The story was almost never told.
Author and retired Hudson Falls teacher Matthew Rozell was nearing the end of his interview with Sgt. Carrol “Red” Walsh of Johnstown.
Rozell was interviewing veterans for the Hudson Falls High School World War II Living History Project he started.
He was about to shut off the camera, when Walsh’s daughter reminded her father to tell Rozell about the train.
In April of 1945, near the end of World War II, Sgt. George Gross and Walsh were deep in the heart of Nazi Germany, part of the U.S. 30th Infantry Division and the 743rd Tank Battalion.
They spotted a train sitting on the tracks.
The train contained 2,500 Jews, who were saved at the last moment from extermination.
The story had been hidden away in a shoe box in Walsh’s closet. But when he told Rozell, the train story became Rozell’s second book, “A Train Near Magdeburg — The Holocaust, the survivors, and the American soldiers who saved them.”
“When they saw a need they stopped and helped. And that’s what we should all do,” said Mike Edwards, a documentary filmmaker who is taking the story to the screen.
Edwards, who won an Emmy in 2015 for his historical documentary “Searching for Augusta,” has been working with Rozell for four years to raise money and record interviews with the rescued Jews and their liberators.
“We’ve just been working toward getting the rest of the fundraising done to get the film made,” said Edwards, who started a nonprofit group called The Augusta Chiwy Foundation to make humanitarian documentaries.
The foundation has three goals: to reveal inspirational examples of personal courage and leadership; to inspire cultural harmony through positive individual actions; and to preserve stories of individuals whose actions affected the outcome of historic events.
The film will be distributed by American Public Television, which supplies around 60 percent of the premiere programming on PBS in America.
“I think with everything that is happening in our world, I think this story and what it symbolizes is what’s needed now more than ever,” Edwards said. “It’s a story of caring. It’s a story of doing the right thing and it’s a story of people who were not trained medics.”
They weren’t humanitarians, they were soldiers, Rozell said. It wasn’t their job, but they did something about it.
“It wasn’t a military objective,” Rozell said. “The military objective was to win the war. Then you pick up the pieces.”
It costs about $750,000 to make the film. The foundation recently received a $50,000 donation. When that money is secured, Rozell and Edwards will travel to Germany. They hope to be there in April during the 75th anniversary of the liberation.
“There are Germans alive who were young people back in 1945 who remember it,” Rozell said. “You’ve got to remember, World War II ends, and people don’t talk about this stuff.”
German students are particularly curious about the war, Rozell said, which happened in their grandparents’ generation.
“These kids have questions because a lot of the Germans after World War II, they didn’t talk about it, so naturally, they didn’t learn about it in school,” Rozell said.
Rozell hopes to have a local screening sometime in 2020, with a world premiere in Jerusalem and other screenings around the world.
“Six million people were murdered in about four and a half years,” Rozell said. “What does that look like? How does that happen?”
Gretta Hochsprung covers Hometown news. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518-742-3206.
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