NZ Moriah reach Milestone in Memorial Button Project

December 9, 2010 by Miriam Bell
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Reaching their collection target of 1.5 million buttons has left the pupils of, Moriah School in Wellington, “absolutely thrilled” to have achieved a milestone in their project to create a Holocaust Memorial to the Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.

Ella McLaughlin-Smith and Yannai Goldberg show Prime Minister John Key the buttons

Former Moriah School principal Justine Hitchcock, who remains at the head of the school’s Button Project Committee, says that the achievement of such a huge goal has really shown the students the rewards of reaching for the sky.

Hitchcock says the students started learning about the Holocaust in May 2008 and, on learning that 1.5 million children died in the Holocaust, decided to collect buttons to see just how big that number is.

After two and a half years, the children have now reached their target number of buttons and are moving on to the next part of the project – which is to raise the money to build a memorial sculpture to house the buttons.

“The children have already designed an amazing sculpture in honour of the children each button represents,” says Hitchcock. “It will be a mammoth task to fund and build, and one that we are again seeking support for from the wider Jewish community.”

The interactive sculpture the children have designed is called Bewilderment, and is a large 6x6x6 cube of stark concrete which encases a maze that people will be able to walk into and experience. The walls of the maze itself are clear and are filled with the buttons the school has collected. In the centre of the maze is a single light shaped like a candle, the design of which will be opened to local artists for tender.

Hitchcock says the sculpture will also feature a simple plaque quoting Vera Egermayer, a Wellington based Holocaust survivor, who met with Moriah pupils and whose words inspired the design of the memorial.

Egermayer told the children: “In a time like the Holocaust it is like living in a pitch black room, but every time someone does something nice for you, it’s like them coming in the room and lighting a candle. You need to focus on the light.”

Year 8 Moriah student Kessem Goldberg (12) says the maze is meant to represent Egermayer’s quote, about focusing on the light until you find your way out, and is meant to make the viewer feel scared, lost and alone.

Proposed sculpture

“It is going to be dead silent in the maze and every time you take a step you’ll hear your footstep echoing. I think our design is a good design because it makes you feel like the children must have felt in the Holocaust and, hopefully, it will get you thinking about the children. While you’re walking through the maze you’ll feel like you’re being surrounded by one and a half million dead children but, hopefully, that will make you feel close and bonded to the children”.

Hitchcock says the students, and the broader school community, are extremely grateful for, and appreciative of, the support and contributions they received from people all around New Zealand.“

Having successfully reached our goal of 1.5 million buttons, we now have the confidence to move on to our next step – building a Holocaust Memorial for the whole nation to treasure. We want the memorial to be one that everyone in, or visiting Wellington, can visit because we think it is important for people to remember the child victims of the Holocaust so that nothing similar can ever happen again.”

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