…I never saw another butterfly…
is a compilation of children’s drawings and poems from Theresienstadt Concentration Camp during the years 1942-1944. Hana Volavkova edited the book. Some basic facts about the ghetto and camp are included in the foreword. Some of them are staggering and it is important to let the students know these facts. The statistics may seem abstract and intangible at first, but once they read and see the work, the numbers become people.
As of April 20, 1945, there arrived…. a little over 141,000 Jews.
33,456 died in the ghetto
88,202 were transported to the death camps in the East.
On May 9, 1945, there remained in Theresienstadt a total of 16,832 Jews.
Of the 15,000 children deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, 100 survived -- none under the age of fourteen (xx -- xxi).
Theresienstadt was unlike many other camps. It was a “model” camp used to show off to the Red Cross and representatives from other nations that the Jews were not being executed or terribly treated. Because of the Nazis’ need to impress these groups, students were able to take art classes taught by some well-known artists. Some of the children survived and some didn’t. Either way, their voice lives on through their work. Students will study some of the poems and artwork in the book, not only to learn about a different aspect of Holocaust life, but to see the different ways experience can be shared.
We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust
by Jacob Boas gives a powerful voice to an age group that parallels my students. I will not teach the entire book, but will pick two of the five diary excerpts to give to students. We will not only look at what is said, but how the narrative is told. Students can use this as a model for their own journal entries. This will also further their understanding of how stories are told, as well as give them a deeper understanding of the experience of the youth of the Holocaust. We will read excerpts from David Rubinowicz’s diary. David was a Polish Jew who was forced to move to the Bieliny ghetto. His father was forced into slave labor. We don’t know what happened to David and his family, but they are assumed dead. When the war was over, David’s diary was found in the rubble at the ghetto. Eva Heyman was a Hungarian Jew who lived in Budapest. She recounts the Nazis taking over. Her entire family was forced into Auschwitz concentration camp. Eva was killed there, but her maid kept this diary and gave it to Eva’s mother after the war. Eva’s mother had it published before committing suicide.
Children in the Holocaust and World War II: their secret diaries
by Laurel Holliday is an anthology of children’s diaries written during World War II. The diarists come from all over Europe and England and were between the ages of ten and eighteen. Not all of the writers are Jewish. Some of the children in this book are the same as the previous book. If you can only get one of the books, I’d get this one. The entries are relatively short, and we will study a variety of experiences and viewpoints. “Through these boys’ and girls’ writings we learn about the external realities of children’s wartime lives as well as their innermost thoughts and feelings” (xiv). Werner Glanik wrote about his experiences in the Riga Ghetto and in two concentration camps. He is known to have survived the war. His diary gives a startling first-hand account from a child’s perspective. Janine Phillips was a Polish Christian whose family fled to the country-side to escape the Nazis taking over the country. She writes about her family’s struggle with the war and how they hated the Nazis. Macha Rolnikas was a Jewish girl from Lithuania. Not only was her family persecuted because they were Jewish, but also because her father was a lawyer who defended Communists. She writes about her experiences in the Vilnius ghetto and the Stutthof concentration camp. We also learn about the death marches, which she was forced to endure. “Of all the children’s diaries in this book, Macha’s is, perhaps, the most horrifying account of Nazi brutality. She was badly beaten, starved for days at a time, and forced to be an ‘undertaker’ for her friends’ dead bodies” (186). Students will compare these diaries to
. Is the effect the same even though
is not true? Is one more powerful than another? Why?