Built: In 1942 by a private manufacturer in Germany who worked for the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German state railway). The car’s “builder’s plate,” discovered Nov. 28, 2005 during the restoration process, carried the inscription: “Gottfried Lindner Aktiengesellschaft, Ammendorf bei Halle,” and showed a “works number” of 6953 and year of production as 1942. Ammendorf was a rail production facility near the city of Halle in central Germany. Production of this model ceased in 1942 due to a lack of materials. All cars produced for German authorities after 1942 had a different style.
Model: One of 28,000 round-roof, covered freight cars of the “Grhs Oppeln” style manufactured during this period. The Museum car will be the only round-roof model on display in North America. This model was named after the city of Oppeln in the province of Upper Silesia (Oberschlesien), where the Auschwitz death camp was located. All German rail car models of this period were named after German cities as a matter of identification convenience, however, so the name has no direct relation to use, if any, to carry prisoners to Auschwitz or other camps.
Use: Originally built to transport cattle, grain and other commodities. As used in many countries across Europe during World War II, these cars carried up to 100 people for as long as 72 hours. As used within Poland, as many as 200 people were crammed into a single car for as long as 6 to 8 hours. Trains often were sidetracked or delayed, however, resulting in trips that sometimes took days to complete. Many occupants died en route to their destinations.
Nickname: Commonly known as the “Treblinka Car” after World War II because cars of this type were identified as having carried prisoners to the Treblinka death camp. Others were photographed near Auschwitz.
Height: 4.1 meters (13.5 feet)
Width: 2.8 meters (9.2 feet)
Length: 7.8 meters, (25.7 feet), with bumpers: 10.5 meters (34.6 feet)
Weight: 10.5 metric tons (23,150 lbs)
Acquisition: Located for Holocaust Museum Houston in Blankenburg, Germany in 2005 while being used by a private railway workshop for storage of spare railway parts. Acquired by Holocaust Museum Houston in October 2005.
Authentication: Authenticated and documented by Alfred Gottwaldt, senior curator for railways for the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin (German Museum of Technology and Transportation in Berlin). Gottwaldt is one of the world’s leading experts on the history of German rail transports during the Holocaust, having studied the field extensively since 1987.
Transport to Houston: On board the world’s largest production cargo aircraft, an Antonov AN-124-100F (Ruslan), operated by Polet Airlines, a Russian-based cargo airline under direction and management of EP-Team, Inc., an international logistics management company specializing in providing unique transport and logistics solutions. The car was flown to Fort Worth Alliance Airport and then carried via highway by heavy transport by Emmert International to Houston.
Technical Advantages for Human Transport:
- The “Oppeln” model included an enlarged axle position and the requisite reinforced framework for heavy transports throughout the car.
- The drive assembly and axle position allowed for a quieter ride at higher velocities.
- The brake housing – with a maximum velocity of 100 km/hour versus that of cars with a pneumatic system, which could only reach 80 km/hour – allowed for faster transport of prisoners to the various camps.
- The “Oppeln” style car included fixed steps to allow faster loading and unloading of human cargo at sites without a railway platform.