Farsleben Memorial

 

Gina Rappaport 1945

My inspiration in this project came after I found the lost memoires from Gina Rappaport in 2008. At the Train Liberation, Gina thanked Officer, George Gross. Gina was a translator, so she translated for many survivors, who wanted to thank George
personally. At the end of the day, she wanted to tell George her story, what had happened to her in Krakow, Poland. George said that he wanted to hear it all, but had to return to the Front. He asked her to write it down in a letter and to send it to him.

The following day, Officer Frank Towers was in charge of transporting the survivors to the nearby town of Hillersleben for accommodation, food, clothing and medical treatment. There in the barracks of the German Luftwaffe, Gina found some German
stationery from the Commandant of Hillersleben. She typed her memoires onto five pages in English about her life starting from 1 September 1939, neither stating her name nor the recipient’s name of the letter. At the end of her story she states: “I shall
never forget what I owe to the American Army. I hope I will be able to estimate its right value, what the Americans have done for us. Now, after 5 years of suffering I shall know to appreciate the more my liberty.”

The letter was never sent, but was found in a book, where Gina had once stayed in New York. Someone found it and put it on the internet and I contacted this person. I decided to find the author of the letter, this took place in 2008. After searching the internet for a train in Farsleben, I came across the website of Matthew Rozell and the pictures that were taken by the Officer George Gross.

After calling George requesting more information, regarding the person who wrote the memoires of April 1945, I came in contact with Matt Rozell. Through his website, I came in contact with Gina’s family. First her Grandson and then her Son, they both
verified the contents of the letter with me. Thereafter I spoke with Gina. Her first remark was: “did it take 68 years for the post to deliver my letter?” Soon thereafter, contact was made between George and Gina. At last George was able to read her story. He stated: ‘she was a remarkable woman.” After all those years, Gina was the only survivor that George could personally remember by name. Thus the letter was recovered in time, however George passed away one month later and Gina died three months later.

After discovering the memoires, Frank Towers invited me to come to the Old Hickory Division, WW2 Veterans Reunions. During those last years of Frank, he had found about 250 of the survivors and invited many of them to come to the Reunions. This too inspired me to go to Farsleben and with help of others to place a Monument there.

 

The Previous Location for the Monument

As was previously stated on the website: www.13april1945.com the local Mayor of Farsleben had given us permission to place a Monument in the Farsleben Cemetery.
After having many misgivings about this site, it was decided not to have a Liberation Monument that represents Freedom in a place where we mourn the dead.

 

Farsleben Information Meeting concerning 13 April 1945

In August 2018, several dedicated local citizens organized a meeting for those who wanted to know more of what really happened in Farsleben on 13 April 1945. Through the media it was made known of this meeting. As a result of this meeting, people
became interested in what the Farsleben Foundation was trying to do. Our ideas of the perfect location near the railroad tracks in Farsleben, were made known to them, by the way Farsleben does not have a train station stop. They proceeded to create a German tax-exempt committee called: “The Stranded Train”, which would make it possible to seek German funding from the Government, as well as from other charitable organizations and private individuals. We would work together, the Foundation and the Committee.

The Committee comprises of some very prominent people, among them two Mayors, a Historical Museum Director, a High School History Teacher, The Local Historian and six others. Two High Schools are also interested in this project.

 

The NABU approves Monument Site

Translated the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, known as the NABU, has approved of a site a safe distance from the railroad tracks. The area for the monument will be cleared of weeds, shrubs and wild trees and leveled out to make place for a Monument Site. The Foundation also requested permission to plant Hickory Trees near the monument as a symbol of the American Army that liberated the train, the 30 th division is also known as the “Old Hickory Division”. The trees have been approved. The Hickory Tree, Latin name Carya Ovata, originally from Eastern North America, can grow up to 30 meters tall and live up to 350 years. They bear nuts and the nearest one can be seen at Pankow, Berlin.

 

Official Monument date will be: 16 April 2020

The Unveiling of the Liberation Monument is planned to take place in Farsleben on 16 April 2020. 13 April is Easter Monday and 15 April is the Liberation day of Belgen-Belsen. The committee is now seeking Government funding, media coverage and public donations, now that the Stranded Train Charity has officially been registered. The Farsleben Foundation and the Stranded Train Committee, together wish to collect at least 15,000 Euro’s. The maximum amount was estimated to be 25,000 Euros, which if collected will be spent on more enhancements for the monument.

Local students of the area have created a website for the Stranded Train Committee. They are searching for historical documents and stories that can be placed on the website. Information and documents are very welcome, but please let us know if we need to seek the copyright permission first. The Stranded Train Committee website can be found at: www.gestrandeterzug.de

 

19 August 2019 Student Presentation

A Train Survivor, Micha Tomkiewicz, will be visiting Farsleben. On 19 August 2019, he plans to give a presentation at the nearby High School in Wolmirstedt, to tell his story before and after the train liberation. We hope to have some media covering this story so that we can create more awareness to having a Liberation Monument as a reminder of the past for future generations.

Another family member of a Train Survivor, Michael Elbaum, will create a chip for the Monument so that with a scan of a mobile phone one will automatically see the historic link for more details of 13 April 1945. This needs to be coordinated with the Monument designer and to place it in the information placard of the Monument.

 

Photos

IMG 20190527 WA0006

1) Where the white X is marked, is where the Monument will be made.

Denkmal Schienen

2) Where the red X is marked is the Monument site photo taken from above. The land will be cleaned there. This is believed to be a concrete decision now. It is now in full swing.

Hinweisschilder

3) Shows 2 red X's and 1 red arrow, where signs will be placed. One at Weber’s Hof, where the survivors first came for food; the second one in front of the cemetery where there is a water pump, which everyone came to drink from; and the third sign will give directions to the train site at the road crossing. In Hillersleben there too will also be 3 signs; one in the cemetery, one at the old garrison and one at the stone memorial placed for the train survivors. 

 

Conclusion
To be honest we are glad that the local citizens are so eager to promote the Monument and in commemoration of the liberation. It is difficult to get this all done without their help.

Lastly any feedback is welcome.

 

 

 

The photo on the left is in Farsleben near the train tracks were the Bergen-Belsen prisoners were liberated on April 13, 1945 by the American Army. The current mission was to get permission from the Farsleben Mayor so that a Monument in stone can be placed there in memory of the camp survivors that were liberated when the American tanks of the Old Hickory Division arrived there. 
For those wanting to go there, please contact the local historian, Klaus-Peter Keweloh or his son Daniel.




The next place very close to tracks where all the survivors first came, was a building with a hall, from this window they got their first food. 




Not far from that was the first water pump the survivors used. After speaking to a local woman, who was only 10 years old in 1945, she said she saw it all happen there. She saw the first water pump where they drank from and the first food hall when they arrived. The woman, Mrs. Moritz, was very supportive of having a Monument. 





Near this was the local Farsleben cemetery and there were 36 persons buried here, four known and 32 unknown, that died in the train. The survivors were soon moved to Hillersleben after their arrival, where accommodation was provided and a medical clinic. All the German families living there and the German military barracks were immediately evacuated for the displaced persons arrival. Mrs. Moritz’ Mother and her Grandmother cared for the sick patients, until her Grandmother got typhus, which was very common among the sick patients then.

 








The medical clinic entrance, the building was no longer useable and was torn down, it no longer exists today.






One of the homes where the displaced persons lived in Hillersleben. It too no longer exists.







There are 138 prisoners buried in this park that died after the liberation, all the names are on a fence markers at the far back fence, however there were only 5 graves marked individually, all were buried in the fenced park and the locals do have a map where everyone is buried. There are five grave stones, which were bought by their families, the rest of the graves have no grave markers. All the buildings are gone there. The Russian soldiers also lived there until 1994; they even had a sort of check point Charlie to cross the Russian premises to reach the camp survivors premises.

The local Historian, Klaus-Peter Keweloh and his son Daniel, also have many photos of how it was during the war and after the war.

Hillersleben was also the Hitler top secret grounds, where artillery and canons were being tested, this is why it did not get bombed. The Americans took what they wanted and thereafter the Russians took the rest.

Ron Chaulet