This poem (which appears at the end of this blog post) is a small beacon of hope for all the children of the camp in Terezin, the ghetto in former Bohemia during the Holocaust.
During World War 2 many Norwegian people wore paper clips on their lapels to represent their resistance against the Nazi regime as the Nazis exterminated 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
In 1998 a small school in Tennessee collected 6 million paper clips for a memorial to those 6 million Jews. Then over 30 million paper clips were collected from all over the world. At the Children's Holocaust Memorial a train car is filled with 11 million paper clips. 18 copper butterflies are embedded in the concrete surrounding the car—a symbol of the poem at the end of this page.
We in this country stand or kneel in horror of mass genocide—Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur—and all the mass killings now in the Middle East and Africa… and worry about the possible spread of this kind of horrendous evil to Europe and our own land…
Yom HaShoah, known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, was again observed this year on April 15. I was privileged to attend the annual service at the 92 Y in Manhattan on April 17, where the memorial day is observed each year. This solemn remembrance commemorates the 6 million Jews and 5 million others who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by the Nazis and their "accessories."
As a young teen in Norfolk, Va., during World War 2, I lived through the daily sight of body parts and supplies washed up on the beach in front of my house on Chesapeake Bay; helped cover the windows nightly for fear of Nazi planes; saw young Nazi prisoners of war driven in and out of the Norfolk naval Base, had several Jewish friends at that time and shared their sufferings, and to this day I have a deep visceral hatred of even the horrible word… Nazi.
Also known as Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day—this is a deeply solemn day all over the globe for Jews and all friends and allies of the Jewish people and land.
The celebration at the 92 Y this year featured solemn choral offerings: The Quiet Night Is Full of Stars (Shtil, Di Nakht Iz Oysgeshternt), We Are Here, I Never Saw Another Butterfly (a deeply moving piece by John Balamos, RIP, former Senior Adult Music Director), Never Say You've Come to the End of the Way ( Zog Kit Keyn Mol ) and Hatikva, the Israel National Anthem. as well as a moving talk by the author of A Brief Stop on the Road From Auschwitz, Goran Rosenberg.
I have attended several Holocaust Remembrances at the 92 Y—and each year I shed more tears at the music and words of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly."
Probably more this time, as our daily papers and TV news show increasing signs of current horror, mutilations, beheadings and human sufferings on our little planet…
"Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt…" is on the dedication page of all my crime novels.
And Yom HaShoah is a stark reminder of all that Vergil said… so long ago…
I Never Saw Another Butterfly by Pavel Friedman
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 goodbye.
For seven weeks I've lived in 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 in here, in the ghetto.
P.S. If you want to order books on the topic of I Never Saw Another Butterfly - go to Amazon and you'll find many, such as Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust, Terrible Things; an Allegory of the Holocaust, Fireflies in the Dark, Six Million Paper Clips… to name a few.
Thelma Jacqueline Straw