Newly unearthed footage shows US soldiers saving Jews from Holocaust train

2,500 Jews were freed from a train to Theresienstadt in 1945


Previously unseen footage has emerged of the liberation of 2,500 Jews from a death train en route to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The footage, taken 78 years ago by American soldiers, shows the “Miracle at Farsleben”, when US soldiers opened the doors, freeing the thousands of Jews inside.

The clip was unearthed during documentary research by an American history teacher. Farlesben was the village at which the train stopped. 

Varda Weissbopf said it felt like “another miracle connected to the train had occurred” when Matthew Rozell – the history teacher responsible for the research – sent him the clip. Weissbopf’s father was a 15-year-old boy on the train.

Holocaust survivor Jacob Barzilai, 90, was also on the train. He recognised himself in the footage. “It was very emotional to see the footage,” he said. “I was at a loss for words”. 

He had previously seen “countless photos” of the train, but had never seen videos of his liberation. His mother and sister were also on the train, but his father and grandfather had died while in Bergen Belsen.

The train, which held 2,500 Jews previously imprisoned in Bergen Belsen, was one of three directed to the Theresienstadt camp. It left on 7th April 1945, and stopped after six days of travel, when American soldiers circled SS troops.

On 13th April, soldiers from the 30th division of the US Army found the train abandoned. George Gross, a commander, said: “Everyone looked like a skeleton, so starved, their faces sick”. He continued: “When they saw us, they began to laugh with joy…it was more like an outburst of pure, almost hysterical relief”.

The people in the footage reflect this. Their eyes are sunken, and many of them lie exhausted on the banks by the River Elbe. 

Nazi soldiers had been instructed to drown the 2500 Jews in the river if the train could not make it to Theresienstadt. One-third of the prisoners were children.

In the footage, liberated Jews are seen lighting fires to warm themselves, and making tea. On the side of the train, someone had written: “Three cheers for America. Vive les USA et les Anglais”. (Long live the USA and the English)

One of the US soldiers involved in the liberation was Jewish himself. Abraham Cohen showed the prisoners his Magen David, and said to them in Yiddish: “I am also a Jew”.

Miriam Mueller was four years old when she was rescued. Seeing the footage “brought up all sorts of memories,” she said. “I had a hard time breathing afterward”. She continued: “This was is just endless, we keep returning to it”.

Bina Schwartz was five at the time. She remembers Americans who “came like angels”. She was “deeply moved” seeing the video. “It teaches me that there are always good people in the middle of the road”. Her mother and five siblings were also on the train, but her father had been murdered.

The footage also shows American soldiers giving out chocolate and cigarettes to liberated prisoners. 

Last year, Holocaust survivors returned to the site to inaugurate a memorial to the train. Mueller was there – “By the memorial and railroad tracks,” she said, “I felt our victory… over the Nazis”.

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