I Never Saw Another Butterfly
by Pavel Freidman
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 was born in Prague on January 7, 1921. He was deported to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp on April 26, 1942 and later to Auschwitz, where he died on September 29, 1944. The poem was found when Theresienstadt was liberated in February 1945.
Pevel’s poem is included in and lends its name to the title of a collection of poems and artwork by the children and youth of Theresiesnstadt* and published by Hana Volavková and Jiří Weil in 1959.
* Theresienstadt was the German name for Terezín, a Czech fortress. “After the Munich Agreement in September 1938 and following the occupation of the Czech lands in March 1939, with the existing prisons gradually filled up as a result of the Nazi terror, the Prague Gestapo Police prison was set up in the Small Fortress in 1940. The first inmates arrived on June 14, 1940. By the end of the war 32,000 prisoners of whom 5,000 were women passed through the Small Fortress. These were primarily Czechs, later other nationals, for instance citizens of the former Soviet Union, Poles, Germans and Yugoslavs. Most of the prisoners were arrested for various acts of resistance to the Nazi regime, they were later sent to the extermination camps like Mauthausen in many cases; it was also destiny of family members and supporters of the Reinhard Heydrich assassins. The Jewish Ghetto was created in 1941.” Wikipedia