The cattle car is 30 feet long and 10 feet wide, and is a replica of the same type of wooden container that carried millions of Jews to death camps in Eastern Europe. This train car, however, is high-tech – featuring holograms of two survivors who explain how they were forced into the car, and spent days and nights standing with 100 others in fetid conditions on their way to Nazi killing centers like Auschwitz.
Over the next month, students and the public will have an opportunity to experience the multimedia educational presentation “Hate Ends Now” inside the car at high schools and public lots in Salem, Danvers, Marblehead, Swampscott, Brookline, Newton, Cambridge and Sharon.
“I think people need to remember what took place in the past and how fast hatred really spreads in all areas,” said Alan Bolotin, of Swampscott. A few months ago, Bolotin viewed the exhibit, which is run by the Orthodox Union’s NCSY, and to date has had 60,000 visitors across the East Coast.
Moved by the presentation – which merges first-hand testimony from survivors with video of Nazi propaganda, Nazi mobile killing squads and footage from the death camps, and also urges people not to be bystanders to hate – Bolotin raised $45,000 to bring it to several schools on the North Shore.
“When they come looking for a Jew, they don’t ask if you practice or if you believe. They just come looking for you,” said Bolotin.
The exhibit comes at a time when antisemitism and Holocaust denial has soared across the US and around the world. It has been spouted by elected national and local officials, pop stars, professional athletes, and is widespread on social media.
“There’s a giant void in Holocaust education and we know that antisemitism and hate in all of its forms is on a drastic rise. Our goal is to counter both of these things,” said Southern NCSY Executive Director Todd Cohn.
On the North Shore, antisemitic incidents – ranging from Holocaust denial and banners hung over highways to bullying and etching swastikas on school property – have also soared in recent years.
Professor Christopher Mauriello, who directs Salem State University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, is bringing the car to the campus today, April 20 – just days after Holocaust Remembrance Day. It will be located at 352 Lafayette Street in Salem, and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Bringing the replica rail car and exhibit to campus represents the university’s and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies’ commitment to combat hate, prejudice and racism in all its forms,” he said. “We hope that students, faculty and the university community have the opportunity to visit the Holocaust exhibit inside the rail car and reflect on how history demonstrates, time and time again, that the politicization of difference and mobilization of hatred can lead to catastrophic mass violence and human suffering. That message is needed now more than ever.”
Swampscott High School Principal Dennis Kohut, who will host the car from May 15-18, said he plans to have all of the school’s 650 students and its educators experience the 21-minute presentation. About 25 can fit in the car at one time, and after the program, an NCSY educator leads a short discussion about the Holocaust with the participants.
“What I hope for them to get from it is to have a more personal understanding of what happened,” said Kohut. “It’s one thing to learn about the Holocaust in a book, or in class, but it’s a different sort of experience going through this exhibit. I also hope that kids can learn and see that a lot of the things that are being circulated online – a lot of the antisemitic tropes – are some of the same ones that were happening in Germany in the ’20s and the ’30s.”
The car will be brought to Marblehead High School on May 8 and 9. “Having an educational program that is immersive, with stories, music, sounds and walking through the exhibit, brings great value for making connections about genocide,” said MHS Principal Dan Bauer. “The interactive experience can capture the attention of students to bring perspective on the Holocaust that may not be gained through a traditional classroom setting.”
St. John’s Prep will host the car on May 3 and 4. “We want our students to understand the Holocaust and the seeds of hate so that they can counter it by living our core priority and working to empower all people to be a unique expression of God,” explained St. John’s Head of School Ed Hardiman.
For more information about viewing the exhibit, contact the host school district.
“Hate Ends Now” exhibit schedule
April 20 – Salem State University
April 24 – 25 Harvard University
April 27 – Temple Sinai, Sharon
April 28 – May 2 Newton War Memorial
May 3 – 4 St. John’s Prep, Danvers
May 8 – 9 Marblehead High School
May 10 – 11 Brookline High School
May 15 – 18 Swampscott High School