My name is Ron Chaulet and I came up with the idea to have a Liberation Monument here in Farsleben.RonChaulet

Have you ever wanted to do something for the good of humanity? Well I acquired a letter, typed on der Commandant of Hillersleben stationery in English. There was no name on it. Call it fate, but I wanted to find this person, who was a young Jewish woman and she lived in Krakow. She spoke of the cruelties there, the need to work to get food, the danger of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the ghetto and that so many Jews were killed on the street for no reason. The need to have a passport to go to Palestine. She was put in jail and then was sent to the Bergen Belsen camp. She wrote that on April 13, 1945 she was in a train going from Bergen Belsen to Theresienstadt. After days of wondering from East to West, the train stopped nearby Farsleben. The guards heard tanks coming, some ran away. The writer went to a small pond to cleanup, the Americans were coming. The train was liberated by the Old Hickory Division. Then she wrote “How can I ever repay the Americans for my freedom?” 

Well I found a liberated train story on the internet with several photos taken by George Gross. I also found him on the internet. He was living in San Diego. I spoke to him about the letter, he wanted to see it. I sent it to him and called him back later. I asked “do you know who wrote it?” He said “I may, but I want you to be absolutely sure. You need to contact Matthew Rozell, who made the website, he can help you.

I called Matt and he came up with idea to place only the first page on his website. Direct results within a week I got a call from someone who said “I am the grandson of the lady, who wrote her memoires.” The same day we met in Amsterdam. He told me things that were in the letter, which he had not seen on the other pages. I said: “it looks like you are the rightful owner of the document”. “No”, he said, “we must call my father in Israel.” Dr. Leitersdorf went on to tell me even more things that were in the letter. I said: “I am convinced that this document belongs to your family.” “No” he said “Yoav you must call Grandma now.” When I had Gina Rappaport-Leitersdorf on the telephone I said: “I found your letter that is now 63 years old.” She said: “does it take the post so long to deliver?

What happened in all that time? After Hillersleben Gina went to live in New York. She put the letter in a book for safe keeping. Later she moved to Israel, but the letter remained on the shelf for 63 years, until someone found it and put it on the internet, which is when I found it for sale.

I am quite interested in letters during WW2, and fate told me I need to find this person.

On April 13, 1945 Gina, because she was a language teacher, translated for George Gross. Many people wanted to thank Sergeant George Gross and to tell their story. The following day Gina said to George: “I want to tell you my story." George said: “I am sorry, but I must return to the front today. Can you write me in a letter what happened?” He walked then towards his tank, once there he quickly turned around and ran back to Gina and kissed her on the forehead. He said: “you are a remarkable woman.” Then he left her never to hear from her again.

In Hillersleben Gina immediately looked for stationery and a typewriter and wrote in English, a 5 typed page letter with her memoires for George. At the end of the letter she wrote: “A few minutes before the American soldiers arrived we were told that we should have to go on foot over the Elbe River. But the American Army saved us from a sure death. I shall never forget what I owe to the American Army. I hope I will be able to estimate its right value, what the Americans have done for us. Now, after five years of suffering I shall know to appreciate the more my liberty.

After I found George and Gina, both contacted each other, sadly to say both only lived a few months after that. George said: “Gina was the only one from the train that I could still remember by name after 63 years.

Hereafter Frank Towers invited me to come to his WW2 veteran reunions. So I went to 4 of them. He also invited train survivors to come. He had found some 275 children survivors over the years. He was keen on meeting these survivors after so many years. He was also keen on seeing monuments and medals being given to the Old Hickory Division. The Division also donated money to Dutch schools in order that they may be taught about freedom that it shouldn't be taken for granted.

He came quite often to the cemetery in Margraten, where many soldiers of the Old Hickory Division are building buried.

After his passing I made a journey to Farsleben. The local historian, Klaus-Peter Kelewoh, showed me the buildings where the survivors lived in Hillersleben, the cemetery there and the one in Farsleben. Then we visited Frau Moritz, who witnessed the Stranded Train on April 13, 1945. She was 10 back then and was playing outside. Then we went to the Farsleben railroad tracks. I noticed there was nothing there to remember this great moment. I suggested we build a monument there. Frau Moritz agreed we must do something to remember this place of liberation.

I started the Farsleben Foundation, but it took four years before we got permission to build a monument by the Farsleben railroad tracks. Klaus-Peter organized a Farsleben history evening to tell the locals what took place here. Not many

knew what happened here, but they soon became very interested in this project. And soon the Stranded Train committee was formed and they too started to collect donations for a monument.

Then on two seperate occasions a train survivor was invited together with me to give a presentation at the Wolmirstedt High School. The school choir sang a Hebrew song, the press came and then the general public became informed of the Farsleben Train Liberation.

More about the survivors can be found in the book: A Train Near Magdeburg by Matthew Rozell. Not only that but Mike Edwards is in the making of a documentary film on this subject. But today, Robert Hirschmann is filming the ceremony. Later you will you see a 15 minute film he made of the Stranded Train as the last presentation here in Webers Hof. It is a silhouette film, which may bring back painful memories.

I thank you for coming today, I hope that the monument place has found a spot in your heart and mind. Many of the locals helped to make this happen and they do not ever want to forget what took place here for generations to come. Plus together with the locals I had 2 hickory trees planted there as symbol of the Liberators, but also their division badge is on the stone. The trees become more beautiful as they grow tall and older.

So I hope that Gina Rappaport, Frau Moritz, Frank Towers, George Gross, Carroll Walsh, the survivors, the veterans, their families, the locals and the general public will enjoy this Liberation Monument.

Thank you I am glad we could achieve this.