Page 71 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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S t e i n b a c h — N e l l y S a c h s : N o b e l L a u r e a t e
51
Remember the Past
Several years ago a book was published in Czechoslovakia
entitled
I Never Saw Another Butterfly.
It contains the drawings,
pictures, crayon and water colors, prose and poetry, of the
wretched freightage of Jewish children sent to the Terezin con-
centration camp before being shipped to Auschwitz. The oldest
was fifteen, and of 15,000 children who occupied that camp only
100 returned. One of the pictures, drawn in water color by Pavel
Friedman, age 11, shows a yellow butterfly, and on the page
he wrote this poem:
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ’way up high.
I t 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.
From 1942 to 1944 these children learned the grim lesson
that there’s no place among the dead even for a little yellow
butterfly. This message from their past has been preserved, and
it must never be forgotten. The
Yad Vashem
organization has
as its rubric,
z’khor,
“remember,”
al tishkah,
“do not forget.”
We must not forget!
This is what Nelly Sachs is saying to us: Let us remember the
victims! The awful carnage of the Holocaust must not be for-
gotten; it must be a graphic reminder for the future. So much
suffering, so many deaths, such a dismal era in man’s history
should not be regarded merely as a monument to an abominable
past. It must evoke a new reverence for life, for love, for human-
itarianism; it must lead the way to a new demonstration of the
power of human faith which will enkindle benevolent sparks
of joy upon the anvil of the heart’s upstriving. Just as Miss
Sachs’ poetry is suffused with a passion deriving from a great
spiritual tradition and transcending one language and one people,