Remembrance Train

I was early out today, schlepping my suitcase in the pouring rain as I am taking the train directly from work this afternoon. I had gotten on a ring train, then remembered that I forgot to buy a ticket, so I hopped out and got on the next one, which was going to Schöneweide.

As I alighted in the pouring rain I saw and exciting sight on the next track over - a steam train! Suitcase be darned, I dragged it down and back up in order to get a good picture of the train. And then I saw that this was the Remembrance Train that is currently running through Germany. It is a museum on rails, pulled by a real steam engine, that has an exhibition about the killing of Jewish children and young people during the Holocaust. The line was not bad and I had 30 minutes, so I hopped on.

There was a mixture of older people and school classes shoving through the cars. There were boards with pictures, names, stories of some children and youth, stories of their lives and brief stories of their deaths. There were copies of documents such as the receipt for a certain number of Jewish children "delivered" from Norway. There were a few pictures of those responsible for the carnage - people who, if at all, only received light sentences after 45.

Some of the older people had tears in their eyes. The paper reports one woman saying "but they were my age! Why did they have to die?" There are many flowers deposited around and in the train, and one older gentleman was taking a picture of one of the boards with a tripod, apparently it was of someone he had known.

The school groups were quite varied. There was the bored, I'd-rather-be-chilling-listening-to-music crowd; the can-we-push-our-way-out-the-wrong-way group of young boys; a few girls asking questions of the guides. One group was well prepared, each pupil had a sheet of paper with a name and they had to find this person, write down the details, and supposedly report on it back in class.

There was a poster of a class project that had worked out the names, birth and death dates of some of the children. A very good exercise both in research and in remembrance.

Because Germany does not remember what happened. Many older people like to pretend it was a bad dream, and Hitler wasn't all bad because he built the autobahns. Middle aged people don't want to be guilty for the sins of their parents and grandparents, and often won't concern themselves with this question. A growing number of youth, out of work and out of luck, would like to do the same thing to the immigrants in Germany now that happened to the Jewish people then. Exhibitions like this are very important for getting people to remember - or to learn about what happened for the first time. All school kids should see it.

But there are, of course, problems. The train costs a lot to run. The German national train company charges rent by the hour to use the tracks, and they flatly refused to let them spend a day in the main train station. Must not disturb the important business people, who have to get on trains and use their notebooks and mobile phones to work while travelling.


llywrch said...

At least Germany has this Rememberance Train; in the United States, sad to admit, there is nothing similar to it. Had there been, perhaps we would not have been so eager to give Bush & his cronies a blank check to fight terrorism -- or at least have been more vocal in our outrage at crimes such as how the Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo prisons were run.


Anonymous said...

Thanks. Always remember the Holocaust. Never forget. Teach the kids and spread the word.