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Boxcar Exhibit Opens 'New Chapter' at Holocaust Memorial Center

Docents now begin tours of the museum by sharing the history of the World War II boxcar, which is similar to those that carried Jews to concentration camps.

The dedication Tuesday night of a new World War II-era boxcar exhibit at the Holocaust Memorial Center (HMC) in Farmington Hills marked "a new chapter in the history of this institution," museum president Gary Karp said. 

The Henrietta and Alvin Weisberg Gallery houses the artifact in a setting that resembles the places where Jews gathered before boarding the cars that took them to concentration camps, where 6 million perished. Extended family and more than 150 friends and museum supporters joined the Weisbergs at the event. 

Executive director Stephen Goldman said while other museums house World War II boxcars, the HMC's positioning of it as an embarcation point for museum tours makes it unique. Ending at the International Institute of the Righteous, the tours reflect "a journey we hope will be life-changing and life-affirming," he said. 

The Weisbergs, who are Bloomfield Hills residents, sponsored the exhibit in memory of Henrietta Weisberg's parents, Sara and Israel Gastfrajnd, and brothers, Rubin and Hershel Gastfrajnd, who died in the Holocaust. Henrietta and her sister, Rachel Schwartz, both spoke at the dedication, with Rachel sharing the horrors they endured.

As she described being separated from their mother as they waited to be transported, Rachel wept. "Little did we know she was waiting to be sent to the gas chambers, and we would never see her again," she said. 

In all, the sisters rode in boxcars three times; the last, in the summer of 1944, took them to Buchenwald, one of Germany's most notorious death camps. Before they were rescued, Rachel said, "The Nazis sent us on a terrible march. We went three weeks without hardly any food or water."

Henrietta said she doesn't like to talk about her experience during the war. "I prefer to look at the future," she said. But given her experiences, she added, "I can honestly say I believe in miracles." 

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