Beth Markel

The 70273 Project

Posted on October 23, 2018 by Beth Markel

Sometimes when you sew in your own studio, it becomes easy to get wrapped up in details, deadlines, and making the next critical design decision.  I often have deadlines for custom quilts or t-shirt quilts, art quilts, and sadly memorial quilts, all of which I am respectful towards, and realize the memorial quilts are sometimes all families have left after they have lost someone dear.

Sometimes, however, a project jumps out at you from facebook, and you know you must, in some small way, become a part of it.  This was true for me when I ran across the 70273 Project, started by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers. Here is how this project got started, and I believe we’re up to 50,000+ blocks.  You can find Jeanne at



A brief overview:

Between January 1940 and August 1941, Nazis murdered 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people – men, women, teens, boys, and girls. 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 were to read each medical file, and when two of them made a red X on the page, the disabled person’s fate was sealed.

I will commemorate these 70,273 voiceless, powerless people who were so callously and casually murdered by gathering 70,273 blocks of white fabric (representing the paper the doctors read), each bearing two red X’s (representing one person), and I will stitch them together into quilts.

Am I crazy? Maybe. But Bones say I can’t not do this. I can’t change history – can’t unring that bell – but I can commemorate the lives of these 70,273 disabled people in this small way . . . if you’ll help. (I’ve done the math, and I just can’t do it alone.) See where it says “70273” at the top of the page? If you’ll click on that, you’ll find all sorts of information about how and why to become involved. Take some time poking around the pages, and when you’re ready, join us.

So while my 12 blocks are not exactly a force to be reckoned with, they brought me to tears with each stitch, and I thought about the people I worked with in college who had mild-moderate mental handicaps.  Such sweethearts!  I thought about my sister’s good friend, Lynn, who struggled with a genetic disorder her entire life, and passed away at 19.  I thought about the people I volunteered with 2 years ago, all of whom were mentally and/or physically challenged who came to their first prom EVER – some were in their 60’s and 70’s and had been excluded from simple things like a school dance, their entire lives.  I thought about my good friend, Lana, whose granddaughter has developmental challenges, and is the sweetest girl.  It hurts my heart to think about just making an X across a page to determine if someone has “value”.  None of us can change the past, but we can try to make sure it never happens this way again.


70273 Project


Make something good today.









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