Changing the world… One Class at a Time

photo(15)IMG_0599When I saw the documentary movie, Paper Clips some years ago, (a MUST SEE – on circuit in South Africa at the Art Nouveau and also on DSTV in 2011), I made myself a promise: to make contact with Linda Hooper, the then headmistress of Whitwell Middle School, to meet her and visit the Children’s Holocaust Memorial they’ve built there out of a project started in 1998. After watching that documentary, I was extremely pertinacious about meeting these people and seeing what they had done. A dog with a bone had nothing on me :).  (I recommend you get the DVD if you haven’t yet seen it.)

Previously I had made contact and arranged to meet this inspiring woman, the retired headmistress of Whitwell Middle School. The emergency open heart surgery that I endured just prior to our departure to the USA to our children and 5 grandchildren, did not change this part of our trip in any way: Once one gets through the life and death stage of major surgery, how we live, or even survive after that, is our own choice and entirely up to us! Exist or live… I choose living to the fullest… always. I still have a very long bucket list.

IMG_0570In a marvellously innovative way, as very few people, in Tennessee (or anywhere really, in Middle America), know/knew much about the Holocaust. Principal Hooper wanted to start a project that would teach the students about the importance of tolerating and respecting different cultures. In 1998, struggling to grasp the concept of six million Holocaust victims, the students, supervised by two teachers, David Smith an 8th grade History teacher and Sandra Roberts, the 8th grade Language Arts teacher, began the mammoth task of collecting six million paper clips from every state in the USA and all of the 7 continents.

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IMG_0598The day after our road trip from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta, we set out on another 3 hour, 150 mile road trip: from Atlanta, Georgia, to Tennessee, to the little town of Whitwell (near-ish Chattanooga) and the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. The goal at the start of the project, (almost 15 years ago), was to collect 6 million paper clips from around the world. But within a couple of years, they had collected 11 million. The extra 5 million clips serve to memorialise and honour all non-Jews: Gypsies, Gays and more.

Hate mailLinda Hooper is still very much involved and presents talks at schools, seminars and educational conferences on teaching this exceptionally traumatic and heartbreaking subject to children and adults. She showed us around the library and then took us into the authentic German rail-road boxcar, a donation from a German couple – White House correspondents for a German newspaper. This car houses all 11 million paperclips, which are encased in glass with Jewish memorabilia and collections donated from people around the world, including the suitcase that Anne Frank used, containing 100’s of letters sent to her by German children [to apologise].

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They have also created a museum type library with masses of information and memorabilia, Jewish artifacts, including a Torah, which originally came from a South African Shul (Synagogue); donated by Harry Amoils who now lives in Toronto. It also houses files containing 1000’s of hate mail which has been sent to this school, [still] denying the Holocaust ever happened and expressing their ugly thoughts on what they think Jews are and were.

IMG_0587The project and subsequent Memorial, has created a tremendous learning experience for this population, who never knew about the Holocaust. To this day, in their whole county, they [still] have never had a Jewish family live there, or had a Jewish child at any of the schools. The Project is of course an ongoing one and hopefully they can and will, continue to get funding for this magnificent Memorial in perpetuity.

If you’d like to visit the memorial or make a tax-deductible donation, the address is: Whitwell Middle School, Holocaust Project, 1 Butterfly Lane, Whitwell, TN 37397. Phone: +1 423 658-5631 and email: lhooper@mctns.net (For donations please mark Children’s Holocaust Memorial on your cheque and include your name address – for receipts).

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About d1nx

Techno-Gran living and working in Pretoria, South Africa and spending 3 months of the year with my 2 daughters and their husbands and 5 grandchildren on the East Bay, Northern Californa. Started blogging on my recovery from Spinal surgery in 2007 and have taken many twists and turns on my life's journey and varying chapters of my life.
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25 Responses to Changing the world… One Class at a Time

  1. footsy2 says:

    Absolutely amazing Dinx. Thank you so much for sharing, lest we forget.

  2. colonialist says:

    Truly a wonderful initiative.
    It is incredibly depressing that there are still these evil idiots who still defend or deny the indefensible and undeniable – they should be confronted with the masses of evidence which, even with all modern technology, simply couldn’t possibly be faked.

    • d1nx says:

      This project definitely changed the minds of this particular Tennessee county and surrounds – hopefully the ‘learnees’ will go on to their various paths of life, enlightened and able to spread the word. It’s a lifetime of learning… and some will still argue the facts.

  3. 68ghia says:

    Quite a lovely thing they’re doing – some things should be remembered – they dare not be forgotten.
    Hope you’re still well Di ;-)

  4. Tandy says:

    We will not forget!

  5. adinparadise says:

    This is amazing, Dinx. I must have been very close to Whitwell on the drive up to New Jersey. I’d love to visit this museum one day. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • d1nx says:

      I’m sure you’ve been pretty near if you travel by car… a definite for your next trip! :) There are some other fabulous places on the way back which I’ll write about… still to come. :) Have a super day ad doll. xxx

  6. Lisaman says:

    I remember watching that movie.. Fantastic that you actually went there tovist.. You are amazing!!

  7. Moving post and images…..while I have somewhat educated myself about the Holocaust, I had no idea about this museum in TN. What a sad but necessary and worthy subject for a museum. Maybe a witness to history such as this, combined with today’s information highway will negate another atrocity like this from ever occurring again…

    • d1nx says:

      Let’s hope this type of atrocity never does happen again, but when I see what goes on in Rwanda and many other African countries, I doubt they even care. There’s no respect for human life in many countries. So much genocide going on around the world still to day.

  8. This is a terrific post about a place I’d like to visit someday. Thanks for telling us about it. Well, I hit that follow button, and although it wouldn’t allow me to sign up via google, I signed up via email. So I guess that makes me your newest follower.

    • d1nx says:

      Thank you Susan!! I so appreciate it. And I’ve followed you.. I manage to follow Blogspot friends on google, but not WordPress. No prob though, I follow those on WP reader or Email.
      The Children’s Holocaust Memorial is a MUST see – I’m surprised there aren’t more schools take their students there on field trips.

  9. Dee Harris says:

    Hi Dinx, great post! Interesting how there are still idiots who say it’s all fiction…
    Am reading “I have lived a thousand years’. by Livia Bitton-Jackson aka Elli Friedmann, her account of growing up in the holocaust. It matters not how much I read about this gruesome subject, it keeps being painful.

    • d1nx says:

      Hullo my doll. As I said to Col.. we can only hope that these kids grow up to teach others and “cure” the next generation’s ignorance.
      Very sad.. the letters to Anne Frank in the suitcase and the suitcase itself, made me even more emotional. Never gets easier to bear, unfortunately. xxx

  10. I have never seen the movie/documentary Dinxie. This is a wonderful project. Thank you for sharing with us.
    *hugs*

  11. zirkie says:

    Wow, Dinx!! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Pingback: Yom Hashoa – Lest we forget | The Dinx Diary

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