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The Butterfly Project

A few nights ago while at the school for parent teacher conferences my oldest daughter told me not to look at a display on one of the walls we were walking by because it was sad and would make me cry. When I looked at it and realized it was about the Holocaust and started reading more I started to cry and she kept saying “don’t cry mom, stop reading”.

I was so touched by this teacher’s willingness to teach her students about the Holocaust that I had to wait for her to be free so I could thank her.

I told her my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and thanked her for doing this with her students. She told me it was the first year she had done it and explained how she had the students research children in the Holocaust and then later told them if they had survived or perished. She also shared that they had watched the documentary “Hide and Seek”. She said many of the kids told her it was sad and depressing, but she thought it was important to help them understand what had happened. One of the students shared it was her favorite project they'd done all year. I again thanked her for being willing to teach the hard things so that the children of today will not be ignorant or indifferent when they see or hear injustice, hate speech, intolerance, etc.

When we walked away my daughter said “if we weren’t moving would you want me to have her as a 4th grade teacher?” and I smiled through my tears and said “yes”.

One of the most telling quotes about the Holocaust and for us today is this “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate. But paved with indifference”. - Ian Kershaw

We have to stand against hate and we have to take sides when we see injustices and hear hate speech, intolerance, etc. We just HAVE to!!

The Butterfly Project is an initiative launched by the Holocaust Museum Houston.

Starting as a way to educate school children about the Holocaust, “The Butterfly Project” lesson plan 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 Friedmann 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.

The Butterfly Project was a tribute to the lives of the young people lost in the Holocaust. But it became so much more than that. It became a symbol of hope.

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 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.

Pavel Friedmann, June 4, 1942

*The Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons learned from the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

**This experience reminded me that while I have talked to my oldest a lot about the Holocaust and Bubee’s experiences I haven’t talked to my younger children very much about it and it’s time to tell them more.

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