day of the "devet bran-festival" was devoted to hope. The children's
theater group "Theater in der Vorburg" played in the rococo
theater on Prague's Wenceslaus Square. "Farewell, Butterfly"
[Leb wohl, Schmetterling] is a play about the "model" concentration
camp Theresienstadt during the Second World War.
focuses on the Sternheims, a German-Jewish family from the
Sudentenland, assimiliated and educated, despised by the Czechs as
Germans and by the Germans as Jews.
The children do not come to terms with the situation. All three
rebel against the dismal living conditions that Nazism forces on
them. Lena, the oldest daughter attends meetings of the Communist
Party, Martha is interested in Zionism and the youngest son David
displays a poster with the words "Hitler is a pig".
Utimately, the family, together with friends and acquaintances,
receives the order for transport to Theresienstadt. The last night
of freedom is followed by the sobering and devastating arrival at
the camp. The family is separated: children, women and men are
all assigned to their own "residences".
With great sensitivity, the play then follows life in the camp,
recounts the ghetto dwellers' will to live and joie de vivre, their
attempt to combat the ashen tedium of daily life and maintain their
Despite all the grayness that the fortress bore, creativity exploded
among the prisoners. Composing poetry and music, singing, painting,
any artistic endeavor in Theresienstadt helped one not question
one's own sanity and one's own dignity. Theresienstadt is thus an
example of spiritual resistance, a proclamation that culture and
education are at the heart of what it means to be human.
The plot is fictitious yet based on documents and eyewitness
accounts from Theresienstadt. The songs, poems and
instrumental music that are performed and sung, however, are
authentic works created at the camp, that made this "model
concentration camp" very lively.
The drama was written for the "Theater in der Vorburg", the
children's and youth people's drama school at Namedy Castle. The
cast consists of 25 actors aged 10 to 17.
The premiere took place in November 1997 and as early as 1998 it was
performed in Prag und in Terezin (Theresienstadt) itself.
Thereafter, the troupe traveled to Israel. The young people have
learned the play once again for the "devet bran" festival.
The young people give a sterling performance of this theatrical
work. Dominique Caillat, the drama school's founder, talks about the
children's first meeting with ghetto survivors. "All of a sudden it
dawned on the children how normal, how authentic these people are,
people like everyone else. The warmth of that encounter, the
gratitude on both sides... Or the visit through the Pinkas
Synagogue, which today is a memorial to the almost 80,000 Czech
victims of the death camps: on the walls the children read the names
of many of the play's characters (a coincidence, since the names of
the characters are ficticious). The characters in the work freed
themselves from theatrical conceptual confines and came alive, the
children felt themselves all the more responsible for their roles".
The responsibilty felt by the young actors for their roles is
ubiquitous on stage; for that reason, the work is performed
eminently. The mere fact that the actors are still so young imparts
something unique to the entire performance. And it engenders
among the audience ominous trepidation, when the actors all stand
shoulder to shoulder and shout "Heil Hitler".
Text in German