I Never Saw Another Butterfly

The Model Camp: Terezín
Voices and Art From and About Terezín

 


I Never Saw Another Butterfly

From the late months of 1941 through 1944, 15,000 children were deported to Terezín. While living conditions were deplorable, it was nonetheless taunted as a model community for Jewish prisoners. While most of the children who passed through the gates of Terezín did not survive, some of their poetry and drawings did. Through the years, children stuffed the walls of their dormitories with their writings and drawings. Some were buried. After the liberation of the camp, they were reclaimed. In 1955, what remained was restored and put into a book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Following are excerpts from that collection. Whenever the name of a writer of verse or the artist is known it has been included.

The Butterfly

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps 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.

Pavel Friedman, April 6, 1942
 
I am a Jew
 

I am a Jew and will be a Jew forever.
Even if I should die from hunger,
never will I submit.
I will always fight for my people,
on my honor.
I will never be ashamed of them;
I give my word.

I am proud of my people,
how dignified they are.
Even though I am oppressed,
I will always come back to life.

 
Franta Bass
 
 
 

 

At Terezín

When a new child comes
Everything seems strange to him.
What, on the ground I have to lie?
Eat black potatoes? No! Not I!
I've got to stay? It's dirty here!
The floor- why, look, it's dirt, I fear!
And I'm supposed to sleep on it?
I'll get all dirty!

Here the sound of shouting, cries,
And oh, so many flies.
Everyone knows flies carry disease.
Oooh, something bit me! Wasn't that a bedbug?
Here in Terezín, life is hell
and when I'll go home again, I can't yet tell.

"Teddy" 1943

The Little Mouse

A mousie sat upon a shelf,
Catching fleas in his coat of fur.
But he couldn't catch her- what chagrin!-
She'd hidden 'way inside his skin.
He turned and wriggled, knew no rest,
That flea was such a nasty pest!

His daddy came
And searched his coat.
He caught the flea and off he ran
To cook her in the frying pan.
The little mouse cried, "Come and see!
For lunch we've got a nice, fat flea!"

 
Koleba 1944
 

On a Sunny Evening

On a purple, sun-shot evening
Under wide-flowering chestnut trees
Upon the threshold full of dust
Yesterday, today, the days are all like these.

Trees flower forth in beauty,
Lovely too their very wood all gnarled and old
That I am half afraid to peer
Into their crowns of green and gold.

The sun has made a veil of gold
So lovely that my body aches.
Above, the heavens shriek with blue
Convinced I've smiled by some mistake.
The world's abloom and seems to smile.
I want to fly but where, how high?
If in barbed wire, things can bloom
Why couldn't I? I will not die!

Michael Flack, 1944