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Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center

Our World: A grim reminder


There was a fear.

There was crying.


Not knowing.

“Even as a child I do remember the fear and the anxiety of being locked in a car without knowing where we were going,” says Annelise Salamon, 77, a Holocaust survivor who, at age eleven, was put in a boxcar headed to a Nazi transit camp in Czechoslovakia.

Salamon was one of millions of Jewish people transported by boxcars to camps throughout Europe between 1941 and 1945.

One of those boxcars now sits in front of the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida in Naples. It is used for education purposes and serves as a

reminder of the atrocities committed during World War II, when about six million Jews were killed.

The boxcar was found in a private collection in Austria, shipped to Florida in spring 2007 and dedicated to the museum in January 2008. Evidence of its authentication is two fold.

“It was part of the German railway system in the 1930s and 40s — pretty much any train car (at that time) would have been used to transport people,” says Amy Macera, education director for the museum.

A step added to each door is another indication that boxcar, originally built to ship freight, was being used to ship human cargo.

Seventy-five percent of the original wood was kept during restoration of the artifact, allowing visitors who enter to experience a tangible piece of


The planks in the 10-foot by 30-foot freight car are the same in which so many people stood unwillingly. The metal bars attached to the heavy door are the same that bolted shut, locking in about 100 people at a time, moving them to an unknown fate.

The darkness inside sucks up the minimal light that seeps through cracks in the walls and windows covered with barbed wire.

“Because of overcrowding there was hardly enough space to sit down and we had to relieve ourselves where we stood or sat,” Naples resident Hella Wartski describes in her memoirs.

Wartski was 14 years old when she was transported in 1944 with her family from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the most notorious Nazi death camps in Poland. After entering the camp she never saw her parents again.

For the 62 documented Holocaust survivors in Southwest Florida, the boxcar is a symbol of their pain as well as their perseverance.

“I would hope that with any program that we do at the museum that people would see it not only as something specific to the Holocaust, but that it has broader implications for what happens when we let prejudice direct our actions.” says Macera. “I hope that the boxcar motivates people to take

action in the face of injustice today.”

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