Remembering “I never saw another butterfly” on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Tiles created by child artists and young artists after a visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum - 2

Holocaust impressions on child artists and young artists

Tiles created by child artists and young artists after visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum, Richmond
Tiles created by child artists and young artists after visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum

Children are sensitive. Their minds are impressionable. Allow them to express themselves freely and they will come up with powerful ideas and expressions. All that we need to do is to give them the exposure, encourage them and support them. The artworks of child artists and  young artists reflect their sensitivity and response to the happenings around them. Students of Bailey Bridge Middle School in Chesterfield visited Virginia Holocaust Museum at Richmond, VA. This is what these child artists and young artists created after the visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum being inspired by the production of “I never saw another butterfly”.

Tiles created by child artists and young artists after a visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum - 1
Tiles created by child artists and young artists after a visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum – 1

I never saw another butterfly

I Never Saw Another Butterfly by Hana Volavkova is a collection of child art and poetry by Jewish children who lived in the concentration camp Theresienstadt. They were created at the camp in secret art classes taught by Austrian artist and educator Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. The book takes its title from a poem by Pavel Friedmann, a young man born in 1921 who was incarcerated at Theresienstadt. He was later killed at Auschwitz. This collection of children’s art was compiled after World War II by Czech art historian Hana Volavková, the only curator of the Jewish Museum in Prague to survive the Holocaust.

Tiles created by child artists and young artists after a visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum - 3
Tiles created by child artists and young artists after a visit to Virginia Holocaust museum – 3

Terezin

During World War II the Gestapo used Terezin, better known by the German name Theresienstadt, as a ghetto. The majority of the Jews sent were scholars, professionals, artists and musicians. Within the camp, parks, grassy areas and flower beds, concert venues and statues were installed to hide the truth; that most of the inmates were going to be killed. Out of the 144,000 Jews sent there, about 33,000 died, mostly because of the appalling conditions of hunger, stress, disease, and an epidemic of typhus at the very end of the war. About 88,000 were deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz and other extermination camps. At the end of the war there were 17,247 survivors. It was liberated on May 9, 1945 by the Soviet Army.

The Play

I Never Saw Another Butterfly is also the name of a one-act play by Celeste Raspanti. The play centers on Raja, one of the children who survived Terezin, her family, friends and classmates. She shares her story of living in the concentration camp, yet retaining a world filled with butterflies and flowers with other children in the camp. Raspanti’s play was adapted into a musical by Joseph Robinette and E. A. Alexander.

The song cycle

In 1968 Jewish-Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick wrote the Holocaust-themed song cycle I Never Saw Another Butterfly for mezzosoprano (contralto) and orchestra or piano. The songs are based on children’s poems from the concentration camp at Theresienstadt (1942-44).

The cycle consists of 6 songs:

To Olga
Yes thats the way things are
The little mouse
On a sunny evening
Narrative
The butterfly.

In 1972 the songs was issued on LP (with Maureen Forrester and John Newmark) by Canadian label Select (CC-15.073) .

The Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus under the direction of Sean Ivory performed Davidson’s piece at Terezin in the Czech Republic in June 2013. This is the full performance set to images captured during the choir’s visit to the concentration camp.

Khula Aasmaan would be keen to undertake such projects where children and young adults are encouraged for a fearless creative expression.

We look forward to partners and alliances for working together on such wonderful projects.

Here are few fine examples of children’s art from Khula Aasmaan :

Art contest for children and young adults – results

( source : visit to Virginia Holocaust Museum and Wikipedia. Pictures by Milind Vishwas Sathe )

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