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Holocaust-era boxcar seen by hundreds in Lehigh

By Staff | Dec 2, 2008

“Remembering man’s inhumanity to others is what I am thinking about as I walked inside the Holocaust-era authentic boxcar,” said Tom Lindner of Buckingham.
He was one of hundreds who turned out last week to see the boxcar on display at the east end of the parking lot at the East County Regional Library in Lehigh Acres.
Ironically, the box car was surrounded by yellow modern-day crime ribbon, just to set off the display. But the ribbon was also a poignant point for many of the crimes committed by the Nazis.
In such boxcars as the one displayed, thousands were taken to concentration camps in Germany and put to death during World War II.
Jose Garcia, 20, of Lehigh, a student at Edison College was also one of the many visitors who walked inside the boxcar.
“It’s hard to realize that they packed in 120 people to those boxcars,” Garcia said. “Just to think of what those people who were taken by the Nazis had to go through is horrible. They had small holes in the floor to use as bathroom. It had to be really horrible.”
The Holocaust-era boxcar was on display at the library, at 881 Gunnery Road, from Nov. 21 until Monday. While it was there, several hundred people came to see it, including students and teachers from schools in Lehigh.
Along the front side of the boxcar were large cardboard plaques telling of the Holocaust and inside, there was a large screen television telling the history of the Holocaust which caused the deaths of millions.
“It’s a real experience for me to see it,” said Yaneisi Iglesias of Lehigh, another student from Edison College. “You read about the Holocaust and you see the news clips on TV showing the people being packed inside them, but to see one is really something.”
“You really realize what happened then. It was such a tragedy. This brings history alive,” Iglesias said.
Julie Bill, an employee at the Lehigh library who is the young adult librarian, said several students from local schools turned out.
“We had three teachers and their students just the other day,” she said.
Teachers Michael Ansel, Ed Matthews and Michelle Harris brought their students over. The school is next to the library and was an easy walk to the exhibit.
The Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida acquired the boxcar in 2006 in Austria by board member Jack Nortman. It was restored by the Woodworker’s Cabinet in Naples and dedicated at the Naples Depot in January.
The boxcar has become a part of a unique education program in which it travels to area schools to show students studying the Holocaust what it was like.
According to members of the Holocaust Museum in Naples, during this school year, it will be exhibited at 15 schools in Lee and Collier counties, including FGCU and Edison College in Fort Myers. Some 15,000 are expected to see the boxcar through the program.
According to a fact sheet available at the exhibit, the boxcar was manufactured in 1919 in the Vorm, Schumann Factory in Germany, and is made of wood and imported steel from Belgium. A wire flap near the door was for a sheet of paper with the destination of the boxcar, who was dispatching it and who would receive it.
The boxcar was in the service of the German Railway System until 1945.
Museum members aid they cannot be 100 percent sure that this particular boxcar was used in deportation, but know it was in service during the 1930s and 1940s, and was the type of boxcar used in moving people to the concentration camps.
According to information supplied by museum members, captives spent about two to four days in the boxcars. People whose experience was up to six weeks in a boxcar were generally sent to Siberia, not to the Nazi concentration camps.
There were no windows and vents were often blocked. People were given no food or water, and they had to use a bucket in one corner of the boxcar or a hole in the floor to relieve themselves.
The Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida is located at 4760 Tamiami Trail North, Suite 7, in Naples. Those who have donated to pay for the boxcar are listed on a large plaque inside the boxcar.