When Fritzie Fritzshall was 12, she and her family were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp from a Jewish ghetto in what was then Czechoslovakia
. Her grandfather did not survive the journey.
On Wednesday, the 67th anniversary of Germany's
infamous Kristallnacht pogrom, she and other Holocaust survivors gathered to unveil the remnants of a Nazi-era rail car that will be displayed when the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center opens in suburban Skokie
"It may be this many years later but the smell and the fear that was in that box car, that has not left me, and I'm sure many survivors feel the same way," Fritzshall said.
The 64,000 square-foot (5,760 square-meter) center will break ground in May. Museum organizers say it will help survivors heal, preserve personal belongings and educate people on the events that led up to the Holocaust, during which 6 million Jews were killed.
"If we change (the minds of) some of the young people, they will realize that we're all the same regardless of color, regardless of religion and the world will be a much better place to live," said Barbara Steiner, 79, who survived the Warsaw ghetto and three concentration camps.
Samuel Harris was 8 when he rode in a railroad car similar to the one that will be included in the museum. He said Wednesday that one of his strongest memories of the May 1942 trip was longing to trade places with a dog he saw outside the train.
His parents and five of his siblings died at the Treblinka death camp in Poland
"We were cramped, hungry and thirsty. I was terrified," said Harris, 70, who arrived in Chicago
as an orphan in September 1947 and now is president of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois.
Helga Franks was 12 and living in Berlin
on Kristallnacht - the Night of Broken Glass - on November 9, 1938, when Nazis killed about 100 Jews and looted and torched synagogues, Jewish workplaces, cemeteries and schools.
"That was the beginning of the end for me," said Franks, 79. "I realized when I saw the synagogues burning and all the stores broken into that this was the end of my life in Germany."