By Krystn Shrieve - L.A. Daily News

Like an insect emerging from cocoon, the glistening sculpture of a butterfly has arisen on a Simi Valley hillside, memorializing the 11 million people killed in the Holocaust.
"Wings Of Witness," a sculpture composed of the pull tabs of 11 million aluminum cans, was assembled this summer by counselors-in-training at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute.

Holocaust survivor Sidonia Lax was one of several adults and campers at the institute who hiked up Friday to see it.

"It's overwhelming," said Lax, a member of the Brandeis-Bardin board. "If one could only imagine that each of those tabs represents a person. Sixty of those tabs represent members of my family."

In its only West Coast exhibit, "Wings of Witness" will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. Then it will be boxed up and shipped to the Holocaust Museum in Houston where 3,600 youth will participate.

"It's the most incredible thing I've ever done in my life," said 16-year-old Ben Hierschfeld, one of the counselors who helped with assembly. "Millions of people will see this and the amazing thing is knowing that we were part of it."

The sculpture, which currently measures 85 by 40 feet, was the creation of sculptor Jeffrey Schrier and artist Wilfredo Morel. The concept came from, "I Never Saw Another Butterfly", a book of poems and art created by children of the Terezin concentration camp.

An estimated 18,000 children from 14 states created feathers, small sections of the wings, which then were shipped to Bardeis-Bardin for assembly.

When it is complete, the butterfly- which has the body of a person rather than an insect - will stretch 100 feet across and will be as tall as a five story building.

It started in 1996 as a classroom project at a school in Illinois, where Kevin Daugherty told his seventh-graders about the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.
To help youngsters relate to that number, he and the students began a quest to collect 6 million pull tabs. By April 1997, the students achieved their goal and decided to collect tabs for all 11 million of the people slaughtered during the Holocaust.

By May 1997 they had collected 11 million tabs with help from people in all 50 states and eight other countries around the world.

It wasn't until those tabs were on their way to a recycling center that Schrier came on the scene.  Schrier had just completed another memorial to Raul Wallenberg for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in which he had planned to make a massive pair of wings out of thousands of copies of the gold phony or illegal passports Wallenberg had used to save thousands of Jews in Budapest. Schrier scrapped the idea of the wings, however, and instead made a giant version of the passport.

But he couldn't get the symbolism of the wings out of his mind.

"It took me five or six months of experimenting with how to make a 2-foot-long feather," Schrier said. "It takes 613 tabs to make one feather. And 613 is the number of commandments in the Torah. It was a complete coincidence. I only discovered it when I disassembled it to figure out how many there were. This whole thing has been a series of absolutely amazing coincidences."