Sixty or so years ago a train bound from Germany to Auschwitz in Poland had a terrible significance. Carriages packed full of Jews, Sinti and Roma would arrive on a regular basis, transporting their human cargo from the city ghettos to the barracks and gas chambers of the now infamous Nazi death camp.
On the 8th of May 2008, the 63rd anniversary of VE Day, another train will arrive at Auschwitz after completing a journey of six months, 1,864 miles and calling on thirty German cities. Dubbed the “Train of Commemoration,” the travelling exhibition is a poignant tribute to the estimated 1.5 million children who were transported by the former German state railway, the Reichsbahn, to the Nazi concentration camps during WWII.
Fewer than 10 percent of those children and youths survived the ensuing Holocaust, and the aim of this tribute is to highlight their plight with an exhibition of photos and letters, drawings and poems created by the children themselves. Also on display are details of the logistics of the operation, including Reichsbahn maps, chronologies, laws and regulations and other official documents.
Many in Germany have welcomed in the “Train of Commemoration” as important to recognizing the part played by the Reichsbahn in the Holocaust. It has proved popular with the public, with Berliners recently queuing up to four hours to see the mobile tribute when it arrived in Ostbahnhof Station in mid-April. “These masses demonstrate that they are ready to confront this painful chapter of German history,” said Hans Minow, a spokesperson for the exhibition.