How Many is Six Million?

Six Million

I learned about the following event while watching the Documentary Channel last night. The movie I watched is Paper Clips and it tells the story that began in 1998 at Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, Tennessee with an unusual project. This project began as a way to teach eighth grade students about prejudice and tolerance.

Two teachers and a principal began teaching these students about the Holocaust against Jews, some Christians, and others during the reign of Adolf Hitler in Germany in the 1930’s – 40’s. When discussing the Holocaust, one child asked what 6,000,000 looked like. 6,000,000 is the number of Jews killed by Hitler’s regime during this time dark time in the history of the world and Germany in particular. The principal admitted she had no visual concept of such a number either. The students asked if they could find some way to visualize six million. After some research the students learned that the Norwegians wore paper clips on their lapels as a sign of resistance to German Occupation and in solidarity for the Jews suffering under the Nazis. The students began writing letters asking for paper clips. Soon letters about family members who died in the Holocaust and letters from others began arriving with clips. Before long they had nearly 200,000 clips. After the story broke in a number of news papers and on NBC things got crazy at Whitwell Middle. At one time they had nearly 30,000,000 paper clips. They were also able to locate and obtain a cattle railcar from Germany that was one of the cars that carried Jews to the concentration camps. That car now is a museum in Whitwell and contains 11,000,000 paper clips. Six million for the Jews and five million for the other groups put to death in these camps.

Prejudice and intolerance. I wish I could say that these are words that the dictionary no longer needs to include, but that would be naive. Such ideas and actions still exist in our world. We still see racial inequality, we still judge people based on education, color, dialect, whether they live in the city, country, north south, east or west, and what they are religiously or non-religiously for that matter. We still lack tolerance for those we prejudge to be different. If any group should lead in the effort to abandon prejudice it should be Christians. After all do we not learn from God that we should look at the heart of a person and not his outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7)? Jas reminds his readers, “My brothers,show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (Jas 2:1-4).

Let us be very careful that we get to know people as individuals and to treat them as we would want others to treat us.

– Scott

To learn more about The Paper Clip Project you can watch the 2004 documentary Paper Clips on Netflix or check out this book, Six Million Paper Clips: The Making of A Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter W. Schroeder/Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand, Kar-Ben Publishing, Minneapolis, MN, 2004 ISBN 1580131697

4 thoughts on “How Many is Six Million?

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I know what I’ll be doing tonight. Growing up in a military community, I thought prejudice and discrimination (at least racial) was pretty much over. Then I started spending more time in a very different community and was appalled by what I saw and heard, even from Christians. We should set the example.

    • Prejudice is still alive. By choosing to live in rural Alabama, I find many people judge the people here as ignorant, backwards, and racial (some might be, but not all). By being Southern by birth, find people look down on me and others because of the “way we talk.” (This was especially true in a military environment where people came from all over our nation.) Being a Christian, I find many who think I stopped thinking and am brainwashed by my culture. Ironically, the prejudice against me for being a Southerner living in Alabama and being a conservative Christians is that I am prejudice.

  2. I think it is interesting how our backgrounds and perspectives highlight how we view prejudicial treatment. I grew up in a very rural area of Alabama, yet I felt that racial prejudice was well becoming a thing of the past. There were still a few closed-minded people, but they tended to keep there “opinions” to themselves and accept that we are all people. My best friend through school was black and I had many black friends as well. It just wasn’t an issue that I saw come up much, even though I lived where “everybody is supposed to be prejudiced” just because of where they live. I’m not saying everything was exactly perfect, but I did not see people being treated poorly because of race very much. Many people would think my grandfather was prejudiced if they heard a few terms he used, but he did not mean them as racial slurs, it was just what he grew up hearing. My grandfather was good to everyone and he even tried to get a black man, who had done some work for him, to come in and eat dinner with the family. This was way back in the ’50’s, before the Civil Rights movement. The man wouldn’t, probably because he was afraid of the problems it might cause my grandfather.

    I see socioecenomic prejudice and social group prejudice as being far more common today. Having lived in a military/civil service area, I often felt like I was viewed as less of a person because I did not belong to either group. It also didn’t help that I have a Southern accent as well. Living in that area made me really understand what it was like to be “different” and ridiculed for it.

    As for the Paper Clips Project, as I understand it, the project was not chosen because of a “problem” with discrimination in the Whitwell, Tennessee area. The faculty just realized that due to the mostly white population of the area it would be good to expose these students to the dangers of fearing differences. This led to the Holocaust study and eventually the Paper Clip Project. I applaud this small southern town for bucking the stereotype that many people have of southern towns and being a shining example.

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