The 70,273 Project
I was lucky to be able to attend the International Quilt Show in Houston this year. What struck me as different this year was several exhibits that highlight quilts with a conscious. One that particularly moved me is The 70,273 Project.
Approaching this exhibit, you wondered why aisles of white quilts had red X’s all over them? It drew you in. What were these quilts about?
Between January 1940 and August 1941, the Nazis murdered 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people. Without ever laying eyes on the disabled person they evaluated, the assessing doctors read the medical files and, if from the words on the page, they deemed the person unfit or an economic burden on society or a useless eater, they placed a red X at the bottom of the form. Three doctors read each file. When two of them made an X on the page, it sealed the person’s fate.
Jeanne Hewell-Chambers was stitching the drawings of her disabled sister-in-love, with the idea of The 70,273 Project came and whispered itself to her. Though she usually gives her big, fat, crazy ideas to some fictional woman and writes a story about them, this time Jeanne decided to roll up her sleeves and live this idea into existence.
While we can’t undo history, we can make sure we remember these victims. To commemorate these 70,273 voiceless and powerless people, so callously and casually murdered, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers hopes to gather 70,273 quilt blocks of white fabric, representing the innocence of the victims and the paper the doctors read, each bearing two red X’s, representing one person and their death sentence. They stitch the blocks together into quilts that then travel to every corner of the world.
The display at Houston was so impactful, and there are still so many more blocks to make. The completed project will be quite powerful.
Get involved: make blocks, make quilts or send financial donations to share this story around the world. Learn more about The 70,273 Project and how you can help.