Lieutenant Frank W. Towers

On Saturday, April 14, the sun rose as the newly liberated tended small fires to warm themselves and whatever food they had managed to scavenge from the countryside or the nearby town of Farsleben. Back at the train that Saturday morning, the 30th Division's liaison officer, Lt. Frank W. Towers, was charged with evacuating the refugees to a more appropriate and secure location, out of harm’s way. Accordingly, the twenty-seven-year-old Towers organized a convoy to travel the ten kilometers to the just captured town of Hillersleben, where a former German Luftwaffe base and proving ground was located, complete with barracks and a small hospital.

As we were proceeding eastward from Brunswick, for days preceding [the liberation of the train], the roads were clogged with refugees fleeing from the east, to get out of the reach of the Russians. They were a tragic looking bunch of people, but happy to be escaping the clutches of the Russians, and to be greeting the Americans. They were carrying all of their worldly possessions in back packs, dragging carts of every variety. Through them, we gained a lot of intelligence on the disposition of German emplacements; they let us know where we might encounter enemy action, where artillery guns were located. [From them we learned of the existence of this train] and that [the Germans] were setting up an ambush for us when we approached the area. Thus, we sent the tanks of the 743rd Tank Battalion to reconnoiter the area prior to our foot troops. Upon their arrival at Farsleben, they did not encounter any enemy ambush, but were confronted with the train in the ravine.

As the 30th Division’s liaison officer, I was told about the train initially by my counterpart, Lt. Floyd Mitchell, who was the liaison officer from the 743rd Tank Battalion, and as he was going back to his headquarters, he asked me if I would like to go with him to see [it]. I agreed to accompany him, and this was my first encounter with ‘The Holocaust,’ to witness all that we had heard about through the ‘propaganda’ [we had been told] in previous months—to see it with my own eyes, that our own Allied ‘propaganda’ was in fact true. [

The main roads in some places were impassable, so] the trip from Farsleben to Hillersleben was mostly over narrow back roads and dirt farm roads, in order to get to the destination in the shortest time. Due to artillery shelling and too much recent rain they were full of muddy potholes, and the vehicles had to travel very slowly, or cause breakdowns of the vehicles. The drivers were very well aware of the hazards of driving over this type of road, as they had done so many times before. Fortunately, during these days it did not rain any more. As I acquired the vehicles for the convoy, some were covered, and some were not, but to these people, it did not matter. Rain or shine, they were on the way to freedom, and although hungry, dehydrated, and in frail health, they felt that they were going to a better place than they had seen in many months. They were happy in knowing that they were going to a place where they could get food, sleeping space, and health assistance.

As best I recall, we started moving these people in the afternoon, and we continued until dark, which at that time was not until after 10:00 p.m., so we halted operations until daylight the next morning, and continued on into the day until all were removed from Farsleben. I am not sure just who was involved in assisting the loading of the people at Farsleben, perhaps by some of the troops from our Engineer Battalion and some of the men of the American Military Government and Red Cross personnel, who also helped in unloading the people, orienting them as to where they were to go to get showers and new clothing, then feeding them and assigning them to appropriate quarters. Then their processing began as to who they were, where they had come from, their birthplace, and their hoped-for destination. All of this of course took several weeks before they were all processed and shipped to their destinations.