The Diary Of A Young Boy: Remembering Petr Ginz

As I was researching lesson ideas for the teaching of “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl,” I visited the Facing History & Ourselves website, as it is a wonderful resource for all things having to do with the Holocaust, as well as the teaching of tolerance, prejudice

Petr Ginz and his sister  in Prague before the war. ~ Yad Vashem

Petr Ginz and his sister
in Prague before the war.
~ Yad Vashem

reduction, etc., and other subjects concerning human rights and civil liberties, I came upon lessons having to do with the film I’m Still Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust, a documentary focusing on the diaries of young writers during the Holocaust.  

The film is based upon the book Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust. The diary excerpts read in the film  come from the actual pages of the young writers. Like Anne Frank, who wrote her diary while  in hiding in Amsterdam, these young writers did not know if they would survive or if their diaries would be discovered and read.

I reproduce the following for the sake of remembering the young voice of this vivacious and talented young man, Petr Ginz, whose actual diaries can be read in the book, Salvaged Pages, which can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Excerpted from Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust, pages 160 – 167.

“Petr Ginz was born on February 1, 1928, in Prague, the first child of Otto Ginz and Maria  Ginzová. . . . Although Maria had been raised in a Catholic family. . . . she and her husband maintained a liberal but traditional Jewish home, keeping kosher, attending synagogue on major  holidays, celebrating Petr’s bar mitzvah, and sending their children to a progressive Jewish  school. . . .

Petr Ginz, far left, with his family

Petr Ginz, far right, with his family

“On March 15, 1939, the Germans annexed Czechoslovakia and four months later, in June, legislation modeled after the Nuremberg Race Laws (defining who was and was not a Jew) was put into practice. Petr . .[was] classified as mischlinge of the first degree—children of a mixed marriage in which to two grandparents were Jewish. . . . 

“In December 1941, shortly after the establishment of the Terezín (Theresienstadt) ghetto, deportations from Prague to Terezín began. The Ginz family was gradually broken up according  to the Nazi rules for dealing with Jews in mixed marriages and their offspring. . . .

“Petr kept a journal of his own in Terezín beginning in October 1943. . . . Petr did not make  daily, dated entries in his journal, nor did he write it in the form of a narrative. Rather, it is a  terse list composed of two parts: ‘plans,’ noting what he intended to accomplish for the month,  and ‘reports’ listing his actual achievements for that month. . . . The journal [for Petr] does not  provide an account of daily happenings in Terezín, the character of the persecution to which Petr was subjected, or the events of the Holocaust per se. Instead it is a record of the fifteen year-old writer’s efforts to expand his intellectual and artistic capabilities. . . .

“Although Petr decided that his diary was not the best vehicle for recording aspects of life in  Terezín, it was in the pages of a more public form of communication, the magazine Vedem, that this commitment was most fully realized. Vedem was a secret publication undertaken by the boys  of Home, produced every week between December 1942 and September 1944, and read aloud  on Friday evenings. . . . Petr occupied a central role in the production of the magazine, serving as its editor. . . .

“Petr’s last journal entries were written in September 1944, the month he was deported. . . .  Petr’s life came to an end in Auschwitz, where, at the age of sixteen, he was murdered in the gas  chambers.”

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2 comments on “The Diary Of A Young Boy: Remembering Petr Ginz

  1. Onesimus says:

    I’ve been reading Petr Ginz’s diary on and off for a while now. Your post is a reminder to get back to it.

    A very poignant postscript to his story is that a piece of his art was taken aboard the space shuttle Columbia by an Israeli astronaut – sadly it was the shuttle’s last flight, not making it back to earth from orbit.

    I seem to recall that it was THAT disasterous event that led to the publication of his diary (though I may be mistaken)

    Like

  2. Dan Hennessy says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Onesimus… I plan on posting a bit more on this young man… after all these years of studying the Shoah, I’ve not read his diary yet. I see there is also a documentary on his life, “The Last Flight of Petr Ginz,” which seems quite well thought of. I’ll look into these things… I am struck by this young man’s incredible personality… and the look on he and his sister’s face… so tragically taken away from this world… Thanks for stopping by…

    Like

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