Followup-Friday: Guest Post by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers about The 70273 Project

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

February’s Webfind was a link to Jeanne’s project 70,273, commemorating the victims of action T4, the Nazi “euthanasia” programm. According to her blog, the idea for this project came to her when she saw a BBC documentary about Nazi Germany. Collecting 70,273 pieces of fabric, stitching them together and making them into a (or rather several) quilts, – that is a gigantic, unfathomable task. But it helps to illustrate something equally unfathomable. And obviously nothing could hold her back, not her husband’s surprise, not the calculation that she will need $20,000.00 just to make the quilts (not to speak of other related costs). – Project 70,273 is in full swing now. Jeanne is very busy, answering emails and getting the word out, all the while caring for her sister in law, helping out other friends, and meanwhile organizing the start of the project. From the little contact we have had, it is already very clear that she is a very committed woman. – I am very happy that for this follow up Friday, Jeanne is here to speak a little about her motivation for initiating the project and to give you some more details about how you can join and contribute.

My life is brilliantly decorated with disabled friends and family. Take my sister-in-love, Nancy, for example. She may not be able to change a tire on a car, but she’s the one I go to for Big Directions. She may not be able to feed herself, yet she nourishes me in ways food can’t touch. She may not be able to read even the simplest book, but don’t let that fool you – she is a Wise Woman who is my best teacher in the things that count.

In June 2012, a friend and I treated Nancy to her first-ever girls only weekend. Because Nancy had just celebrated her 52nd birthday, we did what anybody would have done: we kicked off the weekend with a round of hot fudge sundaes and milkshake chasers. Once Nancy had eaten her way into a sugar coma, she surprised me by beginning to draw. She drew and she drew and she drew. She’d finish a drawing then lift the pen for me to turn the page (she doesn’t have the fine motor skills to do it herself). By weekend’s end, I had 167 drawings . . . and I have stitched every one of them, along with other drawings that she made on subsequent visits. Now, some three-and-a-half years later, she’s still drawing, and I’m still stitching.

One of Nancy’s drawings, stitched by Jeanne

As an elementary school teacher, I taught special needs children, and they taught me more than the 4 years of college that gave me the degree I paid good money for. They taught me that each individual takes in knowledge in different ways. They taught me that individuals process information in different ways. They taught me that individuals go through the world in different ways. But make no mistake: “different” does not equal “less than” . . .

As World War II gained momentum, German Nazis murdered 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people – men, women, teens, boys, and girls. Why were they murdered? Because Nazi leaders considered disabled people to be a “drag on society”, viewed them as “useless”, and, ultimately, unworthy of life.  Though they never even laid eyes on the disabled person they were evaluating, the Nazi doctors read the medical files and, if from the words on the page, the person was deemed “unfit” or an “economic burden on society”, the doctor placed a red X at the bottom of the form. Three doctors read each medical file, and when two of them made a red X on the page, the disabled person’s fate was sealed. Most were murdered within 1-2 hours.

On February 14, 2016 – Valentine’s Day – Love Day – my birthday – I launched The 70273 Project to commemorate these 70,273 voiceless, powerless people who were so callously and casually murdered. I am asking people from around the world to make blocks of white fabric (representing the white paper of the medical records) and put two red X’s (representing the death sentence of one person) on the white fabric. Quilts – LOTS of quilts! – will be made from the blocks, and I hope they’ll travel the world, being exhibited wherever we are invited.

an example of a block for the project

Even if the only time you’ve worked with cloth is to zip or button it up, you can make these blocks. No previous stitching experience is required, and the guidelines are few:
~ The base for the blocks must be made from white fabric and cut in one of the following sizes: 3.5″ x 6.5″; 6.5″ x 9.5″; or 9.5″ x 12.5″.
~ Each block must bear two red X’s. The X’s can be stitched with red thread; pieces of red fabric that are stitched or glued down; marks made by using red fabric markers or red fabric paints. (Be sure to read and follow the instructors on markers and paints because some require heat setting.) For more ideas and to see what others are doing, come visit the blog.
~ When you’ve finished your blocks, download, print, and complete the Provenance Form and use a safety pin to attach it to the blocks before mailing to me.

That’s all there is to it. Easy peasy.

As you can imagine, I need LOTS of help with everything from making blocks to spreading the word to quilting to finding exhibit spaces . . . and many other things in between. If you’d like to volunteer, if you’ve thought of something I haven’t thought of, if you’d like me to pen a guest blog or interview me for a podcast, or if you have a question that you can’t find on the Thoughtfully Asked Questions page, let me know. Maybe you want to subscribe to the newsletter so you don’t miss a thing or an opportunity.

Thank you, Hilke, for featuring The 70273 Project on your blog, and thank you for giving me an opportunity to be here today.  On behalf of myself, of the 70,273 souls we commemorate, and the disabled people we hold dear, I offer a sincere and enthusiastic Thank you to you and your readers, and I raise a glass to the day when we’ll drop the word “disabled” and speak only of people.

Nancy (left) and Jeanne (right)

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