Whitwell made national headlines when a small school project grew into a major remembrance for the millions who died in Nazi concentration camps.
Whitwell is a small town in Marion County, Tennessee. Without any indication of what was to come, it started simply enough in 1998 in a Whitwell Middle School history class discussing World War II. The teacher discussed how six million Jews were slaughtered in the Nazi camps and a student asked how big six million is. In a town of just a little over one thousand people, it's hard to imagine just how big six million really is. One student doing research discovered that people from Norway wore paper clips as a symbol of resistance against the Nazis.
The teacher thought it would be an interesting idea to see if they could gather a few paper clips as a small sampling of how big six million could be. The students began a letter writing campaign asking various people to donate paper clips to the project. After a few thousand had come in, some reporters came to visit the school to see what was going on. Those reporters told about the school's project and the story became nationally. A couple of years after they had started, over 29 Million paper clips had been sent to the school.
The school began to think what they should do with all of the paper clips. A couple of Jewish reporters who stayed in contact with the school searched Germany and found a vintage rail car which had been used to transport Jewish captives to the camps. The railcar was donated to the school.
The memorial was unveiled on 9 November 2001. Inside the rail car, 11 million of the paper clips were placed, remembering not only the Jews but also all of the other groups that were killed in the Nazi camps.
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