HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 21, 2006) -- Holocaust Museum
Houston’s newest exhibit – a rare World War II German railroad cattle
car of the type used to carry thousands of Jews and other innocent
victims to their deaths – came to fruition only with the help of dozens
of individuals and companies across the world.
Including costs for acquisition, transportation to the United States
and the exhibit site preparation, the railcar exhibit costs will exceed
$1 million before it is opened to the public during the Museum’s 10th
Anniversary Rededication Ceremonies at 2 p.m. on March 5, 2006.
Virtually all of those costs or expenses have been donated or underwritten, said Museum Chairman Peter Berkowitz.
"We began a search for such an artifact many years ago, shortly
after the Museum was opened in 1996, and intensively in 2001. It was an
artifact we had to have,” said Susan Myers, executive director of the
Museum. “With the possible exception of the swastika, the railroad
cattle car used to transport so many innocent people to their deaths is
the most universally known symbol of the Holocaust."
The railcar was authenticated for the Museum by Alfred Gottwaldt,
senior curator for railways for the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin
(German Museum of Technology and Transportation). Almost all such cars
have fallen into disrepair such that they are no longer traceable or
have been destroyed, and few records exist of the exact use or current
location of any particular car, making the authentication task
difficult, but not impossible, Gottwaldt said.
The Museum’s car was found while being used as storage for spare
railway parts by a German railway workshop, Bruecke e.V., in the small
town of Blankenburg, Germany after Berkowitz asked for assistance from
Houstonian Donna Fujimoto Cole of Cole Chemical and Distributing, Inc.
Cole contacted Gulf Chemical International Corp., which does
business with various companies in Germany. One of Gulf’s contacts, the
German firm of Lexzau, Scharbau GmbH & Co. KG, researched the
issue, found a potential railcar and arranged on Gulf’s behalf to
purchase the car for the Museum.
Berkowitz traveled to Germany, arranged for the car’s authentication
and was able to secure permission from the German government for the
Museum to relocate it to Houston. He and his wife, Charlotte, later
arranged to donate the car to the Museum’s permanent collection.
Rice University President David Leebron was contacted for
assistance, and volunteered the services of Rice architecture students
to design the memorial.
Ross Perot, Jr., chairman of the board of Perot Systems and chairman
of Hillwood in Fort Worth, offered direct support, including providing
services at Fort Worth Alliance Airport through Alliance Air/Aviation
EP-Team, Inc., a partner of Hillwood, provided project management,
which included site expertise in Europe and the United States, railcar
preparation, ground solutions and transport, and arrangements for air
BP America, working in cooperation with BP Germany, donated 47 tons of jet fuel for the Polet Airlines cargo plane.
The Houston construction company Linbeck heard of the project
through Leebron, and Team Manager Jeff Bryson offered site construction
and historical preservation assistance. Rio Grande Pacific Corp. of
Fort Worth donated the rail, railroad ties, and bedding for the
permanent site. Charles M. Schayer & Co. volunteered to assist with
customs documentation and import issues, Pierpont Communications, Inc.
offered public relations support, and Grocers Supply Co., Inc., quickly
agreed to help with storage of the artifact while the permanent exhibit
site is prepared.
Other companies, such as TNT Crane and Rigging, Inc., and Emmert
International, volunteered to assist with transport of the car from
Fort Worth to Houston and with its unloading. The Lester and Sue Smith
Foundation, The Tuschman Foundation and WoodRock & Co. offered
Others who provided major assistance for the project included: AYG
Construction Ltd.; Cemex Corporation USA; the City of Houston; Dixie
Drilling Company; Gary Logan Photography; Groves Industrial Supply;
Haynes Whaley Associates, Inc.; Houston Metro Electrical Corporation;
Lucky Steel; Margolin Family/M&M Lighting L.P.; Mark S. Mucasey
& Associates; Maxim Crane; Meyer Smith, Inc.; North American
Precast Co.; Sterling Steel Company; Taft Architects; TAS Commercial
Concrete Construction L.P.; The Stein Family/Triple-S Steel Supply;
Union Pacific; White Cap Industries; and Xavier Structures Corporation.