The Diary of Petr Ginz 1941 – 1943

Cha­va Press­burg­er, ed; Ele­na Lap­pin, trans.; Jonathan Safran Foer, intro.
  • Review
By – November 11, 2011

The Diary of Petr Ginz is a new­ly dis­cov­ered eye­wit­ness account by a four­teenyear- old Jew­ish boy of life in Nazi-occu­pied Prague. Ear­ly entries are marked by short, declar­a­tive sen­tences, evoca­tive of a ghost­ly march into the dark­ness of death. 

Petr writes about typ­i­cal boy­hood pranks and life’s mun­dane dai­ly rit­u­als, pep­pered with accounts of esca­lat­ing depri­va­tion imposed by the Nazis. Notable in his account is the strug­gle of the Jews to main­tain a sense of nor­mal­cy: “…a lot is hap­pen­ing, but it is not even vis­i­ble. What is quite ordi­nary now would cer­tain­ly cause upset in a nor­mal time.” 

Petr was a vora­cious read­er; he was also inquis­i­tive, obser­vant, and intent on prepar­ing him­self for the free­dom he believed would come. His artis­tic tal­ents blos­somed dur­ing his years in There­sien­stadt as edi­tor, writer, and artist for Vedem, the secret news­pa­per he helped to estab­lish. His keen eye for detail and his abil­i­ty to bring his expe­ri­ences into sharp focus open a win­dow into his per­son­al expe­ri­ence of the Holo­caust. Draw­ings, notes, photos.

Nao­mi Kramer is a retired read­ing con­sul­tant teacher who devel­oped cur­ricu­lum for using lit­er­a­ture to edu­cate chil­dren and adults in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust. She is a docent and edu­ca­tor at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

Discussion Questions