Scrapbookpages Blog

October 29, 2014

One of the 40 Most Powerful Photos Ever Taken: Jews liberated from a train at Farsleben

Women and children who were liberated from a death train

Jewish women and children who were liberated from a “death train” at Farsleben

The photo above was copied from this blog:

This quote, from the blog post, is about the photo of the women and children who were liberated from the train:

“A moving collection of iconic photographs from the last 100 years that demonstrate the heartbreak of loss, the tremendous power of loyalty, and the triumph of the human spirit.”

This caption is on the photo:

“Farsleben train, moment of liberation, Friday the 13th of April,1945. Two American tank commanders in Sherman light tanks and their major in a jeep liberate the train, deep in the heart of Nazi Germany. Stunned survivors come to the realization that they are saved. Major Benjamin snaps the photo.”

Why am I so concerned with this photo? To me, this is not a suitable photo to convey the horror of the Holocaust.  The woman in the foreground of the photo is wearing a very fashionable outfit (perhaps from Paris) and the little girl is dressed in a warm coat with a ribbon (or a flower) in her hair.

Regular readers of my blog know that I have complained many times about photos that are unsuitable for a Holocaust story.  For example, this blog post:

The photo below, which shows women in a barracks at Bergen-Belsen after the camp was turned over to the British, would be much better, to illustrate the Holocaust.  The women are nicely dressed, but I don’t see anyone wearing Paris fashions.

Jewish women  peeling potatoes at Bergen-Belsen

Jewish women peeling potatoes at Bergen-Belsen

The photo below is the iconic photo of Bergen-Belsen.  This is the photo that should be among the 40 best photos ever taken.

Dying man at the Bergen-Belsen camp when it was turned over to the British

Dying man at the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp after the camp was turned over to the British in April 1945

Nowhere on the blog, which shows the photo at the top of my blog post, does it say that these people were prisoners who were put on this train at Bergen-Belsen.  Nor does the author tell us WHY these Jews were put on a train in the very last days of World War II.

I previously blogged about the “death train” that was liberated by American soldiers at Farsleben, near Magdeburg, Germany.

The text, which accompanies the photo at the top of my blog post, should have explained that these people were Hungarian Jews from the STAR CAMP at the Bergen-Belsen EXCHANGE CAMP.  I previously blogged about the Star Camp at

The text below is from my website:

Between April 6th and April 11th, the Hungarian Jews were evacuated from Bergen-Belsen on the orders of Heinrich Himmler, who was planning to use them as bargaining chips in his negotiations with the Allies. The Jews in the Star Camp and also in the Neutrals Camp were also evacuated, along with the Hungarians, in three trains which held altogether about 7,000 Jews who were considered “exchange Jews.”

One of these three trains arrived with 1712 people on April 21, 1945 in the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Two weeks later the Theresienstadt Ghetto was turned over to the Red Cross, just before Russian troops arrived. The other two trains never made it to Theresienstadt because they had to keep making detours due to frequent Allied air attacks, according to Eberhard Kolb who wrote the book Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945.

One of the three trains finally stopped on April 13th near Magdeburg in northern Germany; the guards ran away and the Jews on the train were liberated by American troops. The third train halted on April 23, 1945 near the village of Tröbitz in the Niederlausitz region; they were liberated by Russian troops after the guards escaped.

Update October 30, 2014:

The Jews, who were on the three trains, were “exchange Jews” who had been held at Bergen-Belsen for potential exchange for German-American and German citizens who were prisoners in internment camps in America.

The initial plan for the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp had been to detain as many as 30,000 Jews for exchange with the Allies for German citizens being held in Internment, but as it turned out, there were only 358 of the Jews at Bergen-Belsen who obtained their freedom through a genuine exchange for other prisoners.

The most well-known exchange group consisted of 222 Jews who were selected in April 1944 from approximately 1300 holders of certificates for Palestine. This group finally left for Istanbul via Vienna and Budapest on June 30, 1944 and reached Haifa on July 10, 1944.

The second group that was exchanged consisted of 136 Jews who left Bergen-Belsen on January 21, 1945 and arrived in Switzerland on January 25, 1945. A total of 301 Bergen-Belsen inmates, who were citizens of South American or Central American countries, had left the camp on the 21st of January, but 165 of them were taken to civil internment camps at Biberach and Ravensburg.

There were German citizens, who had been kidnapped in South American countries, and brought to internment camps for Germans in the USA.  The German government was trying to exchange the Jews, imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen, for these German citizens.