The butterfly has become a symbol for the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust and for Holocaust Education, and I did a little research to find the source. What I was truly stunned to discover is that there are three separate sources in which concentration camp victims used the butterfly in their art and poetry. A connection that I haven't seen written anywhere, but may or may not have been in the minds of the artists, at least in the painting above, is that the yellow butterfly can be likened to the yellow Jewish star that Jews were forced to wear on their clothing.......a star however that is not about limitations but rather that takes flight and lives on forever, in stark contrast to the goals of Nazi Germany and their desire to exterminate the Jewish people.
Keep reading for some very moving information about butterflies and the Holocaust.....
Buterflies and The holocaust, Source #1:
A Personal Recollection From Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a doctor widely known for her work on death and dying, wrote in her book The Wheel of Life, A Memoir of Living and Dying, about her journey to the site of the Maidanek concentration camp in Poland after World War II. She visited the children’s barracks, where she encountered clothes and little shoes tossed aside, but she also saw something that at first surprised and then amazed her. Carved into the walls with pebbles and fingernails were butterflies, hundreds and hundreds of them. Spellbound by the sight of butterflies drawn on the wall, she couldn’t help but wonder why they were there and what they meant. Twenty-five years later, after listening to hundreds of terminally ill patients, she finally realized that the prisoners in the camps must have known that they were going to die. “They knew that soon they would become butterflies. Once dead, they would be out of that hellish place. Not tortured anymore. Not separated from their families. Not sent to gas chambers. None of this gruesome life mattered anymore. Soon they would leave their bodies the way a butterfly leaves its cocoon. And I realized that was the message they wanted to leave for future generations. . . .It also provided the imagery that I would use for the rest of my career to explain the process of death and dying.”
Buterflies and The holocaust, Source #3:
A Poem written by Pavel Freidmann
In 1964, the butterfly took on new significance with the publication of a poem by Pavel Friedmann, a young Czech who wrote it while in the Terezin Concentration Camp and ultimately died in Auschwitz in 1944. In a few poignant lines, “The Butterfly” voiced the spirit of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.
In 1996, it inspired staff and supporters of Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) to launch The Butterfly Project. HMH designed The Butterfly Project to connect a new generation of children to the children who perished in the Nazi era. Three educators designed activities and lesson plans to convey to students the enormity of the loss of innocent life.
Source: The Butterfly Project