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Rare Nazi railway car gets permanent home in Michigan museum

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Construction starts today  on a new exhibit at Michigan's Holocaust Memorial Center. It will showcase what's likely one of the last existing Nazi railway cars.

Millions of European Jews were transported to concentration camps in these boxcars.  Allied Forces later commandeered the trains.  That's according to Stephen M. Goldman, the museum's director.

"It's interesting, when a survivor goes up to it, they'll look at it, walk around it, but will not touch it. When a veteran who was in World War II goes up to it, he will touch it in the same way he would touch the Vietnam War memorial, and relate to it physically in a very different way."

For the past year, the boxcar has been on temporary display outside the museum. It’s drawn some unusual attention, says Goldman.

"Two or three times a day, every single day, somebody will drive through our parking lot. The car will stop and people will get out and look at it, sometimes take a picture of it and then get back into the car and drive on. They're not coming to the museum. They're not gonna stay and visit and come to a program. But they came through because they saw the boxcar and wanted to be near it."

The railcar is 30 feet long and about 12 feet high. The Museum purchased the boxcar from Germany for $6,000, according to Goldman. He says it took about six or seven times that amount to ship it to Michigan.

The permanent exhibit opens in November at the museum’s site in Farmington Hills.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.