I Never Saw Another Butterfly

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Children's Drawings and Poems From Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944

Book - 1993
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A selection of children's poems and drawings reflecting their surroundings in Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia from 1942 to 1944.
Publisher: New York : Schocken Books, 1993
Edition: Expanded second edition
ISBN: 9780805241150
Characteristics: xxii, 106 pages : color illustrations ; 28 cm


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Jan 28, 2015

I felt privileged to have had access to this collection of art and poetry created by children while they were in Terezin. Thanks goes to The Shoah (Holocaust) Committee of Ottawa for purchasing the book for the Ottawa Public Library. I felt that by reading the poems and seeing the artwork, I was honoring the memory of the children, most of whom died during the Shoah.

Apr 28, 2013

Severe exploitation by US Holocaust Memorial Museum. In six different places (inside front cover & pp xxi, 102, 103, 104 & 106), it says 100 children survived of 15,000 who were in Theresienstadt (= Czech Terezin) -- an impossible figure to make the loss more heartrending, that diminishes the partial success of Jewish Elders in protecting the children. The true numbers are 4,096 survivors of 10,632 children, per Beit Theresienstadt in Israel, which has evidently sought to track every individual; see The Cat With The Yellow Star and my comment there. The present book also badly mischaracterizes life in Theresienstadt -- a ghetto-town in a picturesque setting, not a concentration camp. Children were housed in tolerable conditions with stoves and flush toilets (uncomfortably few when the ghetto was full); they slept on beds; they were not slapped or beaten, not terrified (except briefly one day through a misunderstanding that was quickly dispelled), and not executed. They generally had nothing to do with Germans, but were supervised by caring Jewish counselors and spent their time in high quality cultural and social activities. Many elaborate musical productions were created and staged, as the ghetto was loaded with talented artists. Some of these works are still performed. Jewish Elders, who ran the ghetto internally, made some of the children do a little work in the SS garden for exercise; they also played outdoor kickball. Very late in the War, when concentration camp inmates were death-marched to Theresienstadt, in the last area the Allies reached, the regular residents were shocked at their appearance, utterly unlike what they themselves had known. They first thought one group had come from a madhouse from their crazed, tormented expressions. (Such late arrivals are sometimes used to show bad health at Theresienstadt, but they came only two or three weeks before the War ended, were not representative, and even then were quickly tended to and their typhus stamped out.) For a Red Cross inspection, the SS decided to beautify the ghetto to almost luxury standards when Germany lay in ruin from Allied bombing; this is amusingly reflected in a diary entry at p 62 of the book. The idea was to pass Theresienstadt off as a typical Nazi home for Jews, and for quite awhile it worked. In a propaganda film of the ghetto, Jewish women in evening gowns and sheer stockings sipped champagne at an outdoor cafe. Children forced to act in the film could not help laughing. At the end of the War, the SS turned the ghetto over to the Red Cross; no one was shot or marched away. In the following years, old friends among the Theresienstadt children sought each other out to reminisce, and none of them seemed to think it had been a horrible experience; see The Girls Of Room 28 and my comment. Tragically most of the children did NOT survive after transfer out to the camps. Page xviii says that many probably knew they would die "by tunneling beneath adult deceits and repressions and coming upon truths they sense with animal keenness, truths that fuel their darkest terrors." This is followed by a quotation about beatings, etc, apparently at Auschwitz, as if at Theresienstadt. In reality, none of the children in Theresienstadt knew what was going on in the concentration camps, as shown in their diaries and survivor statements. Of course they wanted to stay where they were and feared shipment out to an unknown fate. See also my comments on Fireflies In The Dark, and A Century Of Wisdom.


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