Friday, April 21, 2006

Paper Clips Project

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In 1998 eighth grade students at Whitwell Middle School began an after-school study of the Holocaust.  The goal of this study was to teach students the importance of respecting different cultures as well as understanding the effects of intolerance.  As the study progressed, the sheer number of Jews who were exterminated by the Nazis overwhelmed the students.  Six million was a number that  the students could not remotely grasp.  The students asked Sandra Roberts and David Smith if they could collect something to help them understand the enormity of this extermination.  The teachers told the students to ask permission of principal, Linda M. Hooper.  She gave the students permission to begin a collection, IF, they could find something to collect that would have meaning to the project.  After some research on the Internet, the students decided to collect paper clips because they discovered that paper clips were 1) invented by Norwegians and 2) that Norwegians wore them on their lapels as a silent protest against Nazi occupation in WWII.

Students began bringing in paper clips.  They wrote letters to famous people asking for a paper clip.  The students also asked people to share their reasons for sending a paper clip.  To date approximately 30 million paperclips have been sent to Whitwell Middle School.  In addition, the project has received 30 thousand + letters, documents, and artifacts.  All of these have been counted and catalogued by students and are on display in the Children's Holocaust Memorial and in the school library.

The paper clip collection has become a part of the "Children's Holocaust Memorial" created by the students, staff, and community of Whitwell Middle School.  The Memorial contains 11 million paper clips housed in an authentic German transport car honoring the lives of all people murdered by the Nazis.  And eleven million other paper clips are contained in a monument honoring the children of Terezin.  Eighteen (for chai-Hebrew for life) butterflies (the Christain symbol of renewal) enhance the grounds around the rail car.  The students, staff, and community of Whitwell Middle School have transformed the car from a death car into a symbol of renewed life honoring the lives of those murdered by the Nazis.  For generations of Whitwell students, a paper clip will never again be just a paper clip.  Instead, the paper clip is a reminder of the importance of perseverance, empathy, tolerance, and understanding.

- the movie -


When the students of Tennessee's Whitwell Middle School began studying the Holocaust as a way to learn about intolerance and diversity, nobody could have predicted the results. In 2001, the Paper Clip Project culminated in a unique memorial that changed the lives of those who created it, as well as touching Holocaust survivors and countless communities.

Because Norwegians invented the paper clip and used it as a symbol of solidarity against the Nazis, students started collecting them to help visualize such vast numbers of victims. As word spread online and in the media, paper clips poured in from around the world, 11 million of which are enshrined in an authentic German railcar standing in the schoolyard. “Patiently told and lovingly made” ( Variety ), this inspiring, award-winning documentary shows how even small-town students and educators can teach the world powerful lessons.

Rating: Rated G Genre: Documentary Run Time: TBD- 2 discs DVD SKU#: (8) 29567 0322-2 (0) DVD SRP: $24.99

For those of you interested in ordering the updated versions of the documentary Paper Clips, it is now available through this web address - If you order through this address, a portion of the sales will go to support the goals of the Children's Holocaust Memorial at Whitwell Middle School.


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