A chilling trove of Holocaust artifacts, including a windowless cattle car used by the Nazis to transport prisoners to their doom at Auschwitz, is set to go on display at a Manhattan museum — the first time many of the relics have been on US soil.
The collection — totaling more than 700 objects that also include concrete posts from the death camp, a dagger and helmet belonging to Holocaust architect Heinrich Himmler, and an SS gas mask — will be unveiled next month at the Museum of Jewish Heritage near Battery Park.
But it’s the restored boxcar that’s the largest and, to many, the most vivid portal into one of history’s darkest chapters.
“The dark, smelly car represents that moment of transition from the world of the living that people understood and trusted to the radically alien world of the camps where the doors opened and families were separated forever,” said leading Auschwitz expert Robert Jan van Pelt, who helped curate the collection.
Auschwitz survivor Ray Kaner, 92, looked on Sunday as a crane lowered the car onto a short segment of track outside the museum, and recalled that as she and her sister were forced in 1944 to board a similar train out of their home in a Polish ghetto, their Nazi captors promised a better home.
“We believed them, and we schlepped everything we could carry,” she said. “We still had great hope.”