On March 31, 2019, a freight train car used by the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German National Railway) was placed on view in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Battery Park City. This artifact was part of the exhibition Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.

This freight car is one of 120,000 built between 1910 and 1927, used by the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German National Railway) to transport foodstuffs, goods, and livestock.

From the summer of 1940 to early 1945, people targeted by the Nazis—Jewish people, as well as European resisters to German rule, hostages, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma, and others—were packed into freight cars such as this and forcibly transported to destinations unknown to them. For many the destination was a place in German-annexed Poland: Auschwitz.

During the deportations to Auschwitz up to approximately 80 people and their belongings were crammed in a car with a floor space of roughly 20 square meters (approximately 215 square feet). Each car held a single barrel for sanitation and a can of drinking water on a trip from which most never returned. The freight cars brought people to extermination centers and returned filled with their looted possessions. The horrible journey could last many days.

Auschwitz was a major railway hub—a convenient location for the Nazis to bring Jews from all over Europe. Click the play arrow above to see a map of Auschwitz transport routes. ©Musealia

Educational Resources

The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm is a short, age-appropriate introduction to the Holocaust for children. The documentary, co-produced by HBO, features ten-year-old Elliott asking his 90-year-old great-grandfather, Jack about the number tattooed on his arm.

Educational Institutions in Our Community is a blog post, written by the principal of the school across the street from the Museum, that includes ways to talk with young children about the Holocaust.

Coming of Age During the Holocaust is an online resource that explores Holocaust history through powerful stories of young people who survived.

Learn the History is an informational overview about the history of Auschwitz before, during, and after the Holocaust.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage Holocaust Curriculum is a free online resource featuring accessible lesson plans, primary sources, and other resources for middle and high school students and their educators.