Fairfield University's Bennett Center for Judaic Studies presents "Paper Clips" Holocaust Remembrance events

Fairfield University's Bennett Center for Judaic Studies presents "Paper Clips" Holocaust Remembrance events

Image: Linda Hooper How does a person visualize the extermination of six million people? In studying about the Nazi annihilation of six million Jews, a group of students in Whitwell, Tenn. sought to answer that question. The resulting project, a collection of paperclips numbering as many as those killed, gained worldwide attention for its effort to educate young people about the magnitude of the atrocity.

The Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University will present a free lecture by Linda Hooper, the principal of Whitwell Middle School who inspired and helped guide the Paper Clips Project, at its annual Holocaust Remembrance Service on Monday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola.

"It is my pleasure to be a part of the Holocaust Remembrance at Fairfield University," Hooper said. "We must never forget the horrors that occur when people do not accept, respect, and love each other."

In conjunction with Hooper's discussion, the Bennett Center will also present two free screenings of the documentary "Paper Clips," which tells the poignant story of the middle school Holocaust project that changed the lives of the students, parents, and people of Whitwell. The screenings, which are also open to the public, will take place in Room 101 of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library at Fairfield University on Thursday, April 27, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Monday, May 1, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Classes from area middle schools will also participate in both events.

Linda Hooper's speech, "The Power of One," tells the moving story of how the students behind the Paper Clips Project responded to what had been to them a completely unfamiliar chapter in human history - the Holocaust.

In 1998, the children of Tennessee's Whitwell Middle School took on an extraordinary project inspired by their principal, Linda Hooper.

The Paper Clips Project grew out of a sense that the students in the homogenous community were not learning about the lives and experiences of other groups.

"The Paper Clips Project has been an affirmation of my beliefs that education is absolutely essential to change; that evil must be constantly battled by education; that everyone must study the past so that we do not forget nor repeat our mistakes; and that there is a higher power guiding our destiny," said Hooper, who has been a public school educator for 30 years.

Struggling to grasp the concept of six million Jewish Holocaust victims, the students decided to collect six million paper clips to better understand the extent of this crime against humanity. Word of the project spread, and the students were soon getting help from people all over the world, who sent in their paper clips to further the project. The students ultimately collected 29 million paper clips. In addition, one family donated a World War II-period boxcar from Germany to serve as a memorial. The car is now housed at Whitwell Middle School, filled with 11 million of the paper clips to represent all of the people killed by the Nazis.

The amazing project would change the students, their teachers, their families and the entire town forever, and eventually, open hearts and minds around the world as the story became an award-winning film entitled "Paper Clips."

"If you want to change the world, start slowly. We're more capable of making change than we realize," said Ellen Umansky, Ph.D., the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University and director of the Bennett Center. "It's a very inspirational film."

The Bennett Center's two-part "Paper Clips" presentation has been made possible by the Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University. Admission to the "Paper Clips" events is complimentary. Reservations are requested; call (203) 254-4000, ext. 2066.

Posted On: 03-31-2006 10:03 AM

Volume: 38 Number: 220