Project teaches Holocaust history lesson

Date Published: 
December 25, 2011
Michele Bolton
News Type: 

Mail delivery has been on overload at the Foxborough Regional Charter School this month, but not for the customary holiday reasons.

With items pouring in from around the world, the students are interested mostly in the postage stamps. Not just stamps stuck on the outside of envelopes destined for the school office, but ones that are trimmed and organized in boxes and bags, sometimes thousands at a time, as word spreads about the school’s goal.

The Holocaust Stamp Project is now in its third year at the school, where students are trying to collect 11 million stamps, one to represent each victim of the one of the darkest chapters in world history.

By the middle of this month, the number had climbed to 304,362. Now, with the holiday season at its climax and the flurry of greeting cards that entails, officials at the Foxborough school are hoping that the public will save stamps and contribute them to the commemoration effort.

“Eleven million is a huge number,’’ said Charlotte Sheer, who teaches the school’s fifth-grade community service class.

The number represents 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children, and 5 million others in 21 European countries who were annihilated by Hitler’s ruthless regime in Nazi Germany, she said.

The charter school’s curriculum blends world history with lessons on contemporary discrimination and bullying, a thread that ties the past with the present, said Sheer and others at the school.

Students also read relevant fiction and watch “Paper Clips,’’ a documentary about middle school students in Tennessee who collected 6 million paper clips to symbolize the 6 million Jews who perished during the Holocaust.

The Foxborough students will use some of the stamps they collect to create 18 mosaics. The first, called “With Liberty and Peace for All,’’ already hangs in a school hallway. The mosaics will symbolize the Holocaust’s Jewish victims, 18 being the numerical translation of chai, the Hebrew word for life.

Sheer said the decisions on what to do with the other stamps will be made collaboratively. “I will be looking for people who share our vision for the project, not necessarily just from the . . . school community, to work on the decisions and plans,’’ she said.

Each stamp collected symbolizes one life “thrown away’’ as having no value, Sheer said, much like an envelope bearing a canceled postage stamp is tossed in the trash.

“Eleven million is a number you see in a textbook,’’ added Ron Griffin, the school’s director of teaching and learning. “But it has taken on new meaning here.’’

James Dimino and Evan Landry, both 10, have been helping to collect stamps, and worked on the collage with several dozen others in grades 5 through 8. The work - which took 24 hours and 1,058 stamps to complete - has opened their eyes, they said.

- See more at: