SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — A new exhibit coming to the Sioux City Railroad Museum will provide a first look at a local project that will provide a new understanding of the Holocaust, bringing Siouxlanders face-to-face with the consequences of hate and unchecked evil.
The horrific 1940s history of railroad boxcars being used by the Nazis to transport European Jews as part of the “Final Solution” is well documented. Millions of Jews faced deportation and death. That history will have a home at the Sioux City Railroad Museum.
After more than three years of work, Holocaust Rails: Desparate Passage, a project of Sioux City’s Tolerance Week organization, will open to the public in May.
“To see it finally being pulled together the last couple of weeks it’s very amazing. Every time we walk in we’re happy with what we see,” said Lou Ann Lindblade, Tolerance Week board member.
It’s a roughly $1 million project centered around a replica railcar where visitors will be surrounded by the voices and images of Holocaust survivors. The darkness and confinement are ever-present.
“That’s exactly what we are trying to accomplish with the display and layout. It can help students learn,” added Lou Ann.
For nearly 20 years, thousands of students from across Siouxland have traveled to Sioux City to experience Tolerance Week. This museum exhibit provides a new resource for the project.
“It was kind of a spark that took off and we’ve had really generous support of time and money and it’s going to be fabulous for the community,” Tolerance Week board member Kelli Erickson said. “Sadly the Sioux City Jewish community is getting smaller and smaller.”
Lindblade and Erickson both said what they hope vistors get out of the exhibit.
“I hope that students and families who visit learn at least one thing they didn’t know about the Holocaust and take the time to think about how when evil is unchecked how quickly things can disintegrate. The situation in the world right now isn’t the greatest,” Lindblade said.
“Filling in the blanks. The lessons are so important because they can be applied to what’s going on today. Labeling, generalizing, treating people because of their label… There’s that kind of education is here,” added Erickson.
The project is being completed with mostly local donations and a small volunteer workforce, amassing thousands of hours of labor
The images, faces, words, and spaces, keep the story of the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million European Jews by the Nazi German regime are ever-present, even as fewer Holocaust survivors are able to share their stories.
“Almost everybody knew 6 million Jews died, but there is so much more to the story other than the evil of the murder,” Erickson said. “What we do at the museum is we start at the beginning 10 years before the death camps.
Lindblade added that she is pleased that the project is almost done and excited to have the public be able to experience the exhibit.
“A labor of love but a heavy labor of love,” Kelli said. “The people involved in this are emersed in the fact that 10-15 years of absolute hate and what happens when that hate goes unchecked,” .
This project included interviewing 75 survivors. Their stories are just part of what one will experience at the Holocaust Rails: Desperate Passage exhibit.
The Sioux City Railroad Museum will open for the season in May and is open Wednesday through Sunday.