Petr Ginz was born on February 1, 1928 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. His father was Jewish and his mother came from a Catholic family, though she considered herself to be an atheist. Petr was raised in a home in which Jewish traditions were kept. When German soldiers occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939, they brought Nazi antisemitic laws and definitions with them. One of these laws defined Petr as a “half-Jew”. As a result, when he was fourteen and a half years old, he was imprisoned in a place called Theresienstadt (also known as the Terezin Ghetto).
Petr had written an extensive diary prior to his incarceration. That diary was discovered in 2003 in an attic in Prague and has since become world famous. Before its publication, Petr was mostly known for the art and writing that he produced while he was a prisoner in Theresienstadt. He helped to write and edit a secret newspaper called Vedem (“In the Lead”) that was published by the boys of Home One. He also created several fine drawings and linocuts. He made monthly notes about his activities and plans for intellectual development, but he only briefly kept a traditional diary in which he made dated entries about daily events. One of those entries was written on February 11, 1944. On that date Petr wrote, “Everything’s ‘all right.’ Rahm, the new German [commandant] in the ghetto […], is doing an inspection of the ghetto… I have seen Rahm twice in person. There’s a bonkes [rumor] going round at the moment that all half-Jews will be allowed to talk to their mothers in the commander’s office under the supervision of a German soldier. I’m afraid that unfortunately it’s not true.”
Petr was a very intelligent and insightful young man. He didn’t say in his diary how he knew that the rumor about “half-Jews” and their mothers wasn’t true. Perhaps in the two times he had seen Rahm he perceived that he was not the type of person to grant such a favor. It is more likely that he realized that this would be contrary to Nazi behavior in general. In any case, Petr knew better than to get his hopes up as a result of an unsubstantiated rumor.
Instead, he placed his hopes in things he could control; his thirst for knowledge and his intense creativity.
You may read excerpts from Petr’s Terezin dairy, and also from his sister Eva’s diary in by Alexandra Zapruder.
You may read more about Vedem, the Terezin boys’ publication, on this site which features an educators’ guide and Vedem excerpts.
Click here to visit a website dedicated to Vedem.
October 15, 2015 at 6:00 PM
FORUM: The Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930’s: What Can We Learn to Meet the Needs of…
October 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Opening Reception: The Scroll of Remembrance
October 29, 2015 at 6:00 PM
Forum at the Rosen JCC: Eva Braun, Hitler’s Bride
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