The Children’s Holocaust Memorial consists of an authentic German rail car that was used to transport victims to concentration, labor, and death camps. The rail car houses eleven million paperclips, one for each victim of the Holocaust. A small park surrounds the car. In the park are eighteen butterflies some inlaid with stained glass and others free standing copper sculptures. There is also a monument honoring the children lost in the Holocaust. The school library houses over thirty thousand documents on CD’s, a collection of Holocaust books, and art.
How did the project begin?
In 1998, Principal Linda Hooper wanted to begin a project that would teach the students of Whitwell Middle School about the importance of tolerating and respecting different cultures. Mrs. Hooper sent David Smith, 8th grade history teacher and assistant principal to a teacher-training course in Chattanooga.
He returned and suggested an after school course that would study the Holocaust. Eighth grade Language Arts teacher Sandra Roberts held the first session in October of 1998. As the study progressed, the sheer number of Jews exterminated by the Nazis overwhelmed the students. Six million was a number that they could not grasp.
One day, the teachers were explaining to the class that some compassionate people in 1940’s Europe stood up for the Jews. After the Nazis invaded Norway and the Jews were forced to wear a yellow star of David, many courageous people expressed solidarity with their fellow Jewish citizens by wearing a paper clip.
A student suggested that the group try to collect six million paper clips, one for each of the six million Jewish Holocaust victims. The idea caught on and the students began bringing in paper clips, from home, from family, and from friends. The group set up a webpage asking for help in collecting the six million paper clips. The students also asked people to share their feelings about the Holocaust. A few weeks later the first letter arrived. By the end of the school year, the group had collected about 700,000 paper clips and several hundred letters and documents.
A variety of clips have arrived for the project, silver and bronze clips, colorful plastic coated clips, small and large ones, round and triangular ones, and even wooden ones. To date 30+ thousand documents and letters have also arrived. The students have filed all the letters they received in ring binder. Using the collected paper clips the students wanted to honor the victims with memorial.
The students, staff, and community of Whitwell Middle School have turned their project into the “Children’s Holocaust Memorial”. The students in Whitwell have collected over thirty million paper clips and oer thirty thousand letters from all fifty states, over fifty foreign countries, and from all of the seven continents. For generations of Whitwell students, a paper clip will never again be just a paper clip. Instead, the paperclip will be a reminder of perseverance, empathy, tolerance, and understanding.
“CHANGING THE WORLD…ONE CLASS AT A TIME”
The Whitwell Middle School’s Children’s Holocaust Memorial accepts donations for the upkeep of the Memorial.
Tax deductible donations may be made to:
Whitwell Middle School, 1 Butterfly Lane, Whitwell, TN 37397
Please put ‘Children’s Holocaust Memorial on the memo line of your check, and include your name and address with your donation so that we may send you a receipt.
Whitwell Middle School Holocaust Project
1 Butterfly Lane
Whitwell, TN 37397
phone: 423-658-5631 fax: 423-658-6949