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Butterflies are a powerful symbol of transformation and have the ability to make an impact with just a flap of one’s wings. They are beauty incarnate, symbolizing all the good things that humanity can picture, while reminding us that life is fragile and that human dignity is delicate.
But more compelling and more critical is the butterfly’s role as a potent symbol of hope, telegraphing humanity’s potential in a simple, elegant idea.
Remember us, for we were the children whose dreams and lives were stolen away.
Created by children across the globe, the butterflies evoke powerful emotion. They create a chain reaction that changes the way people feel, then challenges the way they think and finally, inspires them to act.
Starting as a way to educate school children about the Holocaust, The Butterfly Project has swelled into a global phenomenon. Over the course of 20 years, The Butterfly Project has fired the imagination of millions of people and has resulted in the creation of more than 1.5 million stunning butterflies, handmade in every conceivable material, color and form.
Inspired by the poem “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” written by Pavel Friedmann, a young Czech who wrote while in the Terezin Concentration Camp, the Project was a tribute to the lives of the young people lost in the Holocaust. But it became so much more than that. It became a symbol of hope. Children who created each butterfly spoke of the future they wanted to create—one free of intolerance and violence.
During The Butterfly Project’s 20-year history, humanity has faced new challenges and new ways of connecting have emerged. We are closer today than ever, thanks to the rise of social networking and ever-growing ways to connect with others regardless of geographic location. Yet, we are also further apart. Cyberbullying, trolls, open letters shaming others and open letters shaming the shamed—the internet has given people a way to both express themselves and to create new factions of “us” vs. “them.” Negativity makes a lot more noise than positivity. The gap between us is more apparent than the bridge that connects us.
Today, The Butterfly Project seeks to disrupt this negativity and aims to inspire people to use hope as a vehicle for social change, using the lessons learned in the Holocaust.
The Project’s mission is to start a global conversation that challenges us all to find connection through hope—standing up and taking action against hate together.
A selection of those inspiring creations is now on display at various location across the city. In addition to the tour, the Museum has produced a beautiful coffee table book commemorating 100 of the most imaginative, powerful butterflies submitted. The Butterfly Project is available for purchase at the Museum Store or online at hmh.org.