Petr Ginz was a very well educated young man who lived with his family in Prague, Czechoslovakia during the World War II era. In fact, Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia even before the war began. First, they took the region known as the Sudetenland in October of 1938. Then, they occupied the rest of the country in March of 1939. This was bad news for all Czech citizens, but it was most dangerous for those who were also Jewish. Since one of Petr’s parents was Jewish, this marked him as mischlinge (mixed race – half Jewish) in the eyes of the Nazis. As a result, he was subjected to discriminatory rules and actions that would eventually cost him his freedom and his life.
In 1941, though, Petr was still free and able to live at home. He still attended school and made his way around his neighborhood. He was very observant and took note of occurrences in the news and in his immediate vicinity. He recorded all of his observations in his diary. He was probably driven to observe and record because he wanted to be able to figure out how much danger he and his family were in at any given moment. Dangers could come from developments in the war that had world-wide ramifications, or they could just as easily come from the whims of local officials who decided to enact new policies.
On December 9th, Petr wrote, “In the morning I did my homework. The Japanese attacked Singapore. School in the afternoon. When, as usual, I walked home from school with Bardach, on Vezenska Street in front of a pub there was a “green anton” (i.e., a van for prisoners) and in front of it stood a line of policemen across the pavement. The Gestapo men then chased some people out of the pub (about eight of them), directly into the “green anton,” which they then locked and drove away. I heard it has to do with the geese and chickens displayed in the pub.”
It is interesting to see the two items that Petr decided to include in his diary entry for this day. On one hand, he recorded a news item of great significance; the Japanese attack on Singapore. Right afterward, though he also mention the arrest of some locals that might have had something to do with a regulation regarding geese and chickens. It hardly seems as though those two items should be included together, but then again, the second was the one that hit closer to home. Someone in Petr’s circumstances needed to keep an eye on both types of news. Danger could come from anywhere – near or far.
The diary that Petr kept before he was sent to Terezin was published by his sister Chava Pressburger in 2008 under the title . It is still in print.
Click here to learn more about the political crisis that paved way for the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.
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