Photos by Rick Wienecke
In the November/December 2010 issue of “Jewish Scene Magazine,” an article ran entitled “Unknown Child Penny Project Raises Holocaust Awareness.” The story reported what students at Horn Lake Middle School in Mississippi, were doing to remember the Holocaust, and how teachers Susan Powell and Melissa Swartz challenged them to collect 1.5 million Pennies, one for each murdered child.
Generation SC, a homeschool group from the Collierville/Germantown area, heard about the Unknown Child project and asked to participate. Their eager enthusiasm helped garner the remainder of the 1.5 million Pennies (in total over 8,000 pounds).
Soon after all the Pennies were collected, the project founders met Rick Wienecke, a sculptor from Israel who was intrigued by the project. Wienecke was commissioned to make a life-size sculpture of a faceless child in the ovens of Auschwitz – the “Unknown Child.” He counseled against melting the pennies for the sculpture, saying the power of the project was in the unimaginable number of 1.5 million Pennies – each representing a life!
The group next met architect, Doug Thornton, who had just finished reading a book about the Holocaust, “Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” When Thornton was asked to design a memorial to house the Pennies and the Unknown Child Sculpture, he knew that reading the book had prepared him for that moment.
Since the first article appeared in Jewish Scene, the project has begun to take shape. The group gained non-profit 501(c)3 status. They created the “Place-a-Penny” campaign for which $18 allows donors to place one of the 1.5 million Pennies on the Memorial’s towering Star-of-David walls. Thornton’s Memorial design (Phase I) will cost about $500,000, where Wienecke’s life-size sculpture of the Unknown Child will be placed in the center.
The genius behind the Unknown Child is its having been created by today’s children – remembering yesterday’s Holocaust children – with the hopes of “never again” for all tomorrow’s children. “… and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
For complete details on the Memorial design, etc. please visit www.unknownchild.org.