JUNE 15, 2017 – SALEM – Robert Soltz has collected stamps for decades. However, most of them have remained in a drawer for years.
Recently, he read about a project that was being conducted at the Foxborough Regional Charter School. Students were trying to collect 11 million stamps, one to represent each person who was killed in the Holocaust.
Just as a used postage stamp is thrown away as having no value, the Holocaust Stamps Project attempts to symbolize how the Nazis treated the lives of their victims, including six million Jews.
“I think it’s a great project,” said Soltz, a longtime Marblehead resident who now lives in Salem and works as an agent at Sagan Realtors in Swampscott. “It gave me a feeling that I wouldn’t miss giving them away as I knew what they were now representing.”
Just as he recalled where and when he got many of his stamps, Soltz vividly described the day he delivered them to the school.
“It was very emotional,” he said of the May 17 visit, when he and his wife, Roberta, brought a box of 20,000 stamps and were shown the collection, which had already topped nine million.
“The school has very few Jewish children and the teachers were using the stamps to teach tolerance and diversity and the kids got to understand.”
In an effort to give particular meaning to the stamps and to make the project more appealing, the students have been using them to make murals and other art pieces.
“When I saw what the kids had done and I saw the Torah and the Magen David made from the stamps, it struck me that these children were learning about this for the first time and coming to learn what ‘Never again’ means,” Soltz said. “It is a great learning experience.”
The project had special meaning for Soltz, who found through a genealogical search that many people with his last name had perished in the Holocaust.
“I am not sure if they were related,” he said, “but the name was the same and I feel a connection, and so this represents them and honors them.”
Recognizing such connections is one of the objectives of the project, said Jamie Droste, student life adviser at the Foxborough school.
“Our goal is not only to honor the memories of the 11 million Holocaust victims,” Droste said, “but also to celebrate the lives of those who still survive today and bravely share their powerful personal memories and stories.”
While he realizes that his stamps are a small part of the 11 million the students hope to collect, Soltz is proud to know that his drawer full of paper will now have a higher purpose.
“People knew I collected and so they used to give me their stamps,” the 78-year-old explained, recalling friends who had business relations in Europe and elsewhere who would send him their cancelled postage from foreign lands. “I ended up collecting stamps from Israel as a specialty.”
Though he had spent many years assembling his collection, he had no qualms about donating it all to the school.
“I think it’s a great project,” Soltz said. “It gave me a feeling that I wouldn’t miss giving them away as I knew what they were now representing.
“I feel I have made my contribution to memorialize these people, and that is inspiring.”