In April 1945, a few days before the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, three freight trains were each packed with 2,500 Jewish prisoners in an effort to transport them to death camps further east before Allied troops arrived. Many of these prisoners had come from the special 'Exchange Camp' within Bergen-Belsen, where groups of Jews were kept who were considered suitable for possible 'exchange' for Germans interned abroad; the exchange prisoners were allowed to wear their own clothing and, initially, were better treated than other concentration camp prisoners.
But, as the war's end neared, these prisoners were swept up in the Nazis' attempts to hide evidence of their crimes by 'liquidating' many concentration camps and killing as many of the remaining prisoners as possible.
Major Benjamin who took this now famous photograph of a mother and her young daughter moments after liberation. The woman pictured was later identified as being a 35-year-old Jewish woman from the Hungarian town of Makó and her 5-year-old daughter, who was 77 as of 2017 but did not wish to be named publicly. It has been called ‘one of the most powerful photographs of the 20th century.'
After a six-day journey, the train pictured here stopped suddenly near the German village of Farsleben where artillery fire between the Allied forces and Germans could be heard all around. With American troops advancing, the train's SS guards fled during the night. One survivor, Aliza Vitis-Shomron, recalled the moment when American troops arrived: "People burst out of the carriages. Suddenly someone shouted: ‘The Americans are coming!’ To our great surprise, a tank came slowly down the hill opposite, followed by another one. I ran toward the tank, laughing hysterically. It stopped. I embraced the wheels, kissed the iron plates. We had won the war.”
Major Clarence L. Benjamin was in a jeep leading the small task force of two light tanks that first encountered the train filled Jews from Hungary, Holland, Poland, Greece and Slovakia, many of them sick and starving. It was Major Benjamin who took this now famous photograph of a mother and her young daughter moments after liberation. The woman pictured was later identified as being a 35-year-old Jewish woman from the Hungarian town of Makó and her 5-year-old daughter, who was 77 as of 2017 but did not wish to be named publicly. It has been called ‘one of the most powerful photographs of the 20th century.'
This incredible story, along with more moving first-hand testimonies from both survivors and liberators and over 70 iconic WWII liberation photos, has been shared by author Matt Rozell in his excellent book "A Train Near Magdeburg" at https://amzn.to/3uoY5rj
For teens, there is also a new Young Readers Edition of "A Train Near Magdeburg" for ages 13 and up at https://amzn.to/3fEKVT4
For children's books about more real-life Holocaust rescuers, we recommend "Miep and the Most Famous Diary" for ages 6 to 9 (https://www.amightygirl.com/miep-and-the-most-famous-diary), "Jars of Hope" for ages 7 to 10 (https://www.amightygirl.com/jars-of-hope), "Irena's Children" for ages 10 and up (https://www.amightygirl.com/irena-s-children-young-readers), and "The Light in Hidden Places" for ages 13 and up (https://www.amightygirl.com/the-light-in-hidden-places)
There is also a powerful new book for adult readers about the teenage girls and women who worked for the resistance in the Jewish ghettoes of Poland, "The Light of Days" at https://www.amightygirl.com/the-light-of-days -- which is also available in a Young Readers Edition for ages 10 and up at https://www.amightygirl.com/light-days-young-readers
For many books for children and teens about the experience of girls and women in the Holocaust, visit our blog post "60 Mighty Girl Books About The Holocaust" at https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=11586
And for adult readers, we've shared many books about women living through WWII and the Holocaust in our blog post, "Telling Her Story: 35 Books for Adult Readers About Women Heroes of WWII," at https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=24501