History Teacher Brings Lost Story of Hudson Falls Veteran to International Attention







In 2001, Hudson Falls CSD history teacher Matthew Rozell proposed an exciting project to his students, digging up the real stories of World War II veterans within the Hudson Falls community. Fast forward to the present day and the stories that this project uncovered have gone on to receive international media attention, serve as source material for a book and documentary, connect survivors affected by the war, and provide closure for many. Known as “A Train Near Magdeburg”, the story of hope and history has inspired people across the world.

While looking for connections in the community, Rozell discovered that Carrol Walsh, the father of Hudson Falls CSD 2nd Grade teacher Elizabeth Connolly, served as one of the two tank commanders during the war who liberated over two thousand Jewish victims in Nazi Germany. Photos from the rescue have become well-recognized, but little was known about the heroes involved. 

The survivors were prisoners at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Many were young adults or children at the time. They had been on this train for days, packed tight into cars with limited water, food, and poor sanitary conditions. Survivors were rescued from the train by the 743rd Tank Battalion, with Carrol Walsh among the ranks. Once the tanks had put the train under US protection, the 30th Infantry Division of which the tank battalion was attached to, came to help by providing food, clothing, and medical care for the emaciated prisoners.

Rozell coordinated a reunion in 2007 between the American soldiers who freed the Jewish victims and the victims themselves. The first reunion, held in the Hudson Falls HIgh School auditorium,  was small, but brought those involved in the rescue together.  Rozell invited survivors Micha Tomkiewicz, who is now a professor at Brooklyn College, Fred Spiegel, an airline executive and Peter Lantos, a clinical neuroscientist to meet Judge Walsh. Dr. Peter Lantos was a child on the train when he was rescued, he traveled from England to join the reunion. Lexi Keston, a survivor from Australia, and Dr. George Gross, the other tank commander, sent letters to be read since they were both unable to make the trip.   The Associated Press picked up the story and it went viral worldwide, leading more survivors and soldiers throughout the world over to Rozell’s Hudson Falls CSD website dedicated to the story.

Together, Rozell, with support from the Hudson Falls Central School District, has hosted three reunions. News of the second reunion reached ABC News and Diane Sawyer. Their coverage brought this story to the international stage. Rozell, the students involved in the project, the Holocaust survivors, and the American soldiers were recognized as their “Person of the Week” in September 2009. 

The information exchanged during the interviews and at the reunions served as the source material for Matthew Rozell’s book, “The Train Near Magdeburg,” which was released in 2016.

Now, the book is being turned into a 4-part documentary thanks to funding from the Augusta Chiwy Foundation. The documentary will be directed by 14-time EMMY award winner Mike Edwards. The Foundation will produce educational curriculum for groups wishing to use the documentary as a learning opportunity.

“Personally, this movie touched me. It is not just a movie, it is a terrible time in history.  It shows what fear and hatred can breed. But, the resilience and connections to children of Holocaust survivors shows hope,” said Elizabeth Connolly, Walsh’s daughter.

The documentary is scheduled to be released in April 2025, the 80th anniversary of the train liberation. Without the involvement of Rozell and his class, the story would have been lost in history. 

Today in Juckett Park, you can see a tree and monument commemorating the actions of this teacher who helped reunite nearly 300 survivors with their liberators. Like the individual soldiers, every person can make a difference.