“The Butterfly Project” was imagined by three Houston-area teachers and based on an inspiring poem written by Pavel Friedmann in 1942, when he was a prisoner in the Terezin Concentration Camp in former Czechoslovakia. More than 12,000 children under the age of 15 passed through the Terezin camp between the years 1942 and 1944. More than 90 percent of the children who were there perished during the Holocaust.
The butterfly - with its story of rebirth and transformation into new life - has now become a symbol of freedom from oppression, intolerance and hatred ever since he wrote his poem about life in the Terezin camp and the fact that he never saw another butterfly there. He died in Auschwitz in 1944.
Friedmann’s poem is published in the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942– 1944.”
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 here,
in the ghetto.
Pavel Friedmann, June 4, 1942