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The Diary of Petr Ginz: 1941-1942by Chava Pressburger
Synopses & Reviews
Petr Ginz was a budding literary and artistic genius whose life was cut short by the Nazis. More than a diary, this book is a rich scrapbook of an era - a collection of journal entries, poems, short stories, and drawings which offer keen insight into Jewish life in wartime Prague. Ginz's writings vividly describe the increasing horror of his situation but also reveal a brilliant, droll teenager with a hunger for life. Ginz studied history, drew maps, learned English, wrote eight novels, and made gorgeous woodcuts. Ginz also became the driving force behind Vedem ("We Are Leading"), a secret newspaper defiantly published by the boys in his barracks. This beautifully produced volume is both a fitting memorial and a respectful resurrection of a talented young man who died well before his time.
"The diaries of Petr Ginz, a 14-year-old Czech Jew who died in Auschwitz in 1944, resurfaced in 2003 after nearly 60 years in obscurity. Now edited by his sister, the diary covers 11 months preceding Ginz's deportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The entries, along with poems and artwork, demonstrate the young man's determined spirit, imagination and intellectual precociousness. With much that is mundane about his life in Prague — the weather, visits with family and friends, school assignments and grades — the diary also reveals Ginz's prankish and entrepreneurial sides (he initiates a school lottery) and his observations of resistance against the German occupiers and their acts of savage reprisal. Ginz also records the progressive deportations of those he knows to either Theresienstadt or to the Lodz Ghetto. This volume also includes excerpts from Vedem ('we lead'), a weekly periodical Ginz created in Theresienstadt. Pressburger's helpful, if at times sketchy, notes and annotations to the diary include a summary of the fates of Ginz's family, neighbors, schoolmates and friends. While Ginz's diary lacks the expressions of the rich inner life of Anne Frank's, it is a moving and valuable addition to the personal literature of the Holocaust." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"What is the significance of the writings and art of a murdered 16-year-old boy, especially when he was one of 6 million slaughtered only because of his parentage? Is it that we get to glimpse at least something of a life prematurely and cruelly ended that seems to make that life more lasting and meaningful? Is it that we can better comprehend the infinite horror of each individual loss, which we can... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) then multiply to produce 6 million infinities? Is it, if the writing and art are of distinction, that we can marvel at such precociousness and talent and think of all the richness that that boy and the world never got to experience? The answer, in the case of Petr Ginz, is all of the above. Ginz was a Czech of mixed Jewish and non-Jewish parentage who was deported in 1942 to Theresienstadt and then, in 1944, to his death in Auschwitz. His diary came to light in 2003 after the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon took Ginz's drawing 'Moon Landscape' with him on the doomed space shuttle Columbia. After the shuttle exploded, a man in Prague who had found the diaries years earlier in a house he purchased saw news reports about Ginz and his painting and contacted the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, which already had a collection of Ginz's artwork. Now published by his surviving sister, the book includes some of his promising watercolors, linocuts and drawings, and excerpts from his writings, including the incomplete 'The Secret of Satan's Grotto,' one of his six unpublished novels: 'It occurred to me then that my feelings at that moment were like a newspaper before it hits the rolling press. All the pressure from every side disappeared. I wondered: why does the pure paper of children's souls have to pass from a young age through the rolling press of life and society, which imprints it with all sorts of qualities and crushes it under the pressure of worries about livelihood and the attacks of enemies.' So much of young Ginz's writings deal with such sadness. While the diary itself is mainly recitations of the personal and political events of his days, his art and the brief excerpts of his journalism (he founded and edited a magazine in Theresienstadt) and novels reveal a burdened though delicate heart, and a fine mind and hand that were never allowed to grow so much finer. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is the author of 'Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.' His book 'Worse Than War: Understanding and Stopping Genocide in Our Time,' which is the basis for a documentary planned for PBS, will be published next year." Reviewed by Marie AranaElizabeth McCrackenMargaret MacMillanJonathan YardleyRon CharlesDaniel Jonah GoldhagenAlberto FuguetJoanne OmangDebora L. SparMichael DirdaRobert PinskyDaniel Jonah Goldhagen, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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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 diaries--recently discovered in a Prague attic under extraordinary circumstances--now read as the prescient eyewitness account of a meticulous observer. Petr was a young prodigy--a 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 tragic--when 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 historicaldocument and a testament to one remarkable child's insuppressible hunger for life. 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, 2003--what would have been Ginz's seventy-fifth birthday--news 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.
Lost for sixty years in a Prague attic, this secret diary of a teenage prodigy killed at Auschwitz is an extraordinary literary discovery, an intimately candid, deeply affecting account of a childhood compromised by Nazi tyranny. As a fourteen-year old Jewish boy living in Prague in the early 1940s, Petr Ginz dutifully records the increasingly precarious texture of daily life. With a childs keen eye for the absurd and the tragic, he muses on the prank he played on his science class and then just pages later, reveals that his cousins have been called to relinquish all their possessions, having been summoned east in the next transport. The diary ends with Petr's own summons to Thereisenstadt, where he would become the driving force behind the secret newspaper Vedem, 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, a fresh, startling, and invaluable historical document and a testament to one remarkable child's insuppressible hunger for life.
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