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Holocaust Buttons Project Concludes With Solidarity, Friendship

"Getting to know each other is what it's all about. If we all got to know each other, there wouldn't be any more war"


The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand's effort to clean and sort over one million buttons for the Children's Holocaust Memorial came to a close last weekend in anticipation of the Memorial's official launch on 15 November at the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington.

Over a year and more than 1500 service hours went into preparing the buttons for exhibition, bringing together community members from various backgrounds and religious beliefs in solidarity against hate and prejudice.

Inge Woolf, founder of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand and a Holocaust survivor herself, said the road leading up to the finished exhibit has been a long one filled with many hours of detailed, careful button-cleaning. 

"It's taken a long time for us to get to this stage, but I feel it's really worthwhile work," Woolf said. 

Each button represents the life of a child killed in the Holocaust. The buttons were collected by students at the Moriah Jewish Day School in Wellington in an effort to understand what 1.5 million (the number of children who died in the Holocaust) really looked like. When the school closed in 2012, responsibility for the buttons was passed to the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand. 

Starting in March 2017, community members, including members and missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began gathering weekly to clean the buttons, some of which had suffered from being in storage for several years. At the same time, plans were put together for a travelling exhibit to display the buttons in a powerful way that captured the magnitude of the tragedy.

Mary Morris, Holocaust Centre board member and project coordinator, said that the many hours of service brought volunteers together in a special way. While memorializing the disastrous consequences of intolerance, volunteers were building friendships with and working alongside people different from themselves. 

"That's what we've come to love the best," Morris said. "That we're all people from different backgrounds and we've kind-of become brothers and sisters through this project."

Members and missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wellington helped regularly at the Holocaust Centre for the duration of the project, and Morris said they were invaluable. 

"We always joked that there was a huge injection of energy when 'the saints came marching in,'" Morris said.

Volunteers agreed that getting to know each other had turned out to be the highlight of the whole project.

"Getting to know each other is what it's all about," Woolf said. "If we all got to know each other there wouldn't be any more war." 

The Children's Holocaust Memorial will be on exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand from 16 November 2018 to 29 March 2019. 

Watch a video, created last year by Newsroom contributer Paesha Tuttle, about the project. 

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