Friday, August 15, 2014

Paper Clips

Here is another good family film you may want to watch with your children sometime.
Here is the cover of the DVD....


The Paper Clips Project was something that was started by some middle school students from a small southeastern Tennessee town of Whitwell.  The children created a monument for the Holocaust victims of Nazi Germany.  It all started in 1998 as a simple 8th grade project to study other cultures, and then it evolved into one gaining worldwide attention and ultimately a film being made about the project these students began.  The movie Paper Clips is an award-winning documentary film. 

In 1998 the principal of Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, Tennessee, asked the Assistant Principal to find a voluntary after-school project to teach children about tolerance.  The Assistant Principal and one of the teachers started a Holocaust education program and held the first class in the fall of 1998.  Soon the students were overwhelmed with the massive scale of the Holocaust and asked the teacher, Mrs. Hooper if they could collect something to represent the lives that were exterminated during the Holocaust.  Mrs. Hooper responded that they could if they could find something that related to the Holocaust or to World War II.  Through Internet research, the students discovered that Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian, designed a loop of metal, and the Norwegians wore paperclips on their lapels during World War II as a silent protest against Nazi occupation.  The students then decided to collect 6,000,000 paper clips to represent the estimated 6,000,000 Jews killed between 1939 and 1945 under the authority of the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.   

At first the project went slowly, as it did not gain much publicity.  Students created a website and sent out letters to friends, family and celebrities.  The project began to snowball after it received attention from Peter and Dagmar Schroeder, journalists who were born in Germany during World War II and who covered the White House for German newspapers.  They published some articles as well as a book called Das Buroklammar-Prjekt (The Paper Clip Project), that promoted the project in Germany.  The big break in the US came with an article in the Washington Post on April of 2001. 

Almost all observers note the much-unexpected location of the project.  The small rural town of Whitwell has about 1,600 residents and, according to the US Census, 97.35 percent of them are white.  There was not a single Jew among the population of 425 students when the project began.  Out of the 425 students that attend the school, there are only five African Americans and one Hispanic person.  About 40 miles away is the Rhea County Courthouse, where, in 1925, a teacher was convicted for teaching evolution during the Scope "Monkey" Trial.  The trial upheld a statute which outlawed teaching any theory that denies the Divine Creation.  A hundred miles from Whitwell, in Pulaski, Tennessee, the infamous Ku Klux Klan was reportedly born.   
The city of Whitwell is quite poor, as its main business, coal mining, started to decline after an accident 30 years ago; the last mine was shut down completely in 1997.  About half of the students at the middle school qualify for the free lunch program, which is a benefit for lower-income American school children.
Paper clips were chosen in part because some people from Norway wore them on their lapels as a symbol of resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II.  A Norwegian, Johan Vaalar is often credited with the invention of the paper clip; while he did indeed invent a paper clip, it was not the type used today. 
The paper clips were sent by various people by mail; the letters came from about 20 different countries.  Some celebrities, like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Steven Spielberg, Tom Bosley, and Tom Hanks were amount those mailing in the clips.  As of summer of 2004, the school had collected about 24 million paper clips.  As of 2005, more were still coming in.  Most letters contain a story or a dedication of the attached paper clips to a certain person.  Some of these stories are shared in the film. 
This train car was shipped directly from Germany.  It is an actual car that would have been packed with over 100 Jewish people at a time.  These train cars were used to ship the people to the various concentration camps.  Some of the people packed in these cars literally suffocated during the transportation process.

This is a view inside the train car.  You can see and actually touch the paper clips inside the car as you walk through the monument.

A photo and mementos rest atop a mass of paper clips.
The Children's Holocaust Memorial consists of an authentic German transport car (which arrived in the Baltimore seaport on September 9, 2001) surrounded by a small garden.  The rail car is filled with 11 million paper clips (6 million for murdered Jews and 5 million for Roma Catholics, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups).  The monument was uncovered on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht, November 9, 2001. 

A sculpture of eighteen butterflies of twisted copper are embedded in concrete around the rail car.  Butterflies came from a poem written by a child who lived in Terezin Concentration Camp in 1942 called I Never Saw Another Butterfly, and the number 18 in Hebrew symbolizes life.  In Gematria, 18 is the numerical value of the word pronounced Chai, meaning life.  Inside the rail car, besides the paper clips, there are the Schroeders' book and a suitcase filled with letters of apology to Anne Frank written by a class of German school children. 

A sculpture designed by an artist from Ooltewah, Tennessee stands next to the car, memorializing the 1.5 million children murdered by the Nazis, and incorporating another 11 million paper clips. 

All in all, this film really impressed me.  In fact, my youngest daughter and I watched it together.  I watched this as I was preparing my August Sunday School lessons for church.  (This month we are discussing the importance of journal writing and why it is important to record our thoughts and our own history.  Not only can we record ion paper, but in blogs, or scrap booking.  There are many methods.)  I thought this movie would be an excellent example of why we should record our own history as well as do our genealogy.  Not to mention.... show other ways children took the time to record and remember a time in world history, and look at the profound effect these young people have now had on the rest of us.   

Since Kevin's surgery I have not had the chance to share any of this with my Sunday School class, and as it stands, I am not sure I will get the chance.  I do know that this movie has made an impression on my youngest daughter, as well as myself.  I sincerely hope you take the time to watch the movie.  (It's free to watch on Hulu, Netflix, OR Amazon Prime)  I know that you will be moved by it too.    
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