I Will Not Die

“If in barbed wire things can bloom, why couldn’t I? I will not die, I will not die.”

Anonymous, from the poem “On a Sunny Evening”, written in 1944 by children in the Terezin Concentration Camp, barracks L318 and L417, ages 10-15, from I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942–1944 compiled by Hana Volavková

I Never Saw Another Butterfly_COT

Surviving watercolor painting from one of the Children of Theresienstadt.

Located about 40 miles north of Prague in the Czech Republic, Terezin was built in 1780 as a military fortress and garrison town. When Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in 1941, the town was turned into a ghetto where Jews were gathered before they were sent further east to the extermination camps. The Germans created the camp to mislead the outside world about the Final Solution. More than 12,000 children under the age of 15 passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp between the years 1942 and 1944. Of these, more than 90 percent perished during the Holocaust. A group of dedicated adults made it their goal to care for the children, not just by taking care of the children’s physical needs but by taking on the role of teacher. These adults tried to insulate the children as much as possible from the depressing reality of ghetto life and fears of an uncertain future. Due to these courageous efforts, much of the children’s creative works endured, and were later compiled after World War II by Czech art historian Hana Volavková, the only curator of the Jewish Museum in Prague to survive the Holocaust.

Editor’s Note: This quote is commonly misattributed to Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Frederika “Friedl” Dicker-Brandeis was an Austrian artist and educator murdered by the Nazis in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. She held secret art classes for the children in the Terezin Concentration Camp, and much of what survives of the Children of Theresienstadt is due to her efforts. The above quote is a paraphrased version, but I like it better; however, as is customary on this little site, the original, direct from the text is as follows: “If, in barbed wire, things can bloom / Why couldn’t I? I will not die!” 

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