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Holocaust survivors tell their story in replicated WWII cattle car

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Inside the four walls of a replicated WWII cattle car, Holocaust survivors tell their stories through a short film.

On Monday, charitable organization Shadowlight brought a replica of a WWII cattle car to Western University’s campus in London, Ont. to bring awareness to the Holocaust and prevent anti-Semitism.

“It’s an immersive, interactive education experience. You hear from videos of testimonies from survivors and get a deeper understand of what the Holocaust is,” says Gabrielle Geist, a second-year psychology student at Western.

Geist is also working as the vice president of Holocaust education and awareness for Hillel Western.

With a recent influx of anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric, Geist believes these resources are needed now more than ever.

“I think education and remembering history, it’s our tools in how we combat anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred and we need to remember so this doesn’t happen again,” she says.

According to Shadowlight, WWII cattle cars were used to transport Jewish people and other targeted groups to concentration camps, labour camps and extermination camps throughout Europe between 1941 and 1944. Some were forced to stay in the car for as long as four days, without food or water, and the inability to sit down.

Stepping into the car, students can understand the fear that was felt amongst families who were trapped within those four walls.

A short film by Shadowlight is played on a projector that tells the history of the Holocaust and shows clips of survivors, including Nate Leipciger.

“The box car plays heavily in my mind. Because that the transition from being a human being to becoming a number,” says Leipciger in the video. “You’re condemned to death just because you’re Jewish.”

“I remember the loud shouting, the rifle in the soldier’s hand and how they pushed and shoved everyone into the cattle cars, 80 to 90 people,” says another survivor.

“Shadowlight is here today on campus to not only educate students on what happened during the Holocaust, but to make them feel like they can also make change,” says Tara Silberg, the lead educator at Shadowlight, which visits several universities and high schools within Canada and the United States.

The exhibit will remain at Western’s campus until Wednesday. 

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