A Book Review
By Amanda Kaufman
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York
I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezín Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 (New York: Schocken Books, 1978) is a collection of poems and drawings of children of all ages who who suffered in the Terezín concentration camp during World War II. The camp, located in the hills outside Prague, Czechoslovakia, was created to help cover up the Nazi genocide of the Jews. In 1944, the camp was opened to Red Cross inspections and served as a "model" to spread Nazi propaganda worldwide.
After first reading and closing I Never Saw Another Butterfly, all I could do was cry. The collection of poems and drawings are so real and so true that I realized how lucky I really am. The poem topics vary from longing in the ghetto ("I Never Saw Another Butterfly") to abandoned houses ("The Old House") to poems about death ("Fear"). Many poems focus on things we see every day but never notice -- things carefully seen by children in the concentration camp, such as the color of the sky, the formation of clouds, the grace of insects, and the sway of grass.
It is strange to realize that the tiny hand that once pushed the pencil to write some of these poems, no longer exists. The cries of anger and pain leap out in wonderfully poetic verse. It is here, in their documents, that we can see, hear, touch, smell and taste every thought of the children of the death camps. These were children who were forced to eat black potatoes, sleep on filthy floors, and live infected by fleas. We can relive it all as described through children, children like "Teddy."
"At Terezín" is my favorite poem in the collection; it looks like it is written in pencil on a piece of drawing paper. At the right-hand corner of this poem, the name "Teddy" is written. The poem itself describes a new child arriving at Terezín, and how sadly strange and dirty things seem to him.
Children wrote and drew pictures. A particular drawing that caught my eye is a simple picture of green leaves. The poem that goes with the picture is called "Campfire" which, like many other drawings in the book, shows the hardships of Jewish life in Terezín.
These children of Terezín live on through their works, and we are enlightened by reading and viewing them. Of 15,000 children who were in Terezín, at one time or another, only 100 survived.
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