Touched by a butterfly
The students of San Rafael Junior High have been touched by a butterfly. A butterfly is defined as an insect that flies that's active by day and has a clubbed antennae, a slender body and broad conspicuously marked wings. A butterfly is a unique one of a kind specimen, none with the same markings. The art students at San Rafael have made their own unique butterflies in art class. Art teacher Jackie Weihing learned of a remarkable project being undertaken by the Holocaust Museum Houston. In an effort to remember all the children who died in the Holocaust, the Holocaust Museum Houston is collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies. One butterfly to represent each child. Each butterfly unique just as the child who died was unique.
The butterflies will eventually comprise a breath-taking exhibition, currently scheduled for Spring 2013, for all to remember. The Museum has already collected an estimated 400,000 butterflies.
The inspiration for the collecting of the butterflies comes from a poem written by a young man imprisoned in Terezin and Auschwitz.
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 in here, in the ghetto.
Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942
Born in Prague on Jan. 7, 1921.
Deported to the Terezin Concentration Camp on April 26, 1942. Died in Aushchwitz on Sept. 29, 1944.
More than 12,000 children under the age of 15 passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp between the years 1942-1944. More than 90 percent perished during the Holocaust. In the poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates of Terezin, you can see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their courage and optimism, their hopes and fears.
The art students in Weihing's class made ceramic butterflies of all shapes and sizes. When other students saw and heard what was going on in art class they asked to become involved and then butterflies began coming in made of different materials. There were wooden butterflies, barbed wire, and one butterfly just came from items headed to the trash can.
"When the students started making butterflies, it took on a whole new meaning for them and they began to get excited about the project. At Christmas we placed the butterflies on the Christmas tree for decorations. We plan on continuing this project next year and into the next year. Just thinking of all those children lost in the concentration camps makes this a really neat and worthwhile project. Quite a few of the classes at the school have become involved. It turned out well. The shop classes contributed the wooden butterflies," said Weihing.
Diane Carter and her English classes became involved in the project and started the book, "Night," to give the students some background on the Holocaust. Once the students had a basic understanding they began the butterfly project.
The book, "Night" is by Elie Wiesel. He was taken to a concentration camp and separated from his mom and sister. He and his dad were together in Auschwitz. Wiesel was interviewed by Oprah and they walked through Auschwitz and remembered the horrors that took place there. The book "Night" outlines the story of Wiesel and his fathers fight for survival. This is Carter's first year teaching ninth grade English and Rose Card who taught English for years read, "Night" in her classes.
Carter said, "The students would come in each day and they would say how hard the book was to read. They were moved by this book and offered great insight into the book. They practically ran the discussions in class. The book is so powerful and Wiesel's images are burned into your mind. He is a great writer and these horrible descriptions stay with you. The students knew a little about the Holocaust when we began this project. At the end of the book I had them write a paper on what they had learned and their thoughts and feelings about the book. Many of them were just so amazed by Hitler and how one man became so powerful, but they also learned taht this on man did not act alone, he had many people supporting him. The kids were horrified of the whole idea of gas chambers and the different races of people who were sent to the gas chambers, not just the Jewish, but the Poles, Gypsies and Russians and even handicapped people.
"Even the students who weren't in art wanted to become a part of the project. They made butterflies out of all different types of materials. These are really hard things to read and discuss, the students were really affected by the Holocaust," said Carter.
The English students involved in the project offered their insights into the project and the Holocaust in general: Logan Tuttle: Thought the project was cool and making the butterflies for the Holocaust Museum is a good project.
Bryson Hales said, "I hated going home each night to read the book. It gave me a dark and evil feeling. I knew how it was going to make me feel and I dreaded reading it each night, but now that I have read it, I am glad I did.
Rachel Roberts said, "The book kind of scared me, but things made more sense after I read the book. After reading it, I had a clearer understanding of how Hitler came to power. It scared me. It is dark and creepy and I would hate to imagine it happening."
Kiley Jensen said, "While I was reading the book, I became attached to the people in the book. I wanted them to survive. It amazed me that one man can cause people to turn against their brother and cause so much pain. Hitler said things to make the German people think he was leading their country to paradise and their country would be perfect."
Bryton Hess said, "I liked the book, it was horrible, but interesting. I liked learning about it. I really liked making a butterfly and the fact that people are taking some of their time to help others. Those people in the concentration camps were so scared and they couldn't stick up for themselves. One thing that horrified me in the books they would describe scenes where the guards would throw babies up in the air and use them for target practice. I don't like it, but people need to know about it so it never happens again. We need to celebrate the Jewish people and that they gave their lives for us in a way. We can't forget the Jewish people, the Polish, Russia and Gypsies; they also killed the handicapped people."
Corben Barnett said, "They killed anyone who wasn't perfect. They put them in the gas chambers. The Germans thought they were the chosen people and they let it go to their heads. The Jewish children had so much potential and they cut their lives short by killing them ruthlessly. Killing was just a game to them. The Hitler youth thought it was happy and fun to see how many Jewish people they could kill."
Lexus Huntsman said, "They came up with different ways to kill the Jewish people. They would burn and starve them."
Why did Hitler want to annihilate the Jewish people? The students believe it stemmed from the fact that he blamed their Jewish ancestors for killing Jesus Christ. He held it against all Jewish people. One student said, "But the descendants of those who killed Christ can't be blamed for what their ancestors, did, it's not right."
Andi Smith said, "I believe all people are racist to a certain degree. They treat people badly who are different. They don't see people as individuals. They stereotype people. This is wrong and people shouldn't do that. We are all created equal."
Barnett said, "We shouldn't judge other people."
Roberts said, "People hate change. People are all different. But, different doesn't mean it's bad. People need to learn to be more tolerant of others."
Barnett said he believes the reminder of the Holocaust should always remain, In Auschwitz when people walk through there, you can feel the suffering and horror of the people who died there. "It's harsh, but it needs to remain there to remind everyone that the Holocaust was real. It happened."
Roberts said, "The dead deserve our respect."
Jensen said, "Reading this book, I hope has made us better people. We can look for suffering and try to help."
Roberts said, "It leaves a mark on you, but you need to know this happened."
Barnett said, "It's one of the most important things that happened in history. People can't forget."
The class is grateful to their teacher Diane Carter for helping them learn about the Holocaust.
Smith said, "As we worked on the butterfly project, we were thoughtful. It became really important to us, that each butterfly represents a child. Every child is unique just as all the butterflies created are unique and they symbolize a person. This book changed the way I think about war. It effects all the people."
Barnett said, "Those little kids in the concentration camps didn't feel much love. They weren't happy. Those butterflies represent an individual who could have achieved greatness had they been allowed to live. A butterfly is happy, where these children are now is a happy place. I think the butterfly represents them very well."
Hess said, "I hope we keep these lessons with us our whole life. We don't want the Holocaust to ever happen again."
Barnett said, "There are natural disasters and people suffering. We need to be there to help."
Roberts said, "To know what one person can do either for good or for evil, the impact that one person can have is amazing."
Barnett said, "There are simple things that people can do that will affect others. They can just smile at someone. They might never know what that little action can do for another person. There are less fortunate kids who aren't treated the same. Everyone needs to be treated the same. Everyone is created equal."
The students feel part of their job as an American is to stand up against injustice and make a difference.
Barnett said, "There is always an end to night, a dawn, a new beginning."
The butterfly project may be completed by all ages as individuals or groups.
* Butterflies should be no larger than 8 inches by 10 inches.
* Butterflies may be of any medium the artist chooses, but two-dimensional submissions are preferred.
* Glitter should not be used.
* Food products (cereal, macaroni, candy, marshmallows or other perishables) also should not be used.
* If possible, e-mail a photograph of your butterflies, to firstname.lastname@example.org.The Butterfly
Send or bring your butterflies to the Museum by June 30, 2012, with the following information included:
* Your name,
* Your organization or school,
* Your address,
* Your e-mail address, and
* The total number of butterflies sent.
Mail or bring your butterflies to:
Holocaust Museum Houston
5401 Caroline St.
Houston, TX 77004
"Children were neither just the mute and traumatized witnesses to this war, nor merely its innocent victims; the war invaded their imaginations and the war raged inside them."
Nicholas Stargardt in "Witnesses of War: Children's Lives Under the Nazis"