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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.


Of the 425 students that attend the school, there are only five African Americans and one Hispanic.

The city is quite poor, as its main business, coal mining, started to decline after an accident 30 years ago. The last mine was shut down in 1997. About half the students in the middle school qualify for the free lunch program.

In 1998, Linda M. Hooper, the principal asked Assistant Principal David Smith to find a voluntary after-school project to teach the children about tolerance. David Smith and Sandra Roberts started a Holocaust education program and held the first class in the fall of 1998.

They were taught that the word ‘Holocaust’  meant destruction or murder on a mass scale and became the name given to an event that occurred in the middle of the nineteenth century that became known as ‘the Holocaust’.  From this they wanted to know what this event was.

They were told that it was the name given to the murder of 6,000,000 Jews by the Germans during the Second World War which lasted from 1939 to 1945.  The students said they could not visualise how big the number 6,000,000 was.

The students asked Mrs. Hooper if they could collect something to represent the lives that were exterminated during the Holocaust. Mrs. Hooper said yes if they could find something that related to the Holocaust or to World War II through Internet research. The students discovered that Norwegians wore paperclips on their lapels as a silent protest against Nazi occupation. The students decided to collect 6,000,000 paper clips to represent the estimated 6,000,000 Jews killed by the Germans.

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, German journalists who covered the White House for German newspapers. They published some articles and a book, Das Büroklammer-Projekt (The Paper Clip Project) published in September 2000, that promoted the project in Germany. The big break in the US came with an article in the Washington Post on April 7, 2001, written by Dita Smith.   

The students (and school) now had a problem.  What were they going to do with these paperclips?

They received an unexpected answer to this problem.  During the war the Germans had used ‘cattle cars’ to take between 80 to 150 prisoners Jews and other prisoners to concentration camps.  The Schroeders discovered one, in poor condition, in a railroad museum in Robel, Germany.  After buying it they had the problem of getting it to Whitwell.  After inspection by technicians of the German rail company, the car was declared "rollable" (maximum speed of 30 miles per hour).  The German Armed Forces had the car sprayed and disinfected for foreign insects.  The "Deutsche Bahn" had a decorative locomotive in front of the car and towed it under official designation "Special Train Holocaust Memorial".  The car travelled 300 miles to the German port of Cuxhaven.

By special arrangement with the German Armed Forces, the Memorial Car was placed on the chartered Norwegian freighter "MS Blue Sky" and was transported to the United States port of Baltimore where it arrived on September 9, 2001.

Upon arrival in the United States, the car had to be cleared through customs and inspected by the US Dept. of Agriculture. From Baltimore, the CSX Rail Company transported the car to Chattanooga, Tennessee via one of their flatbed rail cars because the wheel gage of the German car conflicted with American rails. Fletcher Trucking Company of Whitwell, Tennessee provided the transportation for the final leg of the trip from Chattanooga to Whitwell Middle School.

B & B Crane Company donated the services of an operator along with a crane capable of lifting 600,000 pounds to set the car on the tracks at the Memorial site in the school.   

 The tracks, made in Tennessee in 1943 on which the car sits were donated by CSX Railroad Company.  The community beautified the area surrounding the car.


The Children's Holocaust Memorial consists of an authentic German transport car surrounded by a small garden. The railcar 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.

Linda Pickett sculpted eighteen butterflies of twisted copper which are embedded in concrete around the railcar. Butterflies came from a poem written by a child who lived in Terezin concentration camp in 1942 (I Never Saw Another Butterfly). The number 18 in Hebrew symbolizes life (in Gematria, 18 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word Chai, meaning life). Inside the railcar, besides the paper clips, there are the Schroeders’ book and a suitcase filled with letters of apology to Anne Frank by a class of German schoolchildren.

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.

In 2006 the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance and Yidden on Wheels, a Toronto-based Jewish motorcycle club, organized a ride from points across North America to Whitwell, TN to commemorate the Paperclip Project and in honor of the Holocaust's victims. The ride was also a fundraiser for that school, with over $35,000 raised to help the school buy interactive blackboards.

Mitchell Belman, a Toronto-based filmmaker, captured the essence of this ride in his documentary ‘Paper Clips: A Ride to Remember’. An award-winning documentary film about the project was released in 2004 by Miramax Films



Holocaust Center of New Zealand

The Germans and their collaborators killed as many as 1.5 million children. This included over a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, Polish children and children residing in the occupied Soviet Union.

These children were sons and daughters, cousins, nephews and nieces, they had parents, grandparents, friends and bright futures ahead of them…but these futures were stolen from them.

When Justine Hitchcock (Principal of Wellington’s Moriah Jewish Day School) was teaching her young pupils about the Holocaust she decided to help the children understand the enormity of 1.5 million children being murdered by initiating a project whereby they would collect 1.5 million buttons - one button for each child that perished. The children themselves managed the project. No child was more than 12 years old.

Buttons were sent in from the local Wellington community, from across New Zealand and even from overseas. Many buttons came with personal stories and photographs.

The project evolved into a story of collective remembrance.

Through its support of the project, the wider New Zealand community and many other communities throughout the world, showed this small group of students that

the life of a child truly counts.

Buttons were collected, cleaned and counted by the children of Moriah School over a two-year period - each representing the loss of a child during the Holocaust. When understood as a whole, the project conveys a powerful, poignant and disturbing message: one of loss that is simply unfathomable.



Some of the 1,500 buttons collected at the National Army Museum
for Moriah School Holocaust Memorial (2010)

Ex-Moriah school pupil, Benya Klaupaukh, recalls his learnings from primary school, when he was a founding student in the Moriah button collection:

“My primary school was very small, with only 20 pupils. At my school we were learning about the Holocaust and one fact we came across was that 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered. Our principal wanted to make me and my fellow students understand the magnitude of this number, so we began our project, New Zealand Children’s Holocaust Memorial, collecting 1.5 million buttons, one for each child that perished in the Holocaust.  So, 20 children, no older than 12 years old were supposed to collect and count 1.5 million buttons. This even to me, looking back sounds completely ridiculous, that’s 50,000 buttons per student. However crazy we thought this idea was, we never gave up, we never stopped making posters, we never stopped telling people about our ‘ambitious’ project, and we never stopped counting the buttons that were pouring in. “

The significance of the Moriah Button Project was recognised by featuring in a 2012 edition of the New Zealand School Journal, and being used as an illustration for National Standards in Reading (Yr 7).

When Moriah school closed in 2012, the button collection and plans for a memorial were entrusted to the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand (“HCNZ”).


The Patrons of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial project were British humanitarian, Sir Nicholas Winton (who saved the lives of 669 mostly Jewish children by organising their evacuation in trains from Czechoslovakia to the UK during 1939), and acclaimed New Zealand author of children’s literature, Dame Joy Cowley. Sir Nicholas passed away in 2015 before the project could be completed, but Dame Joy Cowley continues as Project Patron.

Sir Nicholas Winton,
with survivor, Vera Egermayer

Dame Joy Cowley

Other notable supporters include:

Czech-Israeli painter Chava Pressburger whose brother died in Auschwitz.

French historian, Serge Klarsfeld, who retrieved photos of over 4,000 of the 11,400 French Jewish children murdered by the Nazis. He created a paper memorial for them in the form of a photo gallery located in the Memorial of the Shoah in Paris.

Dagmar Liblova, a Czech survivor of Auschwitz donated 4 buttons for her family members to symbolise the 15,000 Czech Jewish children who perished. She has been decorated for her lifetime service to keeping the memory alive through teaching, writing and presiding over a survivor organisation, the Terezin Initiative.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Rt.Hon John Key

Former Wellington City Council Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown.


When Moriah School closed in December 2012, the button collection and plans for a Memorial were entrusted to the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand (“HCNZ”).

The original memorial design, entitled ‘Bewilderment’, was a cube-like building housing a maze with walls filled with buttons and a central candle sculpture including a simple plaque quoting Wellington-based Holocaust child survivor, Vera Egermayer: “In a time like the Holocaust it is like living in a pitch-black room, but every time someone does something nice for you, it’s like them coming in the room and lighting a candle. You need to focus on the light”.

Unfortunately, this design was not feasible and a site was never secured.



In 2017, a Committee was formed to ensure that the Memorial would be realised and the children’s efforts brought to fruition. The Committee includes ex-Moriah school pupils, child survivors of the Holocaust and HCNZ Directors.

A new design concept was facilitated by Assistant Head and Lecturer from the Massey School of Design, Matthijs Siljee. His design captures the original intention of representing each child and conveying the unimaginable scale of 1.5 million lives. Rather than a permanent installation in Wellington, the Memorial has been designed to travel throughout New Zealand and be accessible to as many people as possible.

The design begins with a single box on wheels containing a single light; the next box, containing a single button denoting a single child/a single life. As the boxes on wheels grow in size, each unit contains more buttons - representing a family, a class, a school, a city – and each growing in height of container and number of buttons. The tallest unit containing buttons will deliberately tower over viewers, enabling them to reflect on the scale of The Holocaust and the 1.5 million innocent murdered children.


The Children’s Holocaust Memorial/Button Memorial will include an educational module, developed by HCNZ’s National Director of Education, for use by educators when taking their classes to visit the Memorial.


We still find it hard to understand:
How can people murder innocent children?”
By remembering we can help stop this horrible thing
from happening in our generation”
(Jonah, Yr 7)


Francine Wolfisz finds out about B's Buttons, a student project to create a memorial to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Shoah

Jewish News, Francine Wolfisz, April 11, 2018

B's Buttons is a project inspired by pupils at The Lakes School, Windermere, to create a memorial to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Shoah

B's Buttons is a project inspired by pupils at The Lakes School, Windermere, to create a memorial to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Shoah

What does six million look like? While one inquisitive student learning about the horrors of the Holocaust had asked a seemingly straightforward question, for her teacher the answer was far from simple.

Laura Oram, a history teacher at The Lakes School in Windermere, Cumbria, had tasked her pupils with designing a meaningful memorial to the Jews killed at the hands of Nazi persecution during the Second World War, having been inspired by a visit from Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh.

He was one of 732 displaced children, known collectively as “The Boys”, who were resettled in the UK in 1945.

Arek and 299 others were given a new home on the Calgarth Estate in the Lake District, a wartime housing scheme built for aviation workers, where The Lakes School now resides.

As they mulled over finding the solution, the 29-year-old teacher and her student, Bliss, also known as “B”, came up with the idea of collecting buttons.

We discovered a similar project, 6 million +, had  been devised more than ten years ago, Our focus changed to concentrate on the 1.5 million murdered children

B’s Buttons is a project inspired by pupils at The Lakes School, Windermere, to create a memorial to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Shoah

Since launching in September, the project – known as B’s Buttons – has fired the imagination of people around the globe and collected more than 300,000 buttons, with contributions coming from the US, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, France and the UK.

“When one of our students asked what six million looked like, I didn’t have an answer,” explains Laura. “It’s difficult even for adults to conceptualise. You can imagine 30,000 people in a football stadium, but beyond that is tricky.

“B came up with the idea of buttons and perceptively noted that they are all different shapes and sizes, just like the children they represent.

“When we started, I assumed we would collect some buttons and do something small. But when I put the post on Facebook, it just took off. All these buttons started arriving.”

Poignantly, many contributors include letters detailing how they or their close relative survived the Holocaust.

One package contained the buttons taken from the coat of a young child sent on the Kindertransport.

Trevor Avery, director of the Lake District Holocaust Project, who has been assisting the school in their efforts, described the letters as “moving and incredible”.

Laura Oram, a history teacher at The Lakes School, centre, with Belinda Hochland and Sharon Landau, daughters of Henry Rose, one of the 300 Boys who arrived in Windermere in 1945

He said: “One daughter of a Holocaust survivor decided to send one of her mum’s buttons.

“Another, whose mother was one of the youngest to arrive at Windermere aged just four, sent all her little buttons in.

“There was also a woman from the US who sent all her father’s buttons from his army tunic and Sandhurst College sent a beautiful collection, a button from every regiment that has ever passed through.

“My mother died four years ago and we’ve even contributed her button collection. A lot of people have put their emotions and heart into this.”

In the wake of February’s deadly mass shooting at a secondary school, a group in Parkland, Florida collected 14,738 buttons –  a testimony, says Avery, to how B’s Buttons has touched people around the world and is seen as “a positive commemoration to the children who lost their lives and a determination to remember them.”

The venture was given another boost in recent months thanks to Abigail Mann, a solicitor from St Albans, who heard about the project and wanted to help spread the word to the Jewish community around the UK.

Her efforts have helped set up button collections at museums, schools and synagogues, including at The Wiener Library and The Radlett Centre.

Now the great task of counting the buttons lies ahead, with Bushey United Synagogue, Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue and Thames Valley Limmud among those planning counts in the weeks ahead.

The idea also inspired mum-of-three Gabi Rolfe, from Bushey, to get a collection started at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School, in Radlett, which her children attend.

Hertsmere Jewish Primary School acting head Rita Alak-Levy with Year 4, Year 6 and Reception pupils with their collection for B’s Buttons

“I found it even more poignant that this was started by children at a non-Jewish school, who wanted to do everything they could to honour the Jewish children who were murdered.

“Because the project is so visual, the children can better understand the enormity of what happened during the Holocaust. It’s just an amazing idea.”

Andy Cunningham, headteacher at The Lakes School, said the school had been “overwhelmed” by how the project has taken root around the world and wanted to thank those who had donated buttons in helping to “realise a young person’s vision”.

He added: “B’s buttons is an amazing project and it’s true to say that we have been overwhelmed by the public response.

“Buttons have been arriving in our school from far and wide and we have been touched by some of the personal messages from people moved by the project.”

The hope is that once 1.5 million buttons are collected, they will be turned into a permanent Holocaust memorial sited on the school grounds, next to a sapling brought from Auschwitz that was planted in the school gardens last year.

You can donate your buttons at The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide in Russell Square, London and the Radlett Centre, Aldenham Avenue, Radlett.

For more information about B’s Buttons,
email or visit


 The Westmoreland Gazette, Mike Addison, Assistant Editor, 19 July 2018

A Lake District school has collected more than a million buttons as part of an ongoing project to commemorate the estimated 1.5 million children murdered during the Holocaust.

The Lakes School at Troutbeck Bridge, near Windermere, launched its memorial campaign, ‘B’s Buttons’, late last year following a visit from Jewish Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh.

Hersh was among the 300 children, known collectively as ‘the Windermere Boys’, who found refuge at the Calgarth Estate in 1945. This site is currently home to the Lakes School.

Following Mr Hersh’s visit, history teacher Laura Oram invited students to design a memorial to those killed. A year 10 student suggested buttons be collected to represent each child that perished.

Ms Oram told The Westmorland Gazette that children cheered when it was announced on Monday that they had surpassed the million buttons milestone.

She estimated that the Lakes School has already received the 1.5 million buttons required to reach its goal, however many remain to be counted.

In fact, with more than eight pallets filled with buttons collected in synagogues across London and St Albans and still to be delivered to the school, she speculated they may even gather double the amount of buttons required for the project.

“People from all over the world have been keen to contribute,” Ms Oram said, with communities in countries including Australia, Mexico, Israel and the USA donating to the memorial.

Among the largest donors is a Women’s Institute in the Isle of Man, which donated approximately 93,000 buttons.

A community group in Parkland, Florida, also contributed around 26,000 buttons, a donation Ms Oram described as “very poignant” in the wake of the school shooting which claimed 17 lives in February.

Although organised prior to the shooting by the daughter of one of ‘the Windermere Boys’, the collection and counting continued even after the tragedy, seeing members of the local community come together to commemorate young lives lost.



1.5 Million Children died in the Holocaust. Gypsies, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Polish Children, disabled children, children with epilepsy, children with autism. What might they have done with their lives had they had a chance to grow up? What diseases might they have cured? What novels might they have written?

Let us pull their shoes out from the pile of anonymity and use our imagination
to explore that question through our artwork.





Moriah School,  2010
TV3 News ( has done a wonderful report on the pupils at Moriah School who have spent the last two and a half years, collecting over 1.5 million buttons signifying one for each child  killed in the Holocaust.   The children have received great support from all over the world, a visit from the Prime Minister last year and used this as an opportunity to build awareness of New Zealand's long-established Jewish community and of the Holocaust.  "After maths we used to just count the buttons - Justine [Hitchcock] used to call it the big button-counting session," says student Zain Afzal.  Moriah School will now start fundraising so the buttons can be put into a public sculpture in Wellington City.

While the school is Jewish character, its pupils also come from Christian as well as Islamic families.  The school prides itself on strong community collegiality, academic acheivement and multi culturalism.
see also

JustineHitch  2010   (4.52)

Moriah School has spent two years collecting 1.5 million buttons - thats one button for every child who died in the Holocaust.  They have now designed a memorial sculpture that uses the buttons in the walls of a maze.  In this video the children talk about thier project and show a computer image of their memorial design.

Click here for a detailed description of what they did and what was achieved