Petr Ginz (1 February 1928 – 28 September 1944) was a Czechoslovak boy of partial Jewish background who was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust. He died at the age of sixteen when he was transferred to Auschwitz concentration camp and gassed.
Petr was born into the family of Otto Ginz, a manager of the export department of a textile company from Prague and notable Esperantist, and Marie Ginz (née Dolanská). Petr's father was Jewish, and his mother was not. His parents met at an Esperantist congress. His mother was from Hradec Králové where her father was a village teacher. Petr got frequent visits from his relatives during Christmas including his grandfather who owned an antique shop in Jungmann Square where he sold rare books. Petr was a very intelligent boy; between the ages of 8 and 14 he wrote 5 novels: From Prague to China, The Wizard from Altay Mountains, Around the World in One Second and A Visit from Prehistory — the only surviving novel today. The novels, including Návštěva z pravěku (English: Visit from Prehistory), were written in the style of Jules Verne and illustrated with his own paintings. He was interested in the sciences and yearned for knowledge. Because of his parents' interest in Esperanto, Petr also became a fluent speaker of the language.
According to the anti-Jewish laws of the Third Reich, children from mixed marriages were to be deported to a concentration camp at the age of 14. Young Petr was transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in October 1942. His efforts in sciences and thirst for knowledge remained and he tried to study even in the concentration camp. He often read from the library full of confiscated books to which he had access. He was placed in the Domov č.1 (Home No. 1, building L417). He became one of the most significant individuals of the community. He established and prepared for publication the periodical magazine Vedem which means "We Lead." He also wrote an Esperanto–Czech dictionary as well as several other short novels that have been lost. One interesting piece of writing is called 'The Rambles through Theresienstadt' where he interviews and comments on people, buildings and even the crematorium.
The breadth of his interests, abilities and character are determined from his writings that remain and from the testimonials of friends who survived. He was interested in literature, history, paintings, geography, sociology and also in the technical fields. The magazine Vedem was published every Friday for two years.
Petr was assigned to one of the last transports to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he died in the gas chambers in 1944. His diary has been published in English under the name: The Diary of Petr Ginz 1941–1942.
The magazine was founded shortly after his arrival at Terezín in 1942. Besides Ginz, several other boys from the Domov č.1. also contributed. Petr Ginz became a chief editor and he contributed under the code name nz or Akademie (Academy). Ginz gave most of his writings and paintings to his sister before his transport, so a majority have survived to today. His sister was also deported to Terezín in 1944, but she survived.
Before his transport, Ginz wrote a diary between 1941 and 1942 about his life. This diary, written in a matter-of-fact way, has been compared to Anne Frank's diary. This diary was lost for a long time but was later found and published by his sister Eva (now Chava Pressburger) as Diary of My Brother. The diary was published in Spanish, Catalan, and Esperanto, as well as the original Czech. It was published in English in April 2007 as "The Diary of Petr Ginz 1941–1942". It was reviewed in The New York Times on Tuesday 10 April 2007.
Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, whose mother and grandmother were survivors of Auschwitz, was asked by S. Isaac Mekel, director of development at the American Society for Yad Vashem, to take an item from Yad Vashem onto the American Space Shuttle Columbia. Ramon carried with him a copy of a drawing by Ginz of the planet Earth as seen from the moon. The shuttle, while reentering Earth's atmosphere, broke apart on 1 February 2003, destroying the copy of Ginz's drawing on what would have been his 75th birthday.
Petr Ginz's drawing and its fateful history have inspired other pieces of art. One example is the painting Variation on Petr Ginz's Moon Landscape by Roberto Perez-Franco.
The asteroid 50413 Petrginz was named in his honour.