A Jewish youth group set up a replica Holocaust-era cattle car at Harvard University last month, modeled on those the Nazis used to transport Jews to concentration camps.
The exhibit, which is traveling around the country, features an innovative multimedia display inside the cattle car and is meant to educate visitors amid widespread ignorance about the genocide and record levels of antisemitism on college campuses across the United States.
Called Hate Ends Now - The Cattle Car: Stepping in and Out of Darkness, the exhibit is run by The Orthodox Union through its Southern NCSY youth group.
“The Holocaust didn’t start with the cattle cars. It started when people chose to ignore the growing tides of hate, intolerance and racism throughout society,” said Southern NCSY Executive Director Todd Cohn.
“When the rot of antisemitism goes unchecked on college campuses, it inevitably desensitizes their graduates who will go on to spread their wings throughout society. Failing to educate the next generation on the pitfalls of hate is not an option and we must do everything possible to ensure that hate, in all its forms, is rooted out.”
The WWII-era artifact is striking to passersby. Harvard alumnus Mark Mulgay said: "Never in my life would I have expected to see a replica of a cattle car that transported Jews to concentration camps on Harvard Yard."
As visitors make their way through the cattle car they are exposed to the different phases of horrific atrocities that took place during the Holocaust. They hear the recorded testimonies of survivors Hedy Bohm and Nate Leipciger who tell their personal experiences being transported in a cattle car resembling the one in which visitors stand. The exhibit concludes with modern-day footage and images of intolerance and hatred, drawing attention to current issues plaguing humanity.
Harvard leads US campuses in antisemitism
The exhibit comes to Harvard as antisemitism on US college campuses is growing, according to a survey conducted in 2021 by the Alums for Campus Fairness.
According to the report, all respondents say antisemitism is a problem on campus and half of the students say that discrimination against Jews is increasing on the campus where they study, including reports of some Jewish students experiencing discrimination first-hand.
Examples include stereotyping, anti-Zionism, threats of violence, slurs, Holocaust comparisons and even physical assault documented in reports from 500 respondents comprised of current students and alumni that are or were involved in Jewish affiliations.
Harvard leads American campuses in antisemitism targeting Jews who express support for Zionism and the State of Israel, with such attacks threatening Jewish students' identity and making many students feel uncomfortable expressing their Jewish identity, according to a study by the AMCHA Initiative published in 2022.
In total, 254 incidents involving threats to Jewish identity were reported on college campuses during the 2021-2022 academic year.
Such threats to Jewish identity were seen on nearly 60% of the 109 campuses popular with Jewish students, with campuses reporting 10 or more of such incidents in the 2021-2022 academic year including Harvard (25), University of Chicago (13), Tufts University (12), Rutgers University (10) and University of California Los Angeles (10).