Monday, December 28, 2009

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944 is a compilation of poems and drawings by children who were imprisoned at the camp during World War II. Originally edited by Hana Volavkov, the second edition was expanded by the United States Holocaust Mermorial Museum. This newer edition also includes a foreword by Chiam Potok and an afterword by Slovak president Vaclav Havel.
According to Volavkov, approximately 15,00 children under the age of fifteen came to Terezin during the war years. Only approximately 100 of these children survived the war. Many of the children who lived in this prison, called a ghetto, spent part of their days creating art and poetry under the teaching of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Just like most of her students, Ms. Dicker-Brandeis died at Auschwitz.
The editor has matched the children's drawings with poems and diary entries to provide the reader with a rich experience of the lives of these children. At the end of the book, the biography of each writer or artist is provided. For most of the children, the end came at Auschwitz - leaving only their work behind to tell their stories. Here is the title poem:
The Butterfly
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhgaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone.
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly 'way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
in the ghetto.
4.6.1942 Pavel Friedmann (p. 39)

Here is a link to a lesson plan which can be used with the reading of these poems and provides information for the Houston Holocaust Museum Butterfly Project. It is also possible for students to visit the Terezin Memorial Mueum for a virtual tour.

TITLE: I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944
AUTHOR: Hana Volavkova, editor
PAGES: 106
TYPE: non-fiction, Holocaust
RECOMMEND: I think each person can read each poem and get a different picture of the lives of these children and gain a high appreciation for the artist who dedicated herself to children who needed an outlet of expression.

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