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Rail Car History

The Children's Holocaust Memorial consists of an authentic German rail car that was used to transport victims to concentration, labor, and death camps. The rail car houses eleven million paper clips, one for each victim of the Holocaust.  A small park surrounds the car.  Orginally there were eighteen butterflies some inlaid with stained glass and others free standing copper sculptures.  Over the years visitors have left additional butterflies so the number grows daily.  There is also a monument honoring the children lost in the Holocaust. The Holocaust Research Room houses over thirty thousand letters, a collection of Holocaust books, artifacts, and art.

Facts and brief history of the rail car:

This rail car was built in 1917 and used for many purposes over the years.  After being bought by a German state-owned company in the late 1970's, the car was used for intra-company transport and then abandoned.  During World War II, the Third Reich used this car to transport prisoners to camps.  The car was discovered after the war in Poland, near the town of Chelmno.  It was used as a grain car after World War II.  The grain holes in the floor and the ventilation hole in the roof were put in after the war.  This historic rail car transported  80 to 150 prisoners at a time to the camps. 

The rail car at Whitwell Middle School was part of the "German Reichsbahn" and is one of the very last remaining "cattle cars" of the Nazi era.  This car was located in a railroad museum in Robel, Germany.  Peter Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder Hildebrand (White House correspondents for German newspapers) purchased the car and donated it to Whitwell Middle School.  This German rail car, numbered 011-993, was also used in the European film "Stalingrad" and in the U.S. film "Enemy at the Gate".

How the car made it to Whitwell:

When the Schroeders purchased the car from the museum in Robel, they took on the daunting task of getting the car to Whitwell.  After inspection by technicians of the German rail company, the car was declared "rollable" (maximum speed of 30 miles per hour).  The German Armed Forces had the car sprayed and disinfected for foreign insects.  The "Deutsche Bahn" had a decorative locomotive in front of the car and towed it under official designation "Special Train Holocaust Memorial".  The car traveled 300 miles to the German port of Cuxhaven. 

By special arrangement with the German Armed Forces, the Memorial Car was placed on the chartered Norwegian freighter "MS Blue Sky" and was transported to the United States port of Baltimore. 

Upon arrival in the United States, the car had to be cleared through customs and the required inspections of the US Dept. of Agriculture. From Baltimore, the CSX Rail Company transported the car to Chattanooga, Tennessee via one of their flatbed rail cars because the wheel gage of the German car conflicted with American rails. Fletcher Trucking Company of Whitwell, Tennessee provided the transportation for the final leg of the trip from Chattanooga to Whitwell Middle School. 

B & B Crane Company donated the services of an operator along with a crane capable of lifting 600,000 pounds to set the car on the tracks at the Memorial site.  The tracks, which the car sits on, were donated by CSX Railroad Company. These tracks were made in Tennessee in 1943.  Members of the community beautified the area surrounding the car.