The Butterfly Project
Butterflies of Brundibar
Each year, the seventh grade at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School engages in an interdisciplinary study of the Holocaust across the social studies, art and language arts curricula. Each January, we have a day-long Holocaust memorial program which culminates with our participation in the Butterfly Project, an international memorial project to honor the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. Each student paints a ceramic butterfly in honor of a young victim whose story they read on identity cards distributed by The Butterfly Project as part of the kits.
The Butterfly Project was inspired by the art and poetry created by the children interned by the Nazis at the Terezin Concentration Camp; ultimately their work, which was discovered upon liberation, was published in a book entitled I Never Saw Another Butterfly. The book’s title draws its name from a poem written by Pavel Friedmann.
While imprisoned in Terezin, many of these children also were enlisted to perform the Czech opera Brundibar for the International Red Cross' visit to the camp as well as for a propaganda film later used by the Nazis. In post-liberation interviews, the performers explained that they felt empowered by the music which they sang as a form of resistance. Since the opera was performed in Czech and the Nazis spoke German, they did not realize that the children were singing about the end of tyranny. The opera’s finale is a celebration of victory over Brundibar the tyrant and a symbol of hope for the victory that those interned hoped and prayed for.
“We’ve won a victory over the tyrant mean,
sound trumpets, beat your drum, and show us your esteem!
We’ve won a victory,
since we were not fearful,
since we were not tearful,
because we marched along singing our happy song, bright, joyful and cheerful.”
Ceramic butterflies in honor 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust hanging in our multipurpose room.
Thanks to funding from the Cape Cod Arts Foundation, Cape Cod Five and Am Hayam, we are able to create and install a mural honoring the children who perished in the Holocaust. Our mural gives these children a voice through the opera’s finale and wings through their representation as butterflies. Each butterfly represents a music note in the finale of Brundibar. The last butterfly in our mural was painted by Martin Owens, the grandfather of three Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School graduates. Mr. Owens escaped Austria and spent several years at a boarding school for refugees in England. Mr. Owens was reunited with his mother after the war and eventually emigrated to the U.S.
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 goodbye.
For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles 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 Friedmann 4.6.1942
We plan to add additional butterflies each year and to continue expanding the mural throughout the school as a reminder to our students of the importance of taking a stand in the face of injustice and helping those being persecuted. The mural is also a celebration of the power of the arts in times of despair.
May 10, 2022 will be the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Terezin by the Soviets. We will honor the 150,000 Jews who were interned at Terezin, 15,000 of whom were children. The program will include musical performances as well as several speakers before the unveiling of the