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'Its binding': How the paperclip turned into a symbol against anti-semitism

Paperclip Campaign
Posted at 8:46 AM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 10:46:52-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — What started as a class project about the Holocaust is now a program recognized by federal and state legislators, Holocaust organizations and students all over the world.

The Paperclip Campaign was created by a middle school teacher in Colorado Springs. It turns a simple item such as a paperclip into a symbol against anti-semitism.

“It's a bind together,” Sharyn Markus said.

Sharyn Markus is a retired teacher in Academy School District 20.

May 6-13, 2024 is known as Days of Remembrance, which is the week of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Markus started the week by placing this paper clip onto her shirt. It's a tradition she created over 20 years ago.

“It started as a class project,” Markus said.

She taught middle school at Timberview Middle School in Colorado Springs.

“Teaching seventh graders and we read the diary of Anne Frank,” Markus said.

She said for many of her students, this was the first time they learned about the Holocaust and how people stood against it.

“Originally the Norwegians resistant wore red hats or red vest, but that was so visible that they were being shot for that. So they went to pick something that wasn't quite so visible,” Markus said.

They chose a paperclip because Markus and her class learned people in Nazi-occupied Germany during WWII used paper clips as a sign of opposition.

“In Norway, people were resistors and wore paper clips on their collars to say that they were against Nazism,” Markus said.

Her students wanted to do something to show their support for Holocaust survivors.

“Not just you know, the 6 million Jews who were killed with the 5 million others as well. So it's anybody of course, who was against Nazism against Hitler, that you know, so we want to remember all those victims of the Holocaust,” Markus said.

So, they created the paperclip campaign. During the Days of Remembrance, Markus and her students wore paper clips on to school. It is a gesture that has spread across the world.

“We joined the association of Holocaust organizations and that kind of took it even more across the nation and internationally. So it is just every year that seems like it continues to spread,” Markus said.

It lives on today as a chance for students to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

“Also make sure that we keep saying never again. We all have to get along and treat each other with respect. It is the only way we are going to make this a better world for everybody,” Markus said.

The Days of Remembrance runs through Monday.

"Its binding," how the paperclip turned into a symbol against anti-semitism