The notebooks and artwork of Holocaust victim Petr Ginz lay undiscovered in an old house in Prague for 60 years. In 2003, after the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia, it came to light that Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon had carried with him a drawing ( Moon Landscape ) by young Petr an act intended to commemorate the Holocaust victims. Not long after a man came forward wishing to sell some old writings and drawings all by Petr Ginz.

Edited by Ginz's sister, Chava Pressburger, The Diary of Petr Ginz, 1941-1942 is the record of a Jewish schoolboy's daily life in Prague while it is under Nazi control. Fourteen-year-old Petr, an irrepressible prodigy who excelled in painting, drawing and writing, kept a straightforward, calm record of his days, including his schooling, family life, and the personal indignities and work (cleaning typewriters) forced upon him and his family by Hitler's edicts. Embellished with his wry poetry and his stark, intense linocuts and drawings, the diary entries are short, many no more than a few sentences, but they reveal volumes about the Nazis' draconian methods: Tuesday, March 3, 1942: In the afternoon in town. There are ordinances everywhere saying that it is not allowed to wash Jewish laundry. As the strictures placed upon the Jews became tighter, there was an escalation of transports, moving the Jewish populace to the ghetto of Thereisienstadt before transfer to Nazi death camps in occupied Poland. Petr's diary ends in August 1942, two months before he was separated forever from his family and sent to Thereisienstadt, where he would live (and start a secret rebel newspaper), work and tirelessly study for two years. At the end of that time 16-year-old Petr was taken to Auschwitz and exterminated one of many lives prematurely ended, but a voice not fully stilled. Of Petr's determination to bear witness, novelist Jonathan Safran Foer writes in the book's introduction, Surrounded by death, and facing his own, Petr put words on paper. Given his unprecedented situation, his words were unprecedented. He was creating new language. He was creating life.

 

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