Welcome to a new podcast that takes you into a true story of forgiveness, hope and transcendence of the human spirit. Twenty years ago, a group of eighth graders from a rural, southern town set out to study the Holocaust and the dangers of prejudice. 

What happened next was a miracle


The students at Whitwell Middle School had never met a Jewish person in their lives.  When they learned that six million Jews were killed  in World War 2, the kids decided to collect 6 million paper clips in remembrance and to see how big the tragedy really was. But how could a town of 1,600 people possibly collect six million paper clips? 

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
— Anne Frank

The kids mailed letters to presidents, celebrities, athletes, asking if each person would contribute a paper clip. At the rate they were going, it would take decades. Until help appeared out of the blue from the most unlikely people. 

Paper clips began to pour in from around the world. Germans, holocaust survivors, and people who heard about the project sent paper clips, letters, photographs. People never stopped sending in paper clips, even after they reached 6 million. So the kids vowed to keep the project running. 

It’s been going for 20 years. 


The paper clips project has become more than just a story about Holocaust remembrance. It’s grown into a story of intersectional compassion and a monument that has created bridges with people across race, religion, nationality, ability, and sexual orientation. 

With the over 30 million paper clips that have been donated, the Whitwell children and community commemorated the estimated 11 million lives murdered in a permanent memorial. This staggering number includes 6 million Jews and an additional 5 million non-Jews who were also killed, including LGBT citizens, physically and mentally disabled, Catholics, Protestants, social activists and Nazi resisters, and Germans of mixed or African and Asian ancestry.


Each paper clip resides in a permanent holocaust memorial in Whitwell, Tennessee. In a German box car that once transported Jews to the camps–drawing visitors from around the world. 


This past November, our production team traveled to Whitwell to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the paperclips project. For the first time, everyone connected to the project gathered to share stories and experiences of how this project changed their lives forever. As the only members of the media invited to attend, One Small Thing was able to record more than 15 hours of interviews and never-before-heard stories from the people who have been impacted by this project for the last 20 years.


We’ve already covered the 20th Anniversary celebration and are so close to reaching our fundraising goal to create Episode 1. We’ll use the first episode to raise additional funds to produce a podcast series covering what this project has to show us about change, agency, and unity today.

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For a gift of any size, we will personally place one paper clip in the memorial in your honor. For gifts of $100 or more, you may include personal message or dedication in memory of someone to your paper clip. 

If you want to see this podcast happen, please make a tax-deductible donation today.

With thanks,

Stephanie Zhong

Please contact Stephanie or email Producer with questions.