WASHINGTON (Jul. 9)
A Polish railroad freight car used to transport Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II arrived by ship in Baltimore on Thursday.
The Polish government agreed to donate the freight car, one of a handful of its kind surviving, to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, scheduled to open here in 1992.
The car transported an estimated 100 to 200 Jews daily on a 60-mile trip from Warsaw to the Treblinka concentration camp. The museum has not been able to find out how many trips the car actually made to the camp, where an estimated 750,000 Jews were gassed to death from July 1942 to November 1943.
“This Nazi cattle car is the antithesis of everything wonderful and beautiful,” Harvey Meyerhoff, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said at an arrival ceremony at the Port of Baltimore. “Nevertheless, for the institution we are in the process of creating, the train is most significant.”
The 27-foot-long freight car had been held by the Polish State Railways Authority since the end of World War II and was repainted several times. Most recently, it was housed in a Warsaw railroad depot.
The Holocaust museum plans to return it to its condition during World War II, which may take 18 months, said council spokesman Sam Eskenazi.
For security reasons, Eskenazi would not disclose where the car will be kept in the interim, except that it will be in a warehouse.
The car was donated under an agreement the museum signed in 1987 with Poland’s Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes, a government agency.
It sailed to Baltimore on the MS Stefan Starzynski, a Polish ship named for a Warsaw mayor allegedly murdered by the Nazis in 1939.
The Holocaust council also has signed an agreement with the Soviet Union and is working on others that Eskenazi would not disclose. The council has received archival material from the Soviets, Eskenazi said.
The museum, which is being built on federal land near the Washington Monument, is being financed by private sources. The fund-raising campaign for the museum has so far reached $66 million, and is seeking an additional $81 million.