The Children of the Holocaust: I Never Saw Another Butterfly
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The Children of the Holocaust: I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Categories Holocaust 
Book Title: I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Author: Children from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944


Book Summary:

This book is a compilation of poetry and art created by the children of the Terezin ( Theresienstdt) Concentration Camp between 1942 and 1944. The children (15 years of age and younger), conveyed their feelings about life-- their hopes, their dreams, and their fears. The last few pages of the book offer a few facts about each child —the year and place of birth, the number of his/her transport to Terezin and to Auschwitz, and, in most cases, the year of death. The images and words created are all that remain of these children. It is their legacy to us. Of the 15,000 children who went through Terezin, only 100 survived.

Topic(s) Addressed:

Children of the Holocaust, Spiritual Resistance, Holocaust Remembrance Day --Yom Hashoah

Enduring Understandings:

  • 1 ½ million children were murdered during the Holocaust. 
  • The words and images of the children of the Holocaust are a testament to hope, courage, and the indomitable spirit. 
  • The legacy of the children of the Holocaust reminds us what it means to be human, to respect life, and hold it sacred. 
  • As we remember the past, we each need to find our own direction to ensure, “Never Again.”
  • First person memoir and primary resources are most effective in the teaching and learning of history. 

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

The Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp, which lies approximately 37 miles from Prague, Czechoslovakia, was established as a model camp which Nazis proudly showed to foreigners who investigated the concentration camps. Also termed a ghetto, Terezin was a stopping place, a brief reprieve before victims were shipped to their deaths in the ovens and gas chambers of the concentration camps further east.

The children who came to Terezin played in the barracks and courtyard. They were allowed to work in the gardens, and even acted in plays presented for the entertainment of their guards and visitors. They were involved in poetry contests and recitations and encouraged to draw whatever they wanted. The poetry and art of the children of Terezin reflected their world. They wrote about the things they loved, the things they feared. They drew trees and flowers—symbols of life—and they drew death—the ghetto walls, the crematoriums. Their pictures and verses bring us face to face with the threat of death that they faced daily and the courage with which they faced it. As children were transported from Terezin, they left their work with other children, who in turn, passed the pages on when they were selected to leave. The poems and drawings were finally compiled to honor the memory of these children.

You many wish to share this during Holocaust Remembrance Day -Yom Hashoah. The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar (click here for date). It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (i.e. Tree Planting Ceremony, digital story of one or more of the children whose art/poetry was included in I Never Saw Another Butterfly, their own “musical memorial,” etc.)

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


Copy of I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp edited by Hana Volavkova

Class copies of the title poem, “The Butterfly” by Pavel Friedman


Music: Musica de Filia s Chamber Choir presented selections from I Never Saw Another Butterfly, by Charles Davidson
"The Last Butterfly" by Lisa Glatzer Shenson

Video: The title poem, “The Butterfly” accompanied by music and the art of the children of Terezin 

Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

Share the cover-title and explain the origins of the poems/essays and art in the book. For background information, see the “For the Educator” section.

Using maps, have students locate the area outside of Prague, Czech Republic. Terezin was located. Also locate the area where Auschwitz Concentration Camp was located in Poland.

Play "Butterfly" video for a reading of the title poem, accompanied by images created by the children of Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp. As students view the video, have them list words/phrases that impacted them. Allow time to share and discuss the poem. What word(s) seems to be used most often?  

Reading The Story

Art: Select an illustration from the book and have students analyze it as you model the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS):

  • What is going on? 
  • What makes you think this? 
  • What else can you find? 

In small groups, have students select a picture from the book and see what they can discover using VTS.(Select one student to facilitate the conversation). Allow time for them to share the picture and insights gained.

Poetry/Prose: In small groups have students select and discuss one poem or prose from the book. They may use the following prompts to help facilitate the conversation:
  • What does the poem say to you? 
  • Through the lens of history, does the poem impact you any differently? 
  • What one line, phrase, word resonated with you most? Why? 
  • In what ways does the poem reflect courage, hope, fear, etc. 
  • How does hate, apathy, and prejudice shape history?

After The Story

Silent Conversations: A poet once said, “The death of a child is the loss of infinite possibilities.” Involve students in a “silent conversation” based on the quote:

Put the quote in the center of a large piece of poster paper or butcher paper.

  • Have pairs discuss the quote, through writing—each writing a reflection and responding to what the other wrote. 
  • Continue in “conversation” form. 
  • As a class, discuss the major insights gained from the conversations. 

Zachor –Remember
! How will students help others understand and remember the story of the children of Terezin?

Play the Musica de Filia s Chamber Choir as they sing the title poem from I Never Saw Another Butterfly. The poem was put to music by Charles Davidson, a musical memorial to the 15,000 children who passed through Theresienstadt on their journey to Auschwitz.
Individually, in pairs, small groups, or as a class, determine a creative way to tell the story.

Play another musical variation, "The Last Butterfly" by Lisa Glatzer Shenson that is sung in some Jewish summer camps and youth groups. 

Lessons for Today: Read current event articles regarding children locally and all over the world (e.g. political refugees, victims of hate crimes and prejudice, victims of human trafficking, victims of poverty and natural disasters, etc.). Select an organization that helps these children and as a class, determine ways in which you might support these efforts. You may wish to contact your local Jewish Federation /synagogue to learn about organization whose work they support in helping to save the lives of children.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Holocaust Survivor Testimony: Most of the last generation of witnesses to the Holocaust are child survivors. Contact your local Holocaust Resource Center to request a survivor to visit. Have students determine questions to ask based on what they have learned about the experiences of the children of Terezin. For example: What do they remember of their childhood before the Holocaust? How have the events of the Holocaust shaped their lives? What kept them hopeful? What helped them to survive? What were their dreams? How did they begin again, against all odds? What advice would they give to students your age in terms of overcoming adversity?

The Children We Remember: Chana Byers Abells’ collection of photographs from the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem is a visual essay of the children who lived and died during the Holocaust and is dedicated to the 1 ½ million children killed at the hands of the Nazis. Through the pictures, the events of the Holocaust unfold as seen through their eyes. As student look at these pictures (you can scan and project images), what questions do they have? Involve small groups in selecting one of these questions for further research and discussion.

Children of The Holocaust digital exhibit from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
For more information regarding aspects such as the Kindertransport, Anne Frank, and more visit the “Children of the Holocaust” 

Music Connectionsmore


Lesson Contributors

Dr. Anita Meyer Meinbach and Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff from their book, with permission): Memories of the Night: Studies of the Holocaust, 2nd Edition (2004 ). Christopher-Gordon, Publishers, Inc. Norwood, A.