19th Annual Holocaust Writing & Visual Art Competition for Students

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Special Thanks

This competition is made possible through the generosity of The Sarfan/Gary S.and William M. Nachman Philanthropic Fund of the UJC Endowment Fund.

 

Our Story….
It’s your first helicopter ride! You’re soaring over the rustic Smoky Mountains. Your pilot enjoys zooming you in for close-ups of rivers and valleys and then climbing back up high again. He announces he’ll be taking you in for a surprise landing at Whitwell Middle School in rural Whitwell, Tennessee. As he hovers high above the real school, he asks you, “what do you see?” You gaze down upon hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teenagers just like you. They are changing classes, talking and laughing just like you do. Only, at this school you see no Asian students. You see no Hispanic students. You see only two African American students.
Then, you see something you can’t quite figure out. You ask the pilot to go closer. It looks like a very old railroad car right in the schoolyard! You see students leading people in and out of this railroad car. The pilot brings you in closer yet, and you notice that the people leaving the railroad car are wiping tears away from their eyes. One woman has collapsed in grief on the stairs leaving the car. You wonder, “what could be so emotional about the inside of a railroad car?”
Your pilot lands. You are greeted by a couple of students who take you on a tour of the most amazing thing you have ever seen on school grounds. It is an actual World War II boxcar, and it is filled with 11 million paperclips.
“But why?” you ask.
You learn that the students of Whitwell Middle School live in an almost exclusively white, Christian community. In 1998, the school began a project to try to understand how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust in World War II. The students could not begin to comprehend the size of the loss of 6,000,000 Jewish lives and 5,000,000 lives of other victims of the Nazi era. All were murdered because of hatred and intolerance.
These students began writing letters, asking people to send them paper clips. Each paperclip would represent the murder of one victim – someone’s parent, child grandparent, aunt, or uncle. The students had done “some research, and discovered that citizens of Norway, where paper clips were invented, wore them on their lapels as a sign of patriotism and resistance against Nazi tyranny during World War II.” Whitwell Middle School collected and counted paper clips from all over the world that came in more than 25,000 pieces of mail. You learn another part of this true story: The school was also given the World War II boxcar as a permanent tribute to the work of these amazing kids. Today, students at Whitwell Middle School give tours to the public of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial railcar on their school grounds.

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