Terezin Children’s Songs for Soprano, Violin and Piano
III. On a Sunny Evening
IV. The Butterfly
V. Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
The ghetto of Terezin (Theresienstadt), located in the hills outside Prague, was an unusual concentration camp in that it was created to cover up the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Billed as the “Führer’s gift to the Jews, this “model ghetto” was the site of a Red Cross inspection visit in 1944. With its high proportion of artists and intellectuals, culture flourished in the ghetto – alongside starvation, disease, and constant dread of transports to the death camps of the east. Every one of its inhabitants was condemned in advance to die.
97,297 died among whom were 15,000 children between the years 1942-1944; less than 100 children survived. In the poems and drawings of the children, many smuggled out of the camp, we see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their courage and optimism, their hopes and fears. These innocent and honest depictions allow us to see through the eyes of the children what life was like in the ghetto. Their art reveals a maturity beyond their years, are haunting reminders of what no child should ever have to see. In spite of the circumstances, the poetry is beautiful and uplifting – telling a story that resonates in each of us.
I. Birdsong – 1941 Anonymous
Anonymous Child, Written in Terezin Concentration Camp. The poem is preserved in manuscript and is written in pen on a sheet of white paper together with the poem “Night in the Ghetto.”
II. Forgotten – Anonymous
The poem is preserved in manuscript and is written in pen on a square piece of paper torn from a notebook.
III. On A Sunny Evening – 1944 Anonymous
The poem is preserved in a typewritten copy. There is the date “1944” in the upper right corner.
IV. The Butterfly – 1942 by Pavel Friedman
The poem is preserved in typewritten copy on thin copy paper in the collection of poetry by Pavel Friedmann, which was donated to the State Jewish Museum during its documentation campaign. It is dated June 4, 1942, in the left corner. Pavel Friedmann was born on January 7, 1921, in Prague and departed to Terezin on April 26, 1942. He died in Auschwitz on September 29, 1944.
Pavel Friedman was a young poet, who lived in the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Little is known of the author, but he is presumed to have been 17 years old when he wrote “The Butterfly”. It was found among a hidden cache of children’s work recovered at the end of the Second World War. He was eventually deported to Auschwitz where he died on September 29, 1944.
V. Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep – 1932
“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” is a poem written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Although the origin of the poem was disputed until later in her life, Mary Frye’s authorship was confirmed in 1998 after research by Abigail Van Buren, a newspaper columnist.