Good morning,

I’d like to begin by saying what an honour it is to be here with all of you today.

My name is Edith Meisels Dover and this is my sister Judy Meisels Levson. We are the proud daughters of Eva and Leslie Meisels, both Holocaust survivors. Our dad Leslie was a survivor from the train.

My sister and I have always lived in awe of our parents, for many reasons, but significantly for their ability to build a positive and fulfilling life despite the horrors of the Holocaust that they lived through.

Our dad was born in 1927. He was 18 years old when his life was saved by the brave soldiers of the 30th Infantry Division of the American Army. Sadly, he passed away 4 years ago in 2018 at the age of 91. He was strong and in good health until just 3 weeks before his passing and there is no doubt in our minds that he would have loved to be here today with us and with all of you to commemorate this spot of liberation and to thank all those who made this happen.

The details about the train and its liberation were luckily discovered and are now well documented, thanks in large part to Matt Rozell, a history teacher in upstate New York with an abundantly curious mind and a heart of gold. We are forever grateful to Matt for the work that he has done.

Our father survived the Holocaust due to a number of miracles. Then, more than 60 years after liberation, another miracle occurred that he had never dreamed possible; the chance to meet, shake hands, hug and cry with his liberators. He called them “angels of life” and had the great fortune of getting to know some of them and their families, including Carrol Walsh and Frank Towers. To the survivors they were heroes, only to be told in return that they were just doing their job and the survivors were the heroes for enduring what they had. To us, they are all heroes. For my sister and I, we feel blessed to have been able to get to know Carrol Walsh’s 2 daughters, Elizabeth Walsh Connolly and Sharon Walsh Salluzzo, who we are here with today, making this day even more special and meaningful. If not for Matt Rozell’s work, our paths would not have crossed and our friendship would never have been, and yet here we are now as a testament to the good things that can evolve even from the worst of times.

Our parents created a life for us that was full of love and positivity. They were determined to raise us without hate. Holocaust education became a mission for them and our dad spoke over the years to thousands and thousands of students, educators and people from all walks of life. He wanted to share his experiences in the hope that history would not repeat itself. He desperately hoped that the world would learn from the past so that his history would never become ours or that of future generations. Our mom continues to speak in both Canada and the United States.

Our dad was born in Nadudvar Hungary. He was a 7th generation Hungarian, his family was well respected and involved in the community. Everything changed when the Nazis invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944. His father Lajos was taken to military forced labour. He and his mother Ethel, together with his paternal grandmother, and his 2 younger brothers, George and Frank, were sent to the ghetto and then later deported, initially destined for Auschwitz but rerouted to Austria when resistance fighters blew up a bridge along the way. For months they worked as slave labourers on a farm. At the end of November 1944, when the harvest was complete, they were forced back into cattle cars and taken to Bergen Belsen, arriving there on December 7, 1944. By pure luck, when they arrived, they were put into a barrack that was part of what our dad later learned was a planned trade deal between the Nazis and some western Jewish organizations whereby Jews would be exchanged at some point for money and medicine. There, he was able to stay together with his family rather than men and women, young and old being separated. The conditions as everyone here knows were horrible and to simply survive from one day to the next was a miracle. On April 7, 1945, they were herded onto trains once again, with a plan to send them to the Theresienstad concentration camp which was still under Nazi control. Our father’s grandmother was too ill and they were forced to leave without her, our father remembering the last time he leaned down to give her a kiss and her whispering into his ear her last blessing for their safety.

For us to have a detailed chronicle of the events of liberation is remarkable. Our dad’s memory was also remarkable and he shared many details with us. One that stands out is the foresight that our grandmother had on the day of liberation. Our dad explained that when the train was abandoned by the Nazis and left on the hillside, they did not know what their fate would be. Then, on Friday April 13, 1945, he saw the most beautiful sight he could imagine, a few American soldiers had arrived, a moment of utter joy, forever etched in his mind. He explained that the soldiers did not speak Hungarian and they did not speak English but with a motion of hands, the soldiers led those who could walk, including him and his brother George, to some nearby homes and pointed to them to take whatever clothes they needed from the cupboards. Our dad, who arrived in Bergen Belsen weighing 175 pounds, had shrunk from hunger down to an emaciated 75 pounds. Although his clothes were ragged, he smelled food from the kitchen and they went straight there for anything they could find. After eating what they could, he filled a pot with food to take back to his mother and younger brother at the train. They too ate but luckily our grandmother had the foresight to put her finger down their throats and make them throw up. As was sadly discovered afterwards, many died from gorging on food that their bodies simply could not tolerate. She saved their lives that day and then they were nursed back to some semblance of health over the course of 5 months before they ultimately made their way back to Hungary. At that point, they had no idea if their father was alive or who and what they would find when they returned. Miraculously, our grandfather was indeed alive and had actually returned from forced labour to their town of Nadudvar in November 1944, before our father and the others were even taken to Bergen Belsen. He had no knowledge about the whereabouts of his entire family or if they were even alive.

Our dad and family worked to re-build their lives in the same small town, with the same people who had stood by silently when the Nazis ordered the Jews out. They were now under Communist rule. In 1956, during the Hungarian revolution, they escaped and eventually made their way to North America. Our dad and his younger brother first started out in Hartford, Connecticut, in the United States, both marrying and starting their families there. Their brother George with his wife as well as their parents settled in Canada. Eventually the whole family moved to Toronto, Canada in 1967 and the 3 brothers started a manufacturing business, making steel molds for the plastics industry. They successfully ran that business, even crossing business paths with Paul Arato and only learning years later that he too was a survivor from the same train, another remarkable connection as we are here today with Paul’s wife Rona.

In speaking to others about the Holocaust, our dad always mentioned a few key things. He had a saying “Always have hope” that he managed to hold onto through the horrors of the Holocaust and then throughout all other hardships and challenges in his life. He cherished his family more than anything else in the world, seeing my sister and I, our cousins and eventually our families as the best revenge possible against Hitler’s plans. He also considered April 13, 1945 as a second birthday, a chance to live again, all due to the heroic work of the American soldiers. Once reunited with them, he sent birthday wishes to the liberators and other survivors on April 13th each year.

It is beyond heartwarming for us to now meet Ron Chaulet, students and other locals from the towns of Farsleben, Hillersleben and vicinity who worked tirelessly to create this monument and mark that fortuitous day so that it will be remembered for generations to come.

We knew that this trip was going to be emotional and it has certainly proven to be incredibly moving, very raw and extremely emotional. We thank all of you in our dad’s memory and in his honour and we are forever grateful.

Thank you.