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North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts students take part in Holocaust program

By Staff | Feb 4, 2020

It has been 75 years since the end of one of the world’s most horrific events in history, the Holocaust.

More than 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in death camps and ghettoes throughout Europe, and those who survived are becoming fewer, leaving us with fewer people with firsthand knowledge of what happened.

The North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts last week took part in the remembrance by sending nearly 60 of its students to the Punta Gordan Congregational United Church of Christ for a one-act play depicting Jewish children living in a ghetto during the Holocaust.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” is a play written from a collection of works of art and poetry by Jewish children who lived in the Jewish ghetto Thereanents (Terzina) during the years of the Holocaust.

Middle school theater students (actors, tech crew, costume designers, dancers, and choir members) from NAMPA Jr. Thespians Troupe 88623 performed the play, who were then followed by a presentation by special guest and Holocaust survivor Max Weigelass.

Kathy Rivadavia, Junior Thespian director and teacher at NAMPA, said the story depicts a teacher in the ghetto who decides that the best way for these children to live in this nightmare is by teaching them through art and song.

“A lot of the people in Terezin were artists and would play in orchestras or do operas, so they brought their art supplies and instruments so the kids can express themselves,” Rivadeneira said. “The teacher hid and buried the artwork and the people who survived came back and got the artwork.”

The story became a book, a novel, a full-length play and a one-act, said Rivadeneira, who attends the church.

She also said the thespian group was formed as a competition troupe, which participates in district competitions and chose this particular one-act for competition.

“I wanted to do this play for a long time and finally found the group of kids who I thought could do it,” Rivadeneira said. “It’s such a serious and mature topic for them to handle.”

Mile Miranda, the eighth-grader who played the teacher, said her role was to keep everything in order and make sure there is a little bit of light and hope.

“Terzina is not the happiest place. I’m making sure they stay together and aren’t torn apart,” Miranda said. “From learning about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, I never knew about the ghettoes. I didn’t know there was such a huge story to it. It wasn’t just people getting sent to the gas chambers.”

Samantha Barrack, who plays Raja, the lead character, a teenage girl trying to survive this ordeal. It turns out that after the Holocaust, she is the only one left.

“It’s not just Auschwitz. There were multiple camps and people had to hide to survive because they weren’t what Hitler wanted them to be,” Barrack said.

The whole idea of learning history is to learn from our mistakes. All agreed that its important to learn these things, though it doesn’t necessarily mean that some haven’t learned or have but don’t care.

“It’s not just the past. We have to know about these things so they don’t happen again. And they are,” Miranda said.

“We can never forget these things so that they never happen again but unfortunately, they are,” Barrack said.

“It happened in all the territories the Germans captured. They were even forced to digs their own graves,” said Pedro Paradrop, a seventh-grader in the play. “People learn from their mistakes, but sometimes emotions take over and rulers start ruling that way.”