Holocust survivors Leon and Ray Kaner.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A rusty German-made train car used to transport men, women and children to Nazi concentration camps was placed outside of New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage on Sunday.
The windowless freight wagon used for deportation of Jews is the first to arrive of more than 700 Holocaust objects never before seen in the United States, which will be part of one of the largest displays ever on the concentration camp Auschwitz.
In an intimate ceremony, an estimated 50 people – including Holocaust survivors – gathered on Sunday morning to watch as a crane lowered the Model 2 freight car onto tracks outside of the museum in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park.
One of the Auschwitz survivors present during the freight car’s instillation, Ray Kaner, stated, “this car that transported so many people – their destination was to die. I’m glad to let people know what happened when there is hate, prejudice and antisemitism because we were designated to die only because of our religion.”
“The freight car is symbolic of the murder of millions of people. Auschwitz is not ancient history but living memory, warning us to be vigilant… it compels us to look around the world and mark the ongoing atrocities against vulnerable people, and to take a firm stand against hate, bigotry, ethnic violence, religious intolerance and nationalist brutality of all kinds,” said Bruce Ratner, a museum board member.
The train car was previously featured at Madrid’s Arte Canal Exhibition Centre, along with hundreds of Holocaust artifacts. The exhibition drew more than 600,000 visitors and was one of the most visited showcases in Europe in 2018.
In New York, the personal items previously on display in Madrid – including glasses, suitcases and shoes – that belonged to victims and survivors of Auschwitz, will be incorporated into the forthcoming exhibition.
A gas mask used by the SS and over 400 photographs will also be featured as the exhibition traces the evolution of Nazi ideology and communicates the transformation of Auschwitz from an ordinary Polish town to the most significant Nazi site of the Holocaust – where one million Jews – and tens of thousands of others – were murdered.
While visitors will need to purchase tickets to view the artifacts inside the museum, the freight car was selected as the solo object to be displayed for passersby, in the museum’s outside plaza. The museum’s president and CEO Jack Kliger said he particularly hopes the outdoor freight car will pique the curiosity of millennials.
“One of our main goals is getting young people to come to the exhibition and understand what hate can do and that it’s not so long ago and not so far away,” Kliger told The Jerusalem Post. “We have a strong target of getting a minimum of 150,000 students to see this exhibition. We want them to be feeling and seeing what antisemitism can do.”
Titled “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away,” the imminent exhibition will open in Manhattan on May 8 – the day in 1945 when Germany surrendered and the camps were liberated. It is scheduled to run through January 3.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage, two miles from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, is the third largest Holocaust museum in the world and the second largest in North America. “This exhibition needed to come to New York because of the size and the significance of the population here,” Kliger said.
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