The Nazis were supposed to drown in the river the 2,500 human beings on the train—a third of them children—if they did not reach Theresienstadt. Instead, on April 7, 1945, U.S. soldiers from the 30th Division found the train abandoned and released the occupants trapped inside the cramped boxcars.
While photos from the rescue have long been available, American history teacher Matthew Rozell recently discovered a three-and-a-half minute film clip documenting what came to be known as the “Miracle at Farsleben,” named after the village where the train stopped.
The footage begins by showing the recently freed Jews resting, sleeping and eating outside the train. Many are emaciated, matching Cmdr. George Gross’s description that “everyone looked like a skeleton, so starved, their faces sick.”
At the 1:15 mark, the film shows soldiers being mobbed—pushed to and fro by starving people—as they distribute chocolate and cigarettes while hands raise desperately. The final haunting minute documents the surrounding scenery as smoke rises in the distance.
After making his discovery, Rozell began sharing it with survivors and their families. Jacob Barzilai, 90, was on the train and recognized himself, saying, “It was very emotional to see the footage” and “I was at a loss for words.”
Miriam Mueller, now in her early 80s and who was 4 when rescued, said after seeing the film: “I had a hard time breathing afterward.”
Bina Schwartz, also in his 80s and a 5-year-old at the time, reflected on the discovery: “It teaches me that there are always good people in the middle of the road.”