An Original German Train Car at the Birkenau Ramp
A historic train car has been placed at the ramp (unloading platform) at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site. Beginning in the spring of 1944, Jews deported to Auschwitz by the Germans disembarked and underwent selection by SS doctors there.
“The Nazi Germans brought people here in freight cars such as this,” said Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial. “The emptiness of this ramp was artificial,” he added. “Today, when the times of the Second World War are increasingly remote, young people find it difficult to imagine the hell of transports that often lasted for many days in a crowded freight car. The chance of displaying an authentic freight car at the previously empty ramp in Birkenau is highly important from the perspective of education at an original memorial site,” added Dr. Cywiński.
The freight car placed at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site comes from Germany. Museum specialists supervised its conservation, carried out by Die Schmiede, a German company specializing in landmarks of technical culture. “More than 120 thousand of these freight cars were produced before the Second World War,” said preservation expert Ulrich Feldhaus. “People were deported to the camp in many of them, as is confirmed in documents and archival photographs.”
According to Keren Hayesod, the Israeli organization that carried out the project, the wagon is intended to symbolize the deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz in mid-1944. They made up the largest contingent of Holocaust victims in the Birkenau gas chambers. “I find it very satisfying that we were able to locate this original freight car and that it is now at such an important place as the Auschwitz Museum,” said Micha Limor, coordinator of the project from the Israeli side. “I also feel great emotion. This part of the Holocaust—transports to the camp, especially the transports from Hungary, when almost half a million people were deported—will be commemorated in a material way. This is a special symbol of the entire transport system that was used to deliver Jews to Auschwitz in the Holocaust,” Limor added.
Two historical freight cars can also be found at the so-called Altejudenrampe, the train platform situated between the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps, where trains full of deportees arrived from 1942 to 1944, before train tracks were laid almost to the doorstep of the gas chambers in Birkenau. Historical freight cars can also be found in other places, including the Yad Vashem Institute Historical Museum in Jerusalem, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and the site of the Stutthof camp.