Since 2009, Foxborough Regional Charter School and its students have been working on a mission as noble as it is daunting: Collecting 11 million stamps to commemorate the 11 million people murdered in the Holocaust. Now, it is finally nearing completion.
The project was started when FRCS fifth grade teacher Charlotte Sheer had her students read the Lois Lowry book “Number the Stars,” which is set in Denmark during the holocaust, and watched a documentary on The Paper Clips Project, an effort at Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, Tenn., that collected 6 million paperclips to commemorate the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This inspired FRCS to begin The Holocaust Stamps Project, which seeks to collect a used stamp for every victim.
During the Holocaust, Nazi Germany and its allies systematically murdered 11 million people, a number that includes 6 million Jews. Indeed, well more than half of Europe’s Jewish population was slaughtered.
Sheer has since retired, and the project is currently being run by FRCS Student Life Advisor Jamie Droste. It is a part of the school’s Community Service Learning curriculum, where it has been used to teach students about the holocaust at all grade levels.
The project also includes the creation of 18 stamp collages. Eighteen is a significant number in the Hebrew language, and each collage touches or will touch on a theme relevant to the holocaust. These include “Love Thy Neighbor,” which honors the Danish fishermen who smuggled thousands of Danish Jews to safety in Sweden, and “Different People, One World Community – Celebrating Our Diversity,” a collage from the kindergarten students, where the project is used to teach FRCS’ youngest students about the importance of diversity and tolerance.
One of the collages finished this year was “Books Cannot be Killed by Fire,” which features stamps of authors banned by the Nazis, as well as stamps from occupied countries.
The current official stamp count at FRCS stands at 9,468,767 stamps. Moreover, Droste says that donations have been coming in heavily this year.
“We’ve had huge donations coming in,” said Droste. “People are just talking about the program more.”
She said that word about the project has been passed around at stamp shows by collectors, and that the project has been featured in a number of stamp magazines.
The present stamp total doesn’t include a massive donation of 500,000 stamps from the American Philatelic Society, the world’s largest nonprofit stamp collecting organization, made this spring.
The origins of the donation occurred when American Philatelic Society Director Scott English was sent an article about The Holocaust Stamps Project by American Philatelic Society Member Steve Zwillinger.
“I thought, ‘We can help with this,’” said English.
The society gets regular donations of stamps, which are often used to help get young collectors started in the hobby. English said that using the stamps to educate children about a topic as important as the holocaust fits squarely into the society’s mission.
“We thought this was an incredibly valuable thing to do,” said English.
English personally drove the donation to Foxboro from the society’s headquarters in Bellefonte, Pa., as he was going to a stamp show in Boxborough that weekend.
“He brought 500,000 because that’s what could fit in his mini van,” said Droste.
This was English’ first visit to Foxboro, and he got to meet some of the students involved with the project, as well as visit Gillette Stadium.
“It seems to be making the rounds in our community,” said English, speaking of knowledge about the Holocaust Stamps Project.
He said that the society is seeking to highlight states that the project has not received donations from. Currently, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wyoming are the only states that have not yet sent in a stamp donation to the project.
“They’d like get all 50 states to participate in some way,” said English.
Droste said that she thinks that the project will reach its goal of 11 million stamps by September of this year. Once this number is achieved, Droste said that FRCS is looking for an institution to put the stamps and collages on permanent display.
“We are actually trying to find a place that will house all 11 million stamps, and all of the original collages,” she said. “This should be open to the public.”
She put forward the idea of displaying the stamps in 11 clear lucite or acrylic cubes, with 1 million stamps in each.
“It has a profound impact on people,” said Droste, speaking of the reactions people have to the stamps, particularly those with a personal connection to the holocaust.
Droste said that the school is expecting to get an excess of 11 million stamps by the time the project is finished. As such, she said that FRCS will also be collecting 1.6 million stamps to represent the 1.6 million children murdered in the holocaust. These will be displayed in a clear cube at FRCS, along with additional stamp collages.