BERLIN — Thousands of Berlin residents waited in line for up to four hours on Sunday to see an exhibit pulled on a train commemorating Jewish children sent by the Nazis to death camps.
The "Train of Commemoration" has been winding its way across the nation since November, carrying photos and archive materials that trace the fate of individual children who were deported from across the country during World War II.
A grass-roots group of German citizens said it organized the exhibit because national railway operator Deutsche Bahn had not done enough to address the issue despite its role as the successor of the Reichsbahn, the railway that the Nazis used to for the deportations.
Some 160,000 people had already viewed the exhibit before its arrival Sunday in Berlin's Ostbahnhof, the central train station of former East Berlin, organizers said.
"We see this as proof that there are people who are interested in confronting history," said Hans Minnow, a spokesman for the organizers.
Headed to Auschwitz
The train began its journey near the western border with France, and will eventually travel to the former concentration camp at Auschwitz, in present-day Poland, he said.
At the Berlin station on Sunday, a line of people snaked along the platform next to the train's carriages draped with tulips, carnations and roses.
Some said they had waited up to four hours to view the exhibit.
A couple who had just exited the exhibition said they felt the wait had been worth their time and the organizers had done a good job selecting individual stories of the children.
"It was really heart-wrenching," said Andre Hieronymus, after stepping off the train.
"We are parents ourselves and when you see this ..." added his partner, Andrea Eichhorn, shaking her head.
Such reactions are common from visitors, said Minnow, who took a year off his job to accompany the train, which is to arrive at Auschwitz on May 8.
Train operator wants payments
Since the exhibit began, its organizers have been embroiled in an ongoing dispute with Deutsche Bahn, which has been seeking up to $111,125 in payment for use of its stations.
The organizers have asked to use the stations without charge.
Last week, Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee urged Deutsche Bahn to drop its demand for payment and instead consider the waived fees a donation to the organization.
Deutsche Bahn has insisted that it supports the rolling exhibit, but must charge it for use of its rails, as it would any other company or organization.
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