Petr created and bound his own pages that became his novels and his diary. Laws at the time forbade Jews from buying common writing materials, so he used old papers and fashioned bindings from spare items. He also created linocut book labels.
The author Jonathan Safran Foer wrote this in the foreword to Petr’s diary:
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…. The diary in your hands did not save Petr. But it did save us.
Petr and his sister Eva were raised in a comfortable, happy home in Prague. His father was Jewish, but his mother was not. Under German law of the time, Petr as a mischling child (having both Jewish and Aryan parentage) was not commanded for transport until after his 14th birthday. His sister Eva arrived at Theresienstadt two years after Petr, and their father–until then protected by having a non-Jewish wife– arrived soon thereafter. Petr was taken on one of the last transports to Auschwitz.
Petr was said to be highly intelligent and inquisitive, as well as imaginative, inventive, and productive. He was considered artistic, an avid reader, kind and personable. He wrote several novels and poems. His diary covers the time during 1941 and 1942 prior to leaving Prague. The diary was hidden in a friend’s house and only found 60 years later, but verified by his sister as his. He writes of everyday life, school, family and friends, but is cognizant of all the changes and horrific happenings under Nazi rule.
His sister Eva noted that at the end of his diary, Petr’s handwriting had become different and unsteady. It was evident that fear had crept in, and his days of childhood were gone. Petr writes about when he was told about his impending transport to Theresienstadt and other major events occurring all around him.
During his time at Theresienstadt, Petr continued to write and draw, and to dream about the mysteries of space and the hope of a better world. He also founded a secret weekly “newsletter” called Vedem (which translates to: “we lead”), in which other boys there could contribute their own writing or artwork. Petr also invented a cryptic writing code which his sister was able to decipher.
Of his family, only his parents, his sister Eva and his cousin Hana Ginz survived. Eva later wrote that their mother had a lovely voice; after Petr left, she never sang again. Petr died at the Auschwitz concentration camp at the age of 16.
Painting by Petr Ginz, “Moon Landscape”
In Honor of Petr Ginz
On 16 January 2003, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, son of a Holocaust survivor, departed on Columbia Space Shuttle 107 with a copy of Petr’s artwork “Moon Landscape.” This artwork had been chosen by Yad Vashem to pay symbolic tribute to all those lost during the Holocaust. The fateful mission ended on 01 Feb 2003 as the shuttle disintegrated on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, what would have been Petr’s 75th birthday. Nevertheless, those lost in the Holocaust had been honored, scientific data was obtained, and Petr had journeyed along his pathway to the stars.
The asteroid 50413 Petrginz was named to honor him.
The Last Flight of Petr Ginz is a movie that recounts the story of his life.
Source: The Diary of Petr Ginz, 1941-1942. Petr Ginz, edited by Chave Pressburger (Eva Ginz).