“Given his unprecedented situation, his words were unprecedented. He was creating new language. He was creating life….By repairing the dictionary, he was repairing the world….The diary in your hands did not save Petr. But it did save us.” Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything Is Illuminated
The Diary of Petr Ginz
978-0-8021-4360-0 • $16.00 • Paperback • Sep. 2008
Not since Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl has such an intimately candid, deeply affecting account of a childhood compromised by Nazi tyranny come to light. As a fourteen-year-old Jewish boy living in Prague in the early 1940s, Petr Ginz dutifully kept a diary that captured the increasingly precarious texture of daily life. Petr was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz at the age of sixteen, and his diariesrecently discovered in a Prague attic under extraordinary circumstancesnow read as the prescient eyewitness account of a meticulous observer. Petr was a young prodigya budding artist and writer whose paintings, drawings, and writings reflect his insatiable appetite for learning and experience. He records the grim facts of his everyday life with a child’s keen eye for the absurd and the tragicwhen Jews are forced to identify themselves with the yellow star of David, he writes, “On the way to school I counted sixty-nine ‘sheriffs’”and throughout, his youthful sense of mischief never dims. In the space of a few pages, Petr muses on the prank he plays on his science class, and reveals that his cousins have been called to turn over all their furniture and belongings, having been summoned east in the next transport. The diary ends with Petr’s own summons to Theresienstadt, where he would become the driving force behind the secret newspaper Vedem (“We Lead”), and where he would continue to draw, paint, write, and read, furiously educating himself for a future he would never see. Fortunately, Petr’s voice lives on in his diary, as fresh, startling, and significant as Irene Nemirovsky’s recently recovered Suite Francaise. The Diary of Petr Ginz is an invaluable historical document and a testament to one remarkable child’s insuppressible hunger for life.
HOW THE DIARIES WERE DISCOVERED:
In 2003, before setting out on the ill-fated Columbia space shuttle, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon sought to commemorate the Holocaust by taking aboard the ship the painting of a moonscape by Petr Ginz, a Prague teenager who died in Auschwitz. After the shuttle’s tragic explosion on February 1, 2003what would have been Ginz’s seventy-fifth birthdaynews reports of the teenage prodigy and his painting reached Prague, where a man made a startling discovery: he was in possession of Ginz’s wartime diary, which had been hidden away in his attic for decades. Soon thereafter, the diary made its way to Petr’s sister, who lived in Israel, and she saw to its publication throughout Europe, where the diary has become an international sensation.