As many as 1.5 million children were killed during the Holocaust. These vulnerable members of society were the innocent victims of hate. Deemed undesirable or dangerous, their lives were taken in the name of ethnic/racial purity, as a measure of preventative security, or in retaliation to real or alleged partisan attacks.
Over 1 million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, Polish children and children in the occupied regions of the Soviet Union were murdered.
Some were killed immediately after birth or in institutions. Others were taken to killing centers where they died immediately Children in Jewish ghettos or concentration camps often died of malnutrition, starvation, exposure or disease. Some were spared because adult prisoners sheltered or hid them. Children over the age of 12 were used as laborers and as subjects of medical experiments.
When tasked with how to remember these children, educator Jan Landau and artist Cheryl Rattner Price started the Butterfly Project (Zikaron V’Tikvah – Hebrew for remembrance and hope) at San Diego Jewish Academy. Their goal has been to take Holocaust education out of the pages of textbooks and bring it to life visually to inspire students to make their world a better place.
Inspired by The Diary of Anne Frank, the poem "The Butterfly" written by Pavel Friedmann 4-6-1942, and the documentary film Paper Clips, The Butterfly Project is now a global memorial with over 200 communities participating.
The Butterfly Project combines the Arts with the lessons of the Holocaust to educate people of all ages, faiths, religions, races and ethnicities about the dangers of hatred and bigotry through the painting of ceramic butterflies which memorialize the lives of each child killed during the Holocaust.
These butterflies are permanently displayed around the world. They have been created by individuals, schools and community organizations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Australia, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Tanzania, Beijing (China), Burma, Cuba, Iceland, Morocco, Paris (France), Prague (Czech Republic), and Uruguay.
The Butterfly Project was displayed at The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh at 828 Hazelwood Avenue 15217 until December 31, 2017. We planned to publish an article about the exhibit in early December to give people a chance to go see it, but circumstances beyond our control intervened. We hope to be able to publish the article next month. In the meantime, I wanted to give our readers some information about this amazing display and The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. Photos of the display can be seen at their website, hcofpgh.org or The Butterfly Project website, thebutterflyprojectnow.org. If you are not in the Pittsburgh area, please contact your nearest Holocaust Center to see when The Butterfly Project will be displayed in your area.
Imagine a field of beautiful butterflies in different sizes in every imaginable color as they fly from flower to flower - sometimes still, sometimes in frenzied motion. Now imagine these butterflies as beautiful children of all ages playing together. Can your mind even conceive the idea of 1.5 million children who never got to enjoy a childhood, finish school, fall in love, become adults and have their own children? It happened during the Holocaust and it must not be forgotten or allowed to happen again.
Information about marking your own butterfly or how to order butterflies from The Butterfly Project to contribute to the project can be found on their website, thebutterflyprojectnow.org. Licensing fees are waived for any schools or classrooms purchasing kits. If you will be making your own butterflies, they request you pay the nominal licensing fee of $75 which helps fund the project.
The images depicted below were not taken from the Butterfly Project - you should see it for yourself - but I wanted to give you something to think about.