either were ON that train or related to someone who was started to reach out.  Mr. Rozell had created a space that allowed these people to connect, and since then the group has collectively tracked down 275 survivors and have helped organize or support 10 reunions.  

You can buy Mr. Rozell's book on his journey here


Another photo of the scene outside the last boxcar.  You can sense the level of exhaustion among the passengers, but also the happiness at their liberation. 


Another touching photo that shows a mother and son, all smiles.  


One of the only group photos showing many of those liberated.  If you look closely, you'll see some over-joyed children there toward the front!

This story about Mr. Rozell's work and the re-united survivors even caught the eye of Diane Sawyer, in this 2009 segment below.  


Thanks for reading this important story.  You can find more information at Teaching History Matters.

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