Sunday, January 6, 2013

Interval Six - Butterflies

Santa has gone back to the North Pole, so it is now time to l look forward to a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Now, back to the play A Ball for Genia. The formidable General Strassel and Wachter have agreed to a debate. The topic?  The Rights of the Third Reich vs. the Rights of Humanity.  Strassel will argue that the rights of the third Reich are synonymous, or the same.  Wachter will take the opposite stand that the rights are not at all the same, but completely opposite.  The prize for the winner?  If Strassel wins, he will take Lusia and Genia with him, and very likely, ship them off to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 SO—so much depends upon Wachter’s ability as a debater. The odds against him are formidable.  Armed might and the perverse logic of Hitler’s mind on the side of General Strassel, and only reason and common humanity on the side of Wachter.  Only reason and common humanity?  That may be enough.
General Strassel will be the first to argue.  His argument will appear in Episode Seven on Monday, January 14.

              In the meantime, other Holocaust-related topics deserve consideration, such h as the children of the Holocaust, especially the children of the concentration Theresienstadt, also called Terezin.  One of the children of Terezin wrote a poem—    
                                                                         The Butterfly
                                                                  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.

 Of all the sadness of the Holocaust, the saddest were the children, and the fate they suffered even before they had a chance to live to the full.  Such as was case of the boy, Pave Friedman, age 14, who wrote The Butterfly. Such a talent and such a yearning to live, to be cut off so soon. He and his family were eventually transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Pavel died, along with his family.  Here follows brief review of the book and how it came into existence.  

 Terezin was “gift” from Hitler to the Jews, and was supposed to be an excellent place to live. Many of the very old were sent them to live out their lives there, and Jewish war veterans who had served in World War I were included. Even Reinhard Heydrich mentioned it favorably. It was even governed by a group of Jewish elders.  But the gift from Hitler soon became ghetto whose inhabitants were closely restricted as in any concentration camp.  Fifteen thousand of those imprisoned there were children confined there, and if they were not orphans, with their parents.

 The story of Terezin and the place of children in it are told in a book titled . . . I never saw another butterfly. . . The book’s  sub-title is “Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944.” A brilliant foreword by Chaim Potok tells the history of Terezin and its transition from a quiet back-country city in early 1941 to a ghetto of 60,000 inhabitants in late 1942.

 The book is replete with the charming drawings by children; here are some examples--

That the drawings exist at all is due to largely to Friedl Dicker-Brandies, a well-known artist of the time. She could have escaped Germany but felt she was needed more at Terezin, where there were so many children.  She was a teacher who accepted no payment. She brought to Terezin as much paper, water colors and crayons she could carry. What she did is best by a quote from Chaim Potok’s foreword to I never saw another butterfly --

“She would tell stories, and the children would be required to draw them.  They drew flowers, butterflies, , animals, cities, storms, rainbows, streets, railway stations, family portraits, holidays, merry-go-rounds. They drew their concealed inner worlds, their tortured emotions, which Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was then able to enter and try to heal.  She helped restore a balance to the trembling consciousness of terrified children.  The children of Terezin created about 5,000 drawings and collages.”

A member of those classes who survived said of her wrote: “I remember Mrs. Brandeis as a tender, highly intelligent woman who managed to create a fairy world for us at Terezin . . . a world that made us forget the surrounding hardships, which we were not spared despite our early age.”

Mrs. Brandeis was selected for deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau and died there, probably in a gas chamber, like so many others.

                                   . . . and who is to say that angels do not appear

             here on earth when and where most needed?

What became of the children?

No!  Oh, NO!

There were 15,000 children at Terezin.
All were transferred to Auschwitz. One hundred survived, none under age 14. The angels must weep.

More About the book  . . . I never saw another butterfly . . .

   Edited by Hannah Volakova

   Expanded Second Edition by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

   Foreword by Chaim Potok

   Afterword by Vaclav Havel. 

   Schocken Books . New York, 1993

   Sales: More than a million copies.

This is a book that should be in every library, especially those with a special  love for children. First, check your local bookstore and library for a copy.  It is also available on-line in paperback and hard cover at Amazon  and Barnes & Noble. It is also available of course in Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook form.

There is also a one-act play:  I never saw another butterfly (One Act)  , by Celeste Rita Raspanti, which is based on the Butterfly book. The play is ideal for performance by children.   Here is what one reviewer ( an Amazon customer) wrote about it—

 About eight years ago in Junior High School, our drama teacher had us perform this play. The poems these children wrote were so powerful you couldn't help but cry. I never forgot that play and what those children went through. This is an excellent play! It helped me understand the Holocaust better than any text book ever could.


NOW, let’s look forward to Monday, January 14, when the formidable and

      ruthless General Strassel  will begin the debate with Albert Wachter. 



If you have any money left after the recent holidays, consider a contribution to the USHMM—the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Use the address below to donate, or open the website

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
     100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
       Washington, DC 20024-2126
    Main telephone: (202) 488-0400
         TTY: (202) 488-0406

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