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I Never Saw Another Butterfly is a collection of works of art and poetry by Jewish children who lived in the concentration camp Theresienstadt. They were created at the camp in secret art classes taught by Austrian artist and educator Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. The book takes its title from a poem by Pavel Friedmann, a young man born in 1921 who was incarcerated at Theresienstadt and was later killed at Auschwitz. The works were compiled after World War II by Czech art historian Hana Volavková, the only curator of the Jewish Museum in Prague to survive the Holocaust.[1] Where known, the fate of each young author is listed. Most died prior to the camp being liberated.[2]

I Never Saw Another Butterfly
Cover of I Never Saw Another Butterfly
AuthorHana Volavkova
LanguageEnglish originally in Czech
Publication date
March 15, 1994
Media typePrint (Paperback)


During World War II the Gestapo used Terezin, better known by the German name Theresienstadt, as a ghetto. The majority of the Jews sent were scholars, professionals, artists and musicians. Inmates were encouraged to lead creative lives, and concerts were even held. Within the camp, parks, grassy areas and flower beds, concert venues and statues were installed to hide the truth; that most of the inmates were going to be killed. This was all part of a Nazi plot to deceive International Red Cross inspectors into believing that Jews were being treated humanely. This façade masked the fact that of the 144,000 Jews were sent there, about 33,000 died, mostly because of the appalling conditions (hunger, stress, disease, and an epidemic of typhus at the very end of the war). About 88,000 were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps.[3] At the end of the war there were 17,247 survivors.[4]

Part of the fortification (Small Fortress) served as the largest Gestapo prison in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, separated from the ghetto. Around 90,000 people went through it, and 2,600 of those died there.

It was liberated on May 9, 1945 by the Soviet Army.

The PlayEdit

I Never Saw Another Butterfly is also the name of a full length play and a one-act version by Celeste Raspanti.[5] The play centers on Raja, one of the children who survived Terezin, and her family and friends plus classmates. She shares her story of living in the concentration camp, while retaining a world filled with butterflies and flowers with other children in the camp. Raspanti's play was adapted into a musical by Joseph Robinette and E. A. Alexander.[6]

The song cycleEdit

In 1968 Jewish-Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick wrote the Holocaust-themed song cycle I Never Saw Another Butterfly for mezzosoprano (contralto) and orchestra or piano.[7] The songs are based on children's poems from the concentration camp at Theresienstadt (1942–44).[8][9]

The cycle consists of 6 songs:

  1. To Olga
  2. Yes thats the way things are
  3. The little mouse
  4. On a sunny evening
  5. Narrative
  6. The butterfly.

In 1972 the songs was issued on LP (with Maureen Forrester and John Newmark) by Canadian label Select (CC-15.073).[10]

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