Have you come across an award-winning documentary, Paper Clips, which documents the Paper Clips Project begun by an eighth grade class studying the Holocaust in rural Tennessee? To better understand the magnitude of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, the students decided to collect paper clips after discovering that Norwegians wore a paper clip on their lapels in silent protest to the Nazi occupation of their country.
Begun in 1998, the Paper Clip Project gained traction when German journalists covering the White House began to write about it in German newspapers. I remember seeing mention of this project on the nightly news. The earnestness of the students and the poignancy of a single, mundane paper clip representing one life lost brought tears to my eyes. Jews from all over the world began to send letters with photos of family members lost in the Holocaust. Enclosed were one or more paper clips. One person in Germany sent a 40’s era leather suitcase with mementoes of lives lost. Soon millions of paper clips arrived at the school.
As the Project grew, the German journalists felt that it would be fitting to find a boxcar in Germany, one of the actual boxcars that transported Jews to the camps. This boxcar would be a museum housing the paper clips, letters and photographs sent by millions round the world. At the inauguration of the museum, Holocaust survivors came to the ceremony. As you watch the film, be warned that you will cry when the survivors speak of their heartfelt gratitude to the students.
Paper Clips is a beautiful, moving, poignant documentary. Six million is too large for our minds to grasp. When represented by millions of ordinary paper clips, we comprehend the enormity of this number. If you have children in middle school or high school, be sure to have them see this film.