I Never Saw Another Butterfly…, edited by Hana Volavkova.
New York: Schocken Books Inc., 1993.
Story Summary: This collection of the poetry, diary entries, and artwork was created by children who were imprisoned in the Terezin concentration camp from 1942 to 1944. Terezin was a ghetto/camp for Jews on their way to concentration camps and the Germans used this camp as a “model camp.” There were facades of stores, houses, and cafes all used to fool the Red Cross. The children held in Terezin played, secretly attended school, drew, wrote, and acted. Within the camp they saw two very different realities: meadows, hills, and birds in some areas, and flies, food lines, starving people, concrete and bunks, beatings and executions in others. They saw the reality for what it was and yet continued to believe in truth and hope. To pass the time and express their overwhelming emotions, they used whatever materials had been smuggled into the camp to create these pieces of art.
Students should be able to:
- Explain how and why the Nazis used Terezin to manipulate and deceive the International Red Cross;
- Recognize the courage and determination of many of the victims of the Holocaust;
- Understand that the artists and writers in this book had similar concerns and hopes as his or her own;
- Empathize with the young artists and writers and understand how the Nazis shattered their lives; and
- Give examples of how the young people of Terezin shared their feelings and experiences.
Suggested Topics for Discussion
- What kinds of images do you see in the artwork? Explain why you think these images were used by the children in their art.
- Tell why you believe the pieces of writing done by the children are short in length.
- List the themes or topics of the writings. What similarities do you find between them?
Explain the reasons for the similarities:
- On page 69 there is an untitled poem. Tell what title you would give it and why.
- On page 3 Teddy describes how children first react when they come to Terezin. Describe how new children react when arriving in camp and how you think Teddy feels about their reactions.
- Find a piece of artwork or writing that you particularly liked and read the biographical notes on its creator located at the back of the book. Share these notes as a class.
- Write a letter to one of the young artists or writers in response to one of their pieces.
Explain why you chose that piece, its effect on you, and your feelings about their experiences in Terezin.
- Using one the pieces of artwork as a springboard, create a poem to accompany it. Display them around the classroom.
- Listen to the CD “Innocent Voices” and discuss as a class how the CD affects the poetry of the children.
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- Gurko, M. (1988). Theodore Herzl: The Road to Israel. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
- Oppenheim, S. (1992). The Lily Cupboard. New York: HarperCollins.
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