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Paper Clips (2004)

Written by Joe Fab
Produced by Ergo Entertainment
A documentary about a class project in rural Tennessee that changed the way the community viewed the world.



In Whitwell, Tennessee (population 1,600+), a group of middle school students started a project that spanned four or five years and brought an entire community together under the banner of understanding, love, and hope.

When middle school students were learning about the Holocaust and learned 6 million Jews were murdered, one of the children said, "What's 6 million look like?" The teacher didn't know how to answer and the idea for The Paper Clips Project was born. The idea was based off history - Norwegians at the time wore paper clips on their lapels in silent protest of the Nazi occupation. Paper clips were designed by a Norwegian named Johan Vaaler (though the original design is slightly different than they look today). The children sent letters to celebrities and famous political figures asking for their help. Tom Hanks, Bill Cosby, Tom Bosley (who is Jewish), Steven Spielberg, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were mentioned among those who donated. Two journalists who were born in Germany during WWII, Peter and Dagmar Schroeder, picked up on the project and wrote an article for a German newspaper (they also worked as White House correspondents). After that, the Washington Post covered the story, then CBS News, and the project boomed from there.

At last count during the movie, the group had received over 29 million paper clips, far exceeding their goal. One class from Germany even sent a vintage suitcase with apology letters to Ann Frank inside, attached with paper clips. It became the centerpiece of the display of paper clips for the memorial, which is housed in a kettle car that was used to transport people to concentration camps during the Holocaust (obtained for the school by Peter and Dagmar Schroeder). All totaled, the memorial houses 11 million paper clips - 6 million to represent the number of Jews and another 5 million to represent Gypsies, Catholics, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups whose life was ended by the Nazis. (Not mentioned in the movie is a sculpture that sits next to the memorial comprised of another 11 million paper clips to honor the 1.5 million children murdered during the Holocaust)

The film covers the project from start to finish and honors those lost to hate and bigotry. There are interviews and stories from Holocaust survivors and also a member of the U.S. military who delivered supplies to those liberated from Nazi camps.

For more information on The Paper Clips Project, check out their website.

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