ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Carrol Walsh, a retired state judge whose account of liberating Holocaust victims from a Nazi train led to reunions with the survivors 60 years later, has died. He was 91.
Walsh died Monday at his home in Sarasota, Fla., from heart failure, his daughter, Sharon Salluzzo of Pittsford, N.Y., told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Walsh and other American soldiers liberated 2,500 Jewish concentration camp prisoners from a Nazi train at the end of World War II. About a decade ago, his story was posted on a website his friend Matthew Rozell created for the history class he teaches at Hudson Falls High School, 45 miles north of Albany.
That led to a series of reunions involving veterans and train survivors in New York, South Carolina and Tennessee.
"He's the catalyst for everything," Rozell told the AP. "He was blessed to have been able to meet with a lot of these people."
It wasn't until the end of two-hour interview with Rozell in July 2001 in Hudson Falls that Walsh, at his daughter Elizabeth's urging, got around to mentioning the train. Walsh explained how his detachment of the 743rd Tank Battalion of the 30th Infantry Division came upon hundreds of bedraggled people standing around a long line of box cars stopped on a rail line near Magdeburg, Germany, in April 1945.
The soldiers learned that the train was packed with Jewish prisoners, mostly Hungarians, who were being transported from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to another camp. The train's crew and guards had fled when the American tanks approached. Walsh and his comrades provided protection and alerted U.S. military authorities, who sent food and aid to the liberated prisoners, some as young as 5.
Rozell posted Walsh's account and photos another soldier took that day on the website he had created for the World War II project his history class had launched. It took several years before train survivors and their relatives began finding the site on the Internet, but once that occurred, the contacts started rolling in, Rozell said.
So far, some 230 survivors of the Nazi train have come forward, thanks in large part to Walsh's willingness to share his story, Rozell said.
Walsh was reunited with some of the survivors during gatherings held near his upstate home in 2007 and again two years later. Other train survivors met their liberators during 30th Division reunions held in North Charleston, S.C., in 2007 and Nashville, Tenn., in 2010.
Since those first reunions, several of the survivors, now in their 70s and 80s, kept regular contact with Walsh, including a nearby Florida resident who had monthly luncheons with the veteran, according to Tom Walsh, a son.
"All of these people, men, women, children, jam-packed in those boxcars, I couldn't believe my eyes," Walsh said in the 2001 interview. "And there they were. So, now they knew they were free, they were liberated. That was a nice, nice thing."
Walsh's family said he will be cremated in Florida and a memorial service will be held at a later date in Johnstown, his Mohawk Valley hometown.
In addition to Dorothy, his wife of 68 years, Walsh is survived by his two sons and two daughters.