SALEM — A worn-down railroad car sitting on Salem State University’s campus Thursday morning served as a chilling call to stop hate in its tracks.

The weathered wooden and steel cattle cart was like those once seen traveling across Europe in the early to mid-20th century. Inside, slim peaks of sunlight came in through the cart’s thin clapboard walls and floors, becoming the only source of light for Professor Christopher Mauriello and his history class once the heavy door slammed shut.

Soon, the faces of men, women and children donning the Star of David flashed across the walls from projectors. The sound of metal train wheels grated from speakers, and the voices of Holocaust survivors Nate Leipciger and Hedy Bohm began recalling the nightmares they lived through over 75 years ago.

While this cattle car is only a replica of the ones used to transport Jews and other targeted groups to concentration camps during the Holocaust, it served as a chilling reminder of what these otherwise unassuming objects meant for millions of people.

Suffering, discrimination and death.

That’s why the organization Hate Ends Now brings this 360-degree multimedia educational exhibit across the country. Partnering with ShadowLight, NCSY,  the Israeli-American Council and Salem State’s Civic Engagement Center, the replica cattle cart showed Salem State students the horrors Jews and other victims suffered during the Holocaust, and why they must always stand up to hate.

“By hearing Hedy and Nate’s testimony, and by them speaking directly to the students, they’re going to be the witnesses of this too,” said Evelyn Riddell, a historian with ShadowLight. “They’re going to not only never forget this history, but we’re also going to continue having this conversation.”

The cattle cart Bohm was shoved onto in 1944 was the last time her family was together. She would be separated from her father and mother after the three-day train ride from Hungary ended at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland.

“I remember my mother at one point telling me that she couldn’t breathe, and I was trying to fan her with a hankie,” the recording of Bohm told students. “Within hours, the air, it was stench. It was awful. A lot of babies and children were crying. It was just awful.”

Leipciger, transported from Poland, never saw his mother or sister again once the cattle carts arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“My mother gave us instructions (in the cattle cart) as to where to meet after the war,” he said in the recording. “We were just not thinking this was us being together for the last time.”

The replica cart felt crowded with just 20 or so students and staff standing in it Thursday morning.

“To imagine 120 people in there, all crowded in with just a bucket to go to the bathroom in and a bucket of water to drink from for a few days to a week, it’s just insane,” freshman Anthony Conforti said after experiencing the exhibit.

He also found similarities between the hate Bohm and Leipcinger experienced and the hate that’s in the word today, he said.

“There’s so much time that’s passed that maybe we can learn from it,” Conforti said. “Maybe we have to some degree, but not enough for everyone to actually be equal.”

It’s lessons like this that Mauriello hopes his students learn. As the university’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies director and a genocide scholar, he’s found that it’s the failings of democracy that lead to genocides like the Holocaust, he said. Particularly, when a political figure uses a loud-enough microphone to share hate and create political and cultural divides, he said.

“We shouldn’t say ‘Never again,’ we should be mindful that it’s possible again given the right activating agents of hatred, racism, prejudice and antisemitism,” Mauriello said. “That’s the lesson that I draw from this and that’s what I try to tell my students. This is your democracy. This is your country. And you need to be attuned to this.

“I hope that we can continue to inform our students that it’s their responsibility as citizens in a democracy to speak out against ethnic hatred,” he continued.

Cynthia Lynch, executive director of Salem State’s Center for Civic Engagement, is Jewish, and said her grandmother’s family managed to escape Poland before the Nazis took control.

“It’s important to pass this story down, never forget it and know how to make those connections between what happened and what is happening,” Lynch said. “If we don’t learn from what happened, we’re just going to keep repeating the mistakes that are happening.”

Contact Caroline Enos at and follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.

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