Magazine article School Arts

The Button Project

Magazine article School Arts

The Button Project

Article excerpt

It started as a dream, a need to educate future generations about the Holocaust, to teach tolerance, and to remember the past. Under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of Peoria, a small band of people joined together with the goal of teaching people about the Holocaust so that it will never happen again. Eleven million buttons have now been collected and hand counted. Each button represents a life--recognizing not only the six million Jews marked for extermination, but the five million enemies of the state who died in Hitler's death camps.

Each Tiny Button Reminds Us

From that small band of people, grew a worldwide effort as students, senior citizens, and people from every age group in between, took on the task of collecting and hand counting each of the eleven million buttons. The buttons came to Peoria from such diverse places as New York City and Singapore. The diversity of those who have contributed to the project underscores the message of tolerance and acceptance of others.

Remembering with a Memorial

The memorial now consists of eighteen glass columns, in two rows, containing six million buttons, each representing the life of a Jew exterminated. Each column is in the shape of the Star of David. The placement of the columns represents the selection process at the camps: those to the right will survive another day, and those to left are taken to the gas chambers. Eighteen columns were used to represent the total number contained in the Hebrew word "chai," which means "life." Glass was chosen for "Kristallnacht" or "The Night of the Broken Glass." Five million more buttons are encased in triangular glass cases that represent the triangular patches that the enemies of the state were forced to wear. This permanent structure has been welcomed with open arms by the Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria, Illinois, where it has been seen by thousands . …

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