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Six Million Paper Clips: The Making Of A…

Six Million Paper Clips: The Making Of A Children's Holocaust Memorial

by Peter W. Schroeder

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Six Million Paper Clips: The Making of a Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter W. Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand. Library section 9 A: Juvenile (gr. 6-8), Religion and Values. Kids in the small community of Whitwell, Tennessee are mostly white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Their principal and teachers began to teach diversity with an after-school program for 8th graders about the Holocaust. Parents were asked to attend the first few meetings because horrific information was going to be presented.
One day the children were learning just how many people were exterminated in the Holocaust. Six million Jews, Romani, intellectuals and even Christian theologians were systematically murdered. One youngster asked how many six million was – could they even imagine it? Perhaps they could collect six million of something to make it easier to grasp. One boy had read that during the Nazi era, Norwegians, in solidarity with Jews who were required to wear yellow stars on their clothing, wore paper clips on their lapels. The Whitwell children decided to try to collect six million paper clips!
The children wrote to VIPS explaining their project and asking for their support. It was slow going at first as paper clips dribbled in here and there. Once the German journalist authors of this book shared the children’s activity in the German press, international excitement and commitment grew. Paper clips arrived from all over the world along with letters detailing stories by Holocaust survivors, whose paper clip donations symbolized specific family members who were killed. The children filed every letter in massive ring binders. Kids, staff, parents, grandparents and townspeople counted paper clips day after day. Box after box, barrel after barrel were stored under the school’s stage, but they could not stay in storage forever!
Someone got the idea to display them in a railroad car placed in front of the school, of the same type and vintage as those cars that took Jews and others to their deaths. The nearly impossible search for such a vintage car in Europe, and how it was shipped to Whitwell, is an interesting story in the book, as well as how the town united to construct a fitting memorial in front of the school. Four Holocaust survivors asked to come to the school to thank the children for their project. The school invited them to come, and the meeting and dinner honoring these survivors is very moving. There were many tears and much hugging from children, families, school staff and the survivors themselves.
Today children from other schools come to the Holocaust Memorial in Whitwell. Each succeeding year, 8th graders have the opportunity to attend this special program. They also serve as guides at the Memorial as they teach other children about the Holocaust and the importance of diversity. The students of Whitwell Middle School say, “We did what we had to do. We try to honor the dead and tell the world that there is no substitute for tolerance. Are you listening? Please come to Whitwell and see for yourself.”
Our library also has an accompanying Paper Clips documentary DVD. We watched it in our “Introduction to Judaism” course last year during Tuesday morning bible study. While it concerns the Holocaust, these items express the deep human need for peace, harmony, tolerance and understanding. It shows how a project that began as a class discussion brought a community together to create a message of unity, understanding and hope. It is uplifting and healing. It is a great way to explore the meaning of the Holocaust yourself, and with your own children, age 13 and up. ( )
  Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Jun 10, 2013 |
I read this book and instantly loved it. I was able to connect with the kids in Whitwell. I grew up in a small town that consisted of all white people except for 2 black families. These kids show maturity as they go about collecting and counting the paper clips. There is a documentary but I have not watched it yet. I tell all the 8th graders to read this after they have done their Diary of Anne Frank section in reading. I havne't heard one say they didn't like it! ( )
  middlemedia2 | Aug 11, 2010 |
One teacher's desire to teach about intolerance led to a three year project in which the entire community of Whitwell, Tennessee participated, culminating in the building of a Holocaust memorial. ( )
  STBA | Nov 12, 2009 |
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In a unique effort to teach diversity, the Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, Tennessee, decided to teach the Holocaust and the roots of intolerance in the spring of 1998. What followed was a community-wide effort in this small town of 1,600 people living across the mountains from Chattanooga. Begun as an after-school project by a handful of students, it blossomed into an international communication among students from many countries, Holocaust survivors, and government officials, culminating in the arrival of an authentic transport train, which has become a children's memorial. The collection of six million paper clips connected with the World War II Norwegian nationalist effort that commemorated their own solidarity against the Nazis. The gargantuan task of counting and collecting six million haunts the text. In succinct prose, stunning photographs, and personal narratives, this book lays out the project, from the first indications that students were not familiar with the Holocaust to the proud step-by-step efforts of the students and faculty, and to the ongoing "symbolic resting place for millions of victims who had no graves." The Whitwell project has been featured on the Charles Osgood File and has been made into a documentary film, and this upper elementary to middle school volume provides another detailed view of a significant addition to Holocaust literature. The middle school Web site at http://www.marionschools.org/holocaus... is referred to in the text but the URL is not provided. This omission is the only drawback to the chronicle of this outstanding achievement.
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Grade 4-8 -With clear and concise language, color photographs, and an attractive layout, this book tells the inspiring and touching story of the teachers, students, and community of Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee, and their quest to understand and teach about the Holocaust.
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Describes the efforts of middle school students from the rural Tennessee town of Whitwell to create a Holocaust memorial based on a collection of millions of paper clips intended to represent all of the victims exterminated by the Nazis.

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