The tragic shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC last week reminds us yet again of the importance of making sure that future generations do not just learn the statistics but truly understand the near-incomprehensible devastation of genocide and the toxic tragedy of bigotry.
The documentary Paper Clips is one every family should watch. It is the story of Whitwell, Tennessee, a small coal mining community (population 1600) outside of Chatanooga. The population is almost entirely white and entirely Christian. When the local school set out to teach children about tolerance and diversity, the teachers realized that most of the children had never seen a person from another country or faith. So the school decided to teach students about the Holocaust in Germany during World War II.
As the students tried to come to grips with the Nazi genocide, they had a hard time visualizing the magnitude of the loss of six million people. They wanted to collect six million of something to represent the people who were killed.
The students did some research and learned that the paperclip was invented in Norway and that Norwegians wore paperclips on their collars to demonstrate their sympathy for the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other groups being persecuted by the Nazis. The students decided to collect six million paperclips and began writing letters to everyone they could think of to ask for help.
This documentary shows how the project grew from a classroom assignment to an event that transformed the entire community.