Books

Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Grove Press

The Diary of Petr Ginz

by Petr Ginz

“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

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 192
  • Publication Date September 16, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4360-0
  • Dimensions 6.75" x 8.38"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 192
  • Publication Date April 15, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8711-3966-5
  • Dimensions 6.75" x 8.38"
  • US List Price $24.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date September 10, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9546-3
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

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 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, 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.

Tags Holocaust

Praise

“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

“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 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.” —Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Washington Post

The Diary of Petr Ginz is a gift from history, a gift from the heavens—a fragment of a life extinguished by the Holocaust.” —Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“This extraordinary personal document is an important document.” —George Cohen, Booklist

“A moving and valuable addition to the personal literature of the Holocaust.” —Publishers Weekly

“Certainly worth reading . . . as a historical document, or as a case study of adolescent psychology under duress.” —Juliet Lapidos, The Forward

The Diary of Peter Ginz is a gift from history, a gift from the heavens—a fragment of a life extinguished by the Holocaust.” —Bill Glauber, The Salt Lake Tribune

“Ginz’s journals bring to mind another young Jewish diarist, Anne Frank. Both were perceptive Jewish youngsters whose first-person accounts of the period help us to understand that nightmarish time. . . . Ginz . . . lived in the open and was able to witness the steady deterioration of the Jewish community’s conditions, which he chronicled.” —Aaron Leibel, Washington Jewish Week

“Simply put, this book should be read by everyone.” —Daniel A. Olivas, Jewish Journal

“Petr Ginz’s diaries reveal a budding Czech literary and artistic genius whose life was cut short by the Nazis. . . . and offer keen insights into the reality of everyday life of Jews in wartime Prague.” —Ladka M. Bauerova, International Herald Tribune

“There is enough Holocaust literature describing the horror. . . . But Petr’s diaries show that if you were a child during the Holocaust you could still live moments of simple happiness. You could be adventurous in your mind.” —Chava Pressburger, Petr Ginz’s sister

Awards

An Amazon Editors’ Top 100 Books Pick

Excerpt

1.I. 1942 (Thursday)

I made myself a nice violin from bark, but I don’t yet know how to play it, because so far it has only two (rubber) strings.

In the morning I did my homework. Otherwise nothing special. Actually, a lot is happening, but it is not even visible. What is quite ordinary now would certainly cause upset in a normal time. For example, Jews don’t have fruit, geese, or any poultry, cheese, onions, garlic, and many other things. Tobacco ration cards are forbidden to prisoners, madmen, and Jews.

They are not allowed to travel in the front section of trams, buses, or trolleybuses; they are not allowed to take walks on riverbanks, etc. etc.

2.I. 1942 (Friday)

In the morning I did my homework, in the afternoon went for a walk.

3.I. 1942 (Saturday)

In the morning at Popper’s, he has a runny nose again and is in bed.

In the afternoon at Grandma’s.

I heard that the Germans suddenly entered Jepa (a department store), closed it and whoever was wearing warm slippers had their identity cards taken away and the slippers stamped, so that they will have to go and hand them in. Then they’ll get their identity cards back.

They say that in Brno they were taking them away right there in the streets. So now everyone is afraid.