Janusz Korczak was a Polish doctor, teacher and writer who ran homes for Catholic and Jewish orphans in Warsaw. When the Nazis invaded Poland during the Second World War, he refused to leave the children and died with them in a concentration camp. Confessions of a Butterfly is a new one-man theatre piece about him, staged for the first time in the 70th anniversary of Korczak's death.
The play begins in August 1942, immediately after Janusz Korczak, the staff and the 200 children have been ‘evacuated’ by the SS from their home in the notorious Warsaw Ghetto. On this day some 4,000 children were taken along with about 2,000 adults as the Nazis liquidated the smaller part of the Ghetto. We are then taken back some 12 hours.
On the night before he is taken to his death in the extermination camp of Treblinka, we find Janusz Korczak in his room at the top of the orphanage mulling over his life. As he reflects and tries to put his thoughts in some kind of order, he is constantly interrupted by the children. How can he prepare them and how can he prepare himself for the inevitable.
The writing of this piece of theatre arose through An Evening with Dr Korczak which was held at the Jewish Museum in Camden in conjunction with the exhibition Korczak in 2008. The first book that Korczak wrote was about his early childhood, and this was entitled Confessions of a Butterfly. Using his original writings, Jonathan Salt has interwoven thought and conversation as the audience take on the role of the children.
Janusz Korczak (1879-1942) the Polish Jewish physician, writer and educator, was a man who took his convictions and sense of responsibility so strongly, he was prepared to go to his death rather than betray them. He was the director of two orphanages - one for Catholic children and one for Jewish children - where he promoted progressive educational techniques, including real opportunities for the children to take part in decision making. He had brought up thousands of Jewish and Catholic children refused to desert them, so that even as they died they would be able to maintain their trust in him and their faith in human goodness. His insights into children were unclouded by sentimentality, but were based on continuous clinical observation and meticulous listing of data. He was endowed with an uncanny empathy for children and a deep concern for their rights.
Confessions of a Butterfly
10-29 September (Thursdays - Saturdays),
Lion and Unicorn Theatre
London NW5 2ED
Tickets - £15 (Concessions £12)
Box office – 08444 771000