Petr Ginz / Eva Ginzová

02.03.2016 | 20:22
Petr Ginz / Eva Ginzová

Ginz siblings – over obstacles to the stars

Petr and Eva Ginzovi were born in Prague. Their dad Otto came from the traditional Jewish family of a rural teacher from Ždánice near Kouřim. However, mum Marie (born Dolanská) was of non-Jewish origin, the daughter of a rural teacher in Číbuz in Hradec Králové municipality. Their love of Esperanto intersected their paths and resulted in love at fi rst sight (at an international meeting of Esperantists). The wedding was on March 8, 1927. In less than a year, their son was born on February 1, 1928, and daughter Eva two years later on February 21, 1930.

“We see how our horizons are expanding, we feel like pilgrims climbing a high mountain. New distant, unknown regions, which were previously hidden by our closest neighbourhoods, appear to our eyes and give us more unexplored plains behind them. But we won’t be deterred and we are climbing ever higher, sometimes faster and sometimes slower to see even those distant wonders.”

Thus adventurously described the 15-year-old Petr Ginz in his annual editorial work for Vedem (We lead) magazine. It was in the Terezín ghetto, a few months before he and most of his friends were murdered in the gas chamber in Březinka. The words, however, comprehensively describe his whole life, which was about a constant discovery and crossing horizons, searching for and fulfi lling the life story.
Their parents were enthusiastic about Esperanto, and raised both Petr and his two-year younger sister Eva with common human values beyond the constraints of a particular faith or nation. Since childhood, the children spent a lot of time in the countryside, doing sports, reading and doing fi ne art. Petr was interested in palaeontology, biology, astronomy, geography, and history.
He also began to write at an early age – besides short stories he published at the age of nine, he had the courage to write several novels (the only one completed was published recently – “The Prehistory Visit”). When he was older, he liked long trips to nature around Prague – preferring Šárka or Ďáblice.
At the time of the Protectorate, he attended the Jewish School in Jáchymova Street, where his classmates elected him the head boy. At this school he had already published the magazine Rozhled (Outlook), helped with the organization of a whole series of events, he invented and wrote, but he also managed to get involved in many boyish mischiefs.
He was taken to Terezín by transport Ca on October 23, 1942 and placed in boys‘ house 1 in the building of the former school (building L 417). Here the boys, led by the charismatic educator Valtr Eisinger, formed the so-called Republic of ShKID from the then popular Russian book. Thus, a real self-government began to operate in the home, where 40 boys participated not only in cleaning, but also in the preparation of cultural and sports programmes, mutual evaluation, leadership of evening lectures, or publishing the aforementioned Vedem magazine. Petr initiated it and was in charge for almost two years, but most of the boys got involved in a friendly way and at the same time with prominent fi rmness and humour. In Terezín, Petr continued to work on self-study and art work. A certain milestone for him could have been November 7, 1943, when his grandmother Berta Ginzová died in the ghetto. This experience, along with the advancing age and the deteriorating situation in the ghetto, made him ever more and more compelled to think about the cause of suff ering and being; he connected to the ideas of Buddhism. Since May 1944, when his sister Eva was transferred to the ghetto, he spent much time with her and other deported family members. At the age of 16, he worked fi rst as a kitchen assistant, later on in a lithography workshop, but still stayed in house 1 in L 417. In September 1944 he became ill and shortly afterwards, on 28 September, he was transferred to the extermination camp Auschwitz-Březinka. Immediately upon arrival, he did not pass through selection and was murdered in the gas chamber.

“People walk with open eyes and do not see. People do not know how to look and learn.”
Petr Ginz, Vedem, Terezín 1943

More than seventy years have passed since his death, yet his story and work reach out to more and more people all over the world. May his persistent search for friendship, the truth, and the meaning of things, despite all the darkness, be a challenge for us as well. (F. Tichý)
Petr Ginz is commemorated by today‘s generation with the Czech Railway train R 684 “PETR GINZ”, which set out on its fi rst regular trip from the Masaryk Station in Prague to the Děčín Central Station on December 14, 2015.
Eva Ginzová spent her childhood in the circle of a large family, surrounded by attention and brotherly love. However, her childhood world of carelessness and aff ectionate understanding ends much like Petr’s with the arrival of the Nazis and the emergence of the Protectorate. Life was changing and becoming increasingly and inexorably humiliating and discriminatory, and was full of the fear of the coming days. The irony of fate was that, at her fourteenth birthday, like all “mixed race Jews (fi rst degree)”, she received a summons to the Terezín ghetto. She arrived there by transport Ec from Prague on May 17, 1944. Shortly afterwards, she met with her brother and the same as him, started to write a diary. She recalls September 28, 1944, and the farewell to Petr in a book: “I still hoped the train would not come, even though I knew the opposite. But what can be done? In the morning, we went with Hanka (cousin) to see them near the “sluice”. It was a terrible sight, I will not forget until I die. A row of women, children, and old men pushed around the barracks to see their son, husband, father, or brother for the last time. The men leaned out of the windows; pushing each other to see their dearest ones… We ran quickly and brought the boys two more slices of bread each, so they were not hungry. I pushed through the crowd, went under the rope that separated the crowd from the barracks, and handed Petr the bread through the window. I had time to give him a hand through the bars before the ghetto guard chased me away. I am glad I could have done that. Now the boys are gone and only empty beds are left behind.” Petr, with number 2392, left with transport Ek and with him number 2626, his cousin Pavel (who later died in Dachau of typhus).
Eva had no idea that Petr had not gone through the selection after arriving in Auschwitz. Still, she decided to gather as much as possible from what reminded her of her brother. She survived in Terezín till the end of the war and then was happily reunited with both parents. All reminders of her brother, drawings, diary (1941–1942), all that she received from Petr in Terezín, she took with her when she emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1948.
She studied painting, later also graphic art and paper production. She got married, took the name Chava (Eva in Hebrew) and the surname Pressburger, after her husband who came from Slovakia. Today she is a respected artist – a graphic designer, she also makes paper collages and compositions. Her works have been exhibited in countless galleries around the world since 1964, such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Bern, Hamburg, Brussels, Frankfurt, Zurich, Bonn, Barcelona, Budapest, Lodz, Copenhagen, Bratislava, Warsaw, and Houston. She also exhibited at the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, the Jewish Museum in Terezín and the Jewish Museum in Prague. Today, the eighty-six year old Eva likes to return to where she was born, but her life is closely linked to Israel, where she lives in the Southern District in Omer near Beersheba.

Petr and his journey to the stars
Ilan Ramon (1954–2003), an Israeli Air Force combat pilot and the fi rst Israeli cosmonaut, the Columbia Space Shuttle crew member, had several symbolic objects with him during his space mission. Among other things, a copy of Petr Ginz‘s drawing, which he got at the memorial to the victims and heroes of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem. Petr, fascinated by the universe, tried to capture his vision of the view of the Earth from the Moon.
Eva recalls the circumstances of the Columbia fl ight: “Ilan Ramon phoned me from NASA in Houston, where he was in space fl ight training, and said that with Petr‘s drawing on board he feels like he is fulfi lling Petr‘s dream …” Ilan Ramon told reporters before departure: “My journey will be, after 58 years, fulfi lling the dream of Petr Ginz. A dream that will fi nally demonstrate the soul of a boy trapped between the walls of the ghetto. Between the walls that were unable to defeat his spirit …” The Columbia STS- 107 space shuttle mission took off on January 16, 2003 and lasted for 15 days, 22 hours and 21 minutes. On the way back, the shuttle was completely destroyed during the landing manoeuvre on February 1, 2003. No one survived the accident. Eva decided to buy six of Petr‘s diaries, which she later released as “My Brother‘s Diary”. Several years later, she also collaborated on the book “A Prince with the Yellow Star – The Life and Wonderful Wanderings of Petr Ginz”, by František Tichý, the director of the Nature School in Prague, which was awarded the Golden Ribbon in 2015.

What is and is not ordinary
An attempt to wipe out European Jews during the Second World War is still, more than 70 years after it ended, a topic causing strong emotions. For me, there is no stronger testimony from that horror period of 1939–1945 than an authentic testimony. Among these, the especially expressive are those not aff ected by the distance from the events described, primarily the diaries. Daily military records of Petr Ginz belong among these works. In his diaries from September 1941 until February 1942, he does not write yet about the concentration camp, the Terezín ghetto. However, his meticulous entries graphically portray what historians later called the “ghetto without walls”. This basic message is summed up in a single sentence from the fi rst day of the year, the end of which he spent in a concentration camp. On January 1, 1942, he wrote: “What is now quite common would surely cause a stir in normal times.” With the knowledge of what followed, it is possible to read Ginz‘s diaries as an ominous prelude. The last entry of Petr Ginz in his diaries, which he wrote while still in his beloved Prague, was made on Sunday, August 9, 1942. “Morning at home. How typical! The day is not over yet, but it feels as if nothing should follow.” (Excerpt from Leo Pavlát‘s foreword to discovered diaries of Petr Ginz)

text © Ch. Pressburger; F. Tichý, ředitel Přírodní školy Praha; L. Pavlát, ředitel Židovského muzea v Praze
foto a kresby © soukromý archiv Ch. Pressburger; Přírodní škola; České dráhy, a.s.; Wikipedia; Barry Munden


Pro Památník Terezín text upravil Luděk Sládek

Siblings Petr and Eva Ginz Petr‘s drawing „The Moon Landscape“ in the background
with the Earth Family on a walk in Prague Na Příkopě Title side of the Vedem Magazine with Petr‘s drawing
(October 29, 1943) Train R 684 „PETR GINZ“ Petr and Ilan, drawing by
Barry Munden Chava Pressburger in her atelier Obrázek č.8 Obrázek č.9 Obrázek č.10 Obrázek č.11 Obrázek č.12 Colonel Ilan Ramon, November 2001

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