Friedman was born in Prague and deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, in the fortress and garrison city of Terezín (German name Theresienstadt), located in what is now the Czech Republic. Little is known of Friedman's life prior to his incarceration at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where his arrival was recorded on April 26, 1942.
On June 4, 1942 he wrote a poem “The Butterfly” on a piece of thin copy paper which was discovered after liberation and later donated to the Jewish Museum in Prague (formerly State Jewish Museum).
The text of The Butterfly was discovered at Theresienstadt after the concentration camp was liberated. It has been included in collections of children’s literature from the Holocaust era, most notably the anthology I Never Saw Another Butterfly, first published by Hana Volavková and Jiří Weil in 1959, although Friedman was 21 years old when the poem was composed. The poem also inspired the Butterfly Project of the Holocaust Museum Houston, an exhibition where 1.5 million paper butterflies were created to symbolize the same number of children that perished in the Holocaust.
- 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.
- "online collection".
- Maria Sciullo (April 9, 2009). "Butterfly Project heeds call of Holocaust victims: 'Remember us'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
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