Massachusetts School Collects 11 million Stamps to Commemorate Holocaust Victims

Nine years after launching a school-based project to collect 11 million canceled stamps to honor the memory of victims of the Holocaust, students at Foxborough Regional Charter School, a public charter school in a town south of Boston, surpassed their unlikely goal, a testament to their persistence and commitment to an inspiring project that has garnered attention from around the world and in local and national media. The Holocaust Stamp Project set out to collect 11 million stamps to represent the lives of 6 million Jews and 5 million other victims of intolerance who perished during the Nazi genocide.

Foxborough Regional Charter School High school students selecting stamps  to use on two Holocaust Stamp Project stamps collag
Foxborough Regional Charter School High school students selecting stamps to use on two Holocaust Stamp Project stamps collages, I Am the Last Witness and White Rose.

In my October 2 article for Jewish Telegraphic Agency, I reported the latest news that on Friday, September 29, a community volunteer for the project delivered some 70,000 canceled stamps to the K-12 school, bringing the total of stamps collected to 11,011,979, according to Jamie Droste, the school’s student life adviser who oversees community service learning for the high school.

By chance, the goal-setting delivery was made on a day that a team of reporters from the NBC Boston affiliate was at the school to report about the project.

A team from NBC Boston filming Foxborough Regional Charter School students for a September 29 report by Abbey Niezgoda on the
A team from NBC Boston filming Foxborough Regional Charter School students for a September 29 report by Abbey Niezgoda on the Holocaust Stamp Project

How it began

The project began nine years ago in the fifth-grade classroom of Charlotte Sheer as an outgrowth of her students reading Number the Stars, the award-winning work of historical fiction by Lois Lowry set during the Holocaust. By collecting 11 million stamps, one stamp at a time, Sheer envisioned the project as a way to make tangible the incomprehensible magnitude of the genocide.

From its modest beginnings of collecting a few thousand stamps, the Holocaust Stamp Project has transformed into an all-volunteer community service component for the school’s high school students. It has also attracted volunteers from the community who help with the time consuming process of counting and sorting the stamps.

Through the project, students learn about the importance of acceptance, tolerance and respect for diversity, according to Sheer and Droste, who has directed the project since Sheer’s retirement about five years ago.

Among the beloved volunteers was Gabe Trost, a local resident who was a child when he fled Poland with his family for the U.S in 1936. Trost died at age 92, just over one-year ago, on September 18, 2016.

Gabriel Trost, a volunteer for the Holocaust Stamp Project, holds the <em>Dove</em>  collage, next to Jamie Droste, student l
Gabriel Trost, a volunteer for the Holocaust Stamp Project, holds the Dove collage, next to Jamie Droste, student life advisor, who oversees the student project at Foxborough Regional Charter School.

Working on the project was an opportunity to remember relatives who perished during the Holocaust, he said in a 2015 interview for an earlier article I wrote about the project.

“I feel this is a worthwhile project,” Trost said. “You don’t want the world to forget. The students are helping to keep the memory alive.”

Worldwide reach

The project has caught the attention and respect from individuals and organizations the world over. Their stats are impressive:

  • Stamps have arrived from 47 states and 22 countries including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel and Ireland.

Some are sent a few at a time, including from Holocaust survivors or their family members and others have been donated in batches of thousands; a few collectors have contributed rare stamps.

Stamps transformed into memorable collages

As part of the project, students are transforming thousands of the stamps into meticulously crafted colorful collages whose intricate designs reflect a Holocaust-related theme.

<em>Books Cannot Be Killed by Fire </em> (April 2017). In this searing image, made with canceled stamps, flames singe fanned
Books Cannot Be Killed by Fire (April 2017). In this searing image, made with canceled stamps, flames singe fanned out pages of Number the Stars, the award-winning historical novel by Lois Lowry that inspired the project. The collage features authors whose books were banned by the Nazis, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Helen Keller and Albert Einstein.

Thirteen have been completed so far, with a goal to complete 18 collages, according to Droste. The collages have been displayed for the community during Holocaust Remembrance programs.

 A collage of <em>Eva Paddock</em>, a child Holocaust survivor from  Czechoslovakia, is among the 13 collages created as part
A collage of Eva Paddock, a child Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia, is among the 13 collages created as part of the Holocaust Stamp Project. Paddock was the first survivor to speak at a packed school community program in 2012, marking the first 1 million stamps collected.

In the spotlight

The project was recognized during Holocaust Remembrance ceremonies last spring with an award by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. The ceremony took place at Fanueil Hall, Boston’s historic site on the city’s Freedom Trail, steps from the New England Holocaust Memorial. In its statement, as reported by Matt Lebovic for Times of Israel, the JCRC said,

“For eight years, the Holocaust Stamps Project has served as a springboard for using world history to teach tolerance, acceptance, and respect for differences. Charlotte Sheer and Jamie Droste have opened the minds and hearts of students, teachers and community members, inspiring colleagues to bring their teachings into their own classrooms.”

Droste and Sheer are actively seeking to find a permanent home for the collection, where the collages and collection can be properly stored and displayed.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS