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Holocaust survivor shows ugly truth

It is the ugliest thing you are likely to see in this green and temperate land.

It is a boxcar used half a century ago by the German government to send Jews to death camps.

Squat and crudely utilitarian, the wooden railroad car stands outside the Holocaust Museum, 5001 Duhme Road, Madeira Beach. Soldiers and Nazi bureaucrats would cram 100 to 130 people into this car and others like it.

Jammed body to body. Friends, family, strangers; the infirm, the elderly, babies in arms. There was no water, no food; there were no toilets.

No one was allowed to leave the boxcar until the journey, which sometimes lasted four days, ended. Some crumpled to the floor and died en route. Those who survived were driven, half-dead, into pens for sorting.

The weakest were sent immediately to the gas chamber. The stronger worked and slowly starved and ultimately were gassed.

Jews were the prime target. In the name of Germany, 6-million Jews were murdered.

"They also murdered 7-million of what they called "other undesirables,' including gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, political dissidents and crippled people," says Sam Schryver.

Inside the museum, Schryver is talking to students bused in from Palm Harbor Middle School. "Take a long look at a Holocaust survivor," he says. "There are not many of us left."

Some 140,000 Jews lived in Amsterdam, Holland, when the Nazis invaded; 110,000 were sent to the same concentration camp, Westerbork; 876 were alive at the end of the war.

Schryver, now 71, was one of them. "My father was the first of our family to be taken," he says. "One night we waited dinner for him. He never came home.

"My mother was next. She was in the Jewish hospital, a patient. The Nazis emptied the hospital in an afternoon. Pulled the tubes out of patients. Turned over their beds while they were still in them. I saw it. I was an orderly. I could do nothing.

"Then they emptied the old people's home. Four young soldiers jerked an old man out of bed. Two grabbed arms, two grabbed legs. Carried him out, threw him into a truck, like a bag of garbage."

Some 34,000 schoolchildren and 12,000 adults have visited the museum in the past six weeks to see "Anne Frank in the World," a special exhibit that closes Friday. The museum reopens March 21 with a new exhibit, the "Art of Murray Zimiles," whose works center on the Holocaust.

Schryver, who lives half the year in Montreal and the other half in Clearwater, gave 10-minute lectures to nearly every children's group. The children sat silently, rapt. Most had never heard of the Holocaust.

"I was in the underground, and did all the things you do at such a time. Finally, they caught me, did bad things to me. I sank to the floor, bleeding, pretending I was unconscious. They left the room for a few minutes and I escaped. It was my old school building. I knew the back stairways."

Like Anne Frank, he was hidden by a Christian family, lived for months in an attic, was betrayed and sent to Westerbork. The war ended before he could be sent to one of the death camps.

"So now, I transfer my memories to you," he told each children's group. "Twenty, 30 years from now, you will hear ignorant people, wicked people, say there was never a Holocaust.

"You can tell them the truth. That there was a Holocaust and it was more terrible than anything you can imagine. And that it must never happen again."