Foxborough charter school collects 11 million stamps to honor Holocaust victims

Date Published: 
April 22, 2018
Alana Levene

Ten years ago, Foxborough Regional Charter School launched an effort to collect 11 million postage stamps to commemorate each life lost during the Holocaust.

On Sunday, the public school will hold an open house to display 18 pieces of student art work created from some of the stamps donated from across the world.

The artwork, including collages of mountains, burning books to soaring doves, are meant to reflect varying aspects of the Holocaust.

Hundreds of students, alumni and members of the community are expected at the open house, which will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Superintendent Mark Logan said.​

The Holocaust Stamp Project was inspired by Number the Stars, the award-winning children’s book by Cambridge author Lois Lowry. The historical novel tells the story of a Jewish family’s escape from Denmark during World War II.

Lowry accepted the grade kindergarten to 12 school’s invitation to tour the exhibit and deliver remarks, the school said in a press release.

“She wrote one of the driving pieces of literature used at the beginning of the project,” Logan said in a telephone interview Saturday night.

The project was started in 2008 by Charlotte Sheer, a fifth-grade teacher who has since retired. She started the stamp collection project to help students grasp the enormous loss of Jews and non-Jews during the Holocaust.

“Usually, you use a stamp, then you send the letter, and the person who receives the letter throws the stamp away,” Logan explained. “Each of the lives lost in the Holocaust were just thrown away, it was like they had no value.”

The stamp collecting “quickly took on a life of its own,” Logan said.

Stamp donations arrived from around the world from people inspired by Sheer’s desire to bring the lessons of the Holocaust to life. Soon, the fifth-grade project grew into a school-wide endeavor, Logan said.

Kindergartners learned their numbers by helping to count the stamps. Fifth graders followed the project as they progressed through senior year, he said.

In 2012, the school marked a milestone when they collected 1.5 million stamps, symbolizing the number of children killed during the Holocaust. A year later, the project had collected 5.5 million, half-way toward its goal.​

As the stamp count climbed, project organizers used the story of the Holocaust to put contemporary issues into a historical context, Logan said.

“The divisiveness back in that time, the hatred — what does that look like and feel like now?” Logan said. “And we can turn it the other way. This is our opportunity to recognize hate and celebrate diversity. We’re more alike than we are different.”

Teachers encouraged students to use the lessons of the Holocaust to foster respect for diversity and acceptance of others, both in and out of school.

“The project represents our caring and dedicated faculty and staff who invest their time to make sure kids have important, powerful learning experiences,” Logan said. “It’s to take a traumatic historical issue, and keeping it alive so we can learn from history’s atrocities.”