Wings of Witness


A witness to history, piece by piece
Students at Temple Sholom in Ontario help with construction of Holocaust memorial
by Tipton Blish
(The Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2003)

     Alan Brown like many Jews, learned early of the Holocaust. Brown, who now has a 9-year-old of his own, said at this son's age he had already met Holocaust survivors, seen films and photographs and studied concentration camps and the murder of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis.
     His son Adam received his own vivid lesson Sunday on the extent of the horror that also led the the murders of 5 million Gypsies, homosexuals and religious and political dissidents. 
     He took part Sunday in creating what will be a massive, five-story high, sculpture of an upended butterfly that will be built entirely of 11 million aluminum can tab tops--each one representing a civilian killed by the Nazis.    
     The project is the work of a New York artist, Jeffrey Schrier. He has been working on this memorial for five years, relying on School children around the country to help build the aluminum "feathers." In return he appears in their classrooms or synagogues to tell the story of the pull-tabs and of one of his heroes, Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving 20,000 Hungarian Jews form the death camps.
     The 11 million tabs were collected by the junior high school students of Kevin Daugherty in Mahomet, Ill. Daugherty was trying to give his students a tangible understanding of what it meat that 6 million people had been killed and simply to have them comprehend the vastness of the number, so he had them collecting the pull-tabs and pop-tops of the drink cans. 
     Students around the world learned of the student project and the number easily grew from the 6 million to the 11 million. 

     Schrier learned of the student project just as he was working on a piece based on Wallenberg that had been commissioned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
    The butterfly had been an earlier incarnation of his Wallenberg proposal, which ended up being a giant representation of the Swedish passports that the diplomat forged and gave to the Hungarians. Butterfly was the title of a poem written by Pavel Friedmann who died in a concentration camp.  
     On Sunday at Temple Sholom students threaded 613 of the can tops onto steel cable then wove the string onto a pole to form the "feathers." The room had the boisterous energy that a hands-on project generates. The students are well-versed in Holocaust history and answered questions about Jewish stories and traditions. 
    "They are people," said Taylor Bliszcz, a 10-year-old from Chino Hills, even as he paused in his race to get his tabs on as fast as possible.
     Betsi Katz, who teaches Sunday school at Temple Sholom, organized Schrier's workshop. Picking up the tabs, her checks reddened as she described the meaning in the piece of aluminum.
     Schrier has enlisted 30,000 students like those in Ontario on Sunday to build the feathers. 
     The sculpture will be presented at the Holocaust Memorial and Education Center of Nassau Country on Long Island this spring. 



To request information about bringing workshops to your school or community, or about the memorial sculpture itself, contact Jeffrey Schrier:  

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