The Holocaust survivor was 6 years old on the spring day in 1945 when he last saw the U.S. Army soldiers outside Magdeburg, Germany.
Paul Arato was among 2,500 starving Jewish prisoners from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, their train abandoned by its crew and Nazi guards as Allied forces advanced. Two U.S. Army tanks on a scouting patrol - one of them commanded by Carrol Walsh, then 24 - came upon the stopped boxcars.
Arato, now 71, and Walsh, 88, met again this week.
"Please give me a hug. You saved my life," Arato told Walsh in an emotional reunion of concentration camp survivors and some of the veterans of the 30th Infantry Division who liberated them.
Arato, an industrial designer from Toronto, and Walsh, a retired state Supreme Court judge from Hudson Falls, came together for a Hudson Falls High School history symposium inspired by teacher Matthew Rozell's original World War II project in 2007.
"You were all kids on that train," Walsh told the survivors, most of them in their early 70s. "I was an old man. I was 24 years old!"
Those arriving early for yesterday's opening session gathered Tuesday night for an impromptu reunion before dinner.
Walsh's tank patrol discovered the desperate Bergen-Belsen survivors on April 13 - hundreds of emaciated Jewish prisoners who had been herded aboard one of three trains leaving the camp a week earlier to keep them from being liberated by Allied forces.
Walsh's patrol stayed for a time, handing out candy to some of the children, then moved on after reporting their discovery. Frank Towers, a 27-year-old first lieutenant in the 30th Division, led a convoy that took the newly liberated prisoners to a German town where they were given food and shelter.
For weeks, the men of the 30th had heard of Nazi atrocities against Jews and dismissed the stories as propaganda, Towers said. That all changed when they encountered the train.
"Then we believed," said Towers, 93, of Brooker, Florida.