Sandy Chertok, entertainment editor at JewCentral.com, sat down for a conversation about the award winning documentary “Paper Clips” with one of the executive producers- Yeeshai Gross from Ergo Entertainment.
Jew Central: What is your personal opinion about the Whitwell Holocaust program?
Yeeshai Gross: What they accomplished is remarkable.
JC: Do you know how the program was initially received in Whitwell?
YG: The program began and still is an after school program. At first, both
students and their parents attended it because everyone was skeptical about
how it would be taught.
JC: And now?
YG: Right now, it is one of the hardest after school programs to get into.
Students have to write an essay and go through a screening process in order
to gain admittance into the program.
JC: What happened to all of the paper clips?
YG: 11 million paper clips ended up in the rail car Holocaust Memorial (6
million representing the Jews and 5 million representing the gypsies,
homosexual, and other victims of the Holocaust) at the school. 1 and a
half million paper clips were put in a Children’s Holocaust Memorial that is
also at the school. A few paper clips have been sent to the Holocaust
Washington Museum. Additional paper clips have been sent to other schools
who want to start their own Holocaust project (Whitwell wrote a curriculum
about the program and sends it out to schools who request it). The
remaining paper clips are being used by the students at Whitwell in a Poland
Project, in which they are using paper clips to represent the people who
died in each city in Poland.
JC: Whitwell is mentioned in Yad V’Shem. Do you know if any faculty members or students have gone to Israel and visited Yad V’Shem?
YG: I know that initially Principal Linda Hooper spent the first summer of
the program/project in Israel and at Yad V’Shem in order to gain knowledge
about the Holocaust.
JC: How was the rail car financed for the school?
YG: The Schroeders bought the rail car. However, the German government and
local companies helped to pay for the transportation of the rail car to
JC: The rail car came to America on September 9, 2001. Was there any
footage shot on September 11 and were the students at Whitwell involved in
any September 11 activities?
YG: Initially we had footage shot regarding September 11 in the film.
Principal Hooper sent a group of students to ground zero. However, the
footage ended up being a distraction from the topic. That is why it was cut
from the film. Perhaps we’ll include it as a DVD bonus.
JC: Were there any problems that you, your partners, and the filmmakers came
across while making the film?
YG: Whitwell is about 100 miles away from areas that have supported KKK
activities. “A paper clip is worth more than a Jewish life” did appear on
some KKK websites. I’m also embarrassed to say that we had problems
raising money from some Jewish groups who were offended by the project since
non-Jews were taking on the Holocaust which is considered only a Jewish
JC: What do you hope to accomplish with the “Paper Clips” documentary?
YG: We’re hoping to get the film into various Holocaust studies programs
across the country.
JC: Some people have compared “Paper Clips” to “The Wave” (a short film from
the 1980s). What do you think about this comparison?
YG: I think both are examples of films that open a new door to learning
about the Holocaust. My partners and I come from a Yeshiva background and
we were overexposed to learning about the Holocaust. The trick is to come
up with a new way for people to learn about it and not to loose interest in
For more information about the film, please go to www.paperclipsmovie.com.