Marco museum displays Holocaust boxcar

Special to the Sun Times

The World War II boxcar made quite an entrance on the island over the weekend.

It was tied to a flatbed semi and headed toward its final destination, the Marco Island Historical Museum, complete with a police escort, flashing lights and sirens.

Even before the entire entourage turned the corner into the museum’s parking lot, residents were on their porches, peering out their windows or walking over to inspect the authentic relic.

For those who weren’t there for the arrival, the Holocaust-era, 10-ton railway boxcar will be on display through Feb. 28, Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

The boxcar exhibit is free to the public.

The boxcar was manufactured in the Vorm. Schumann Factory in Germany in 1919 and was in the service of the German Railway System until 1945.

In 2007, it was acquired by Jack Nortman, past president and member of the board at the Holocaust Museum & Educational Center of Naples, completely taken apart, extensively refurbished and then sealed and painted to withstand the South Florida weather.

“We can’t be 100 percent sure that this boxcar was used to transport people during the Holocaust,” said James Parrish, education specialist with the Holocaust Museum, “but we do know that it was in the service of the German Railway System during the 1930s and 1940s and that it is the type of car that was used during deportations.”

The Holocaust Museum’s website,, terms the boxcar “a rare artifact.

“This boxcar is an invaluable and mobile educational tool to support the museum’s mission of promoting respect and understanding by teaching the history and lessons of the Holocaust.”

There is a 12-panel exhibit that travels with the boxcar, highlighting deportation during the Holocaust, as well as genocide in other places over the past 200 years.

A docent from the Holocaust Museum will be on hand to answer questions at the boxcar on Feb. 12, 19, and 26 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Survivors of the Holocaust also are scheduled to speak about their experiences on Feb. 12, and tentatively on Feb. 19 and Feb. 26, from 2-3 p.m. in Rose History Auditorium.

In addition to the boxcar exhibit, a special presentation of the award-winning documentary “Paper Clips” will be shown on Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in Rose History Auditorium. The documentary tells the story of a group of middle school students in Whitwell, Tenn., who as part of their study of the Holocaust, set out to collect 6 million paper clips, one for each of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis. By the end of their project, the students succeeded in collecting more than 25 million paperclips. This special showing of the movie is free to the public.

A handful of boxcars is on display in the United States, including one in Whitwell, but all are stationary artifacts, museum officials said.

“We are the only museum using a boxcar as a traveling educational tool,” says Parrish.

Since its acquisition in 2007, the boxcar exhibit has had an impact on more than 45,000 people and has been to more than 60 locations in a six-county area.

The exhibit was made possible through a partnership between The Cultural Alliance of Marco Island and Goodland and the Holocaust Museum & Educational Center. CAMIG is a collaboration of the Marco Island Historical Society, Goodland Arts Alliance, Marco Island Center for the Arts, Marco Island Foundation for the Arts, Marco Players Theater, Island Theater Company and the Greater Marco Family YMCA.

More information

The Boxcar Exhibit, Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Tuesday through Saturday through Feb. 28, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., call 642-1440.