Pavel Haas: A Composer Behind Ghetto Walls

Pavel Haas was one of the better known composers and musicians who was sent to Terezin, and is often mentioned alongside the celebrated composers Hans Krasa, Viktor Ullman, and Gideon Klein. He was born in 1899 in the Czech city of Brno, where he began to study the piano at a young age and attended the Brno Conservatory from 1919 to 1921. He then spent two years studying under an esteemed Czech composer named Leos Janacek, and was one of Janacek’s most successful students.

Over two decades, Haas composed over 50 works, including symphonies, chamber music, film scores and operas. Haas was known for being very critical of his work, and many of these works were never performed. His greatest success was his opera, The Charlatan, which debuted in 1938 in Brno and received widespread acclaim, earning an award from the Smetana Foundation,

In 1941, when the Nazis began to deport the Jews of Prague, Haas divorced his Christian wife, Sonia, in the hopes that she and their daughter would be spared. Soon after, he was deported to Terezin, where he fell into a deep depression. Fellow composer Gideon Klein befriended Haas and eventually managed to convince him to begin composing again. Haas produced at least eight compositions in the camp, including Study for String Orchestra and Four Songs on Chinese Poetry. Haas’s String Orchestra was performed in Terezin, conducted by his friend Karel Ancerl. Footage of one of these performances appears in a Nazi propaganda film made at Terezin, and Haas can be seen taking a bow at the end of the performance.

After the Red Cross visit in the summer of 1944, Pavel Haas and about 18,000 other prisoners were deported to Auschwitz. His friend, conductor Karel Ancerl was with him when they were lined up for selection upon their arrival. Ancerl later recounted that Dr. Josef Mengele was about to send him to the gas chambers when Haas began coughing, and Mengele chose to send Haas to the gas chambers in his friend’s place. Ancerl managed to survive the Holocaust, as did Pavel’s brother Hugo, who later became a successful character actor in American films. The two men reunited after the war and Ancerl told Hugo the story. I can only imagine how incredibly emotional and painful that meeting must have been.

In addition to his brother Hugo, Pavel’s wife and daughter survived the war. As Haas had hoped, his wife and daughter were not threatened or arrested by the Nazis. Of the 8 known compositions Pavel wrote during his time in Terezin, only 3 survived. Karl Ancerl discovered parts of the score for Study for Strings and managed to reconstruct the rest, and this score remains Haas’s best known work today. It has been featured in both live performances and on a number of recordings. Still, Pavel Haas remains somewhat in the shadow of other Terezin composers like Hans Krasa, Viktor Ullman and Gideon Klein, and his works are not as well known. I was grateful to find some videos of his music being performed,  two of which can be viewed below.

Alice Herz-Sommer: A Musician Until The End

Professional pianist and Terezin survivor Alice Herz-Sommer played her beloved aliceinstrument daily until her death at age 110 in 2014. She fell in love with the piano at an early age and her love for music quite literally kept her and her young son alive during the years they spent in Terezin. Alice, originally known as Aliza Herz, was born in Prague in 1903. She was a member of a well off German-speaking Jewish family, and her parents sponsored a cultural salon that attracted some of the most gifted minds of the time. Young Aliza met Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler, among other writers, intellectuals and composers. In time, she too would become a prominent pianist in her own right.

Alice first learned the piano as a child from her older sister, Irma, and even at a young age, was a dedicated pianist, practicing hours each day. A family friend and composer named Artur Schnabel expressed his belief that Alice was suited to be a professional musician. Alice later decided that this was the career she wanted and entered the Prague Conservatory of Music, where she was the youngest student in the school.
In 1931, at the age of 26, Alice married a businessman and musician named Leopold Sommer, and they had one son, Raphael. Alice established herself as a concert pianist and became known throughout Europe. She was forced to stop performing after the Nazis took control of Prague and forbade Jewish musicians to perform in concerts and music competitions.

Most of Alice’s family managed to flee to Palestine, but her elderly mother was unable to travel and Alice, her husband and Raphael stayed behind to help care for her. Alice’s mother was sent to Terezin in 1942, and Alice accompanied her to the train station. On this journey, Alice realized just how dire the situation had become, and she found solace in music, teaching herself the incredibly challenging 24 Etudes of Frederic Chopin, often up to eight hours a day.

In July 1943, Alice, along with her husband and son were sent to Terezin, where she performed in over 100 concerts. She continued to find strength in performing her music, which helped to free her from the daily horrors of life at Terezin. Alice also did all she could to provide stability for Raphael, and together they survived the war in Terezin. Alice’s husband and mother were transported to Nazi extermination camps and murdered, and Alice never learned the details of their final moments.

After the war, Alice and Raphael moved to Israel, where they reunited with their relatives. Alice continued to perform and taught at the Jerusalem Conservatory for 35 years, until she moved to London in 1986. Raphael also became a highly accomplished concert cellist, but he died tragically and suddenly in 2001. Alice continued to live on her own in a London apartment, where she continued to play the piano for hours each day, up until her death at age 110.

Alice’s life inspired several books and documentary films, most recently, The Lady in Number 6, which won an Oscar in 2013 for Best Short Documentary. The documentary, filmed about a year before Alice died, is a remarkable tribute. We hear Alice’s story in her own words and learn of her natural optimistic and joyful personality, which the Nazis failed to take from her. It was clear that her passion and love for music and her family were the driving forces in her life, and her ability to see the beauty in music and life is deeply moving, especially after all she endured at the hands of the Nazis. I encourage you to see this film, so that you may see for yourself this gifted, passionate, resilient woman named Alice Herz-Sommer.

Children’s Stories and Poems: Terezin 1942-1944

Recently, I had the good fortune to read and examine one of the original 2000 English copies of the book Children’s Drawings and Poems: Terezin 1942-1944. Two friends who work in Special Collections at the University of Colorado generously gave me a tour of the archives after hours and located a sole book on Terezin in the collection. I returned to Special Collections a few weeks later to review the book in more depth. This hardcover book with its slightly worn dust jacket featured a child’s collage of a solitary humanoid figure. It was published in 1959, an English translation with an initial print run of only 2000 copies. A sticker on the inside cover read “Gift of Professor U.K. Goldsmith, 1973.” I wrote down the name, curious about the person who donated this book.

I own a later edition of this book, which features drawings and poetry from children who were in Terezin. Most of these drawings and poems are owned by the State Jewish Museum in Prague, and they were selected from more than 4,000 drawings and poems in the museum’s archives. Many of these works of art were created from any materials the children could find, such as scraps of paper, office forms, wrapping paper…This original edition featured reproductions that were far clearer and more vivid than the later editions. The paper felt heavy and opaque with beautifully vivid illustrations. Yet for me, two of the most poignant drawings were simple pencil lines depicting the outline of a child’s hand and sketches of butterflies. The hand was drawn by a boy named Frantisek Brozan and the butterflies by Eva Bulova. Almost nothing is known about them, but they were among the thousands of children who were sent to Auschwitz and murdered. There was a section in the back that featured biographical information on the authors and artists, but for most all that is known is what is gleaned from camp records: date and place of birth, date of transport to Terezin, whether they survived or died. In later editions, this section is still included, but all these years later no more biographical information has been discovered. Most of these young creators have been all but lost to history. That was the thought that stayed with me as I closed the book, leaving the two ribbon bookmarks at the page containing the poem “The Butterfly”, the one that captivated me from the start.

A memorial in Prague, illuminated by candles. May we never forget.
A memorial in Prague, illuminated by candles. May we never forget.

Later, after the visit, I researched the professor who donated this book. His name was Ulrich K. Goldsmith, and he was born to a Jewish family in Freiburg, Germany in 1910. He fled the country in 1932, passing through England and Canada before settling in the United States, where he received a PhD in literature from the University of California at Berkley. In 1957 he arrived at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he was the chair of the Department of Germanic languages and literature and co-founded the Comparative Literature department. He was known as a remarkable humanist and scholar of Stefan George and Rainer Maria Rilke. After his death in 2000, the university established a memorial prize in his name. Little else seems to be recorded about him, though surely his former students and colleagues have memories of him. Unfortunately, I don’t know how he acquired one of the original English translations of Children’s Drawings and Poems, or how he came to know the story of Terezin. If Professor Goldsmith were alive today and I had the chance to speak with him I would have asked him about these stories. Most likely, I will never know, but I will always be grateful to him for leaving this remarkable book with the library so that future generations may know the story of Terezin.

Gideon Klein and the Terezin String Trio

The Vltava River in Prague. The Conservatory where Gideon Klein studied is only a short walk from the river.
The Vltava River in Prague. The Conservatory where Gideon Klein studied is only a short walk from the river.

Born in 1919 in Prerov, Moravia, Czechoslovakia to assimilated Czech-Jewish family, Gideon Klein showed talent for music at a young age. His supportive parents decided he should move to Prague to get the best musical education available. Klein moved to Prague and lived with his older sister, Eliska, who was a student there. By 1939, Klein was studying musicology at Charles University and composition at the Prague Conservatory with renowned composer Alois Haba. In 1940, however, the Nazis closed many Czech universities and restricted Jews from higher education. Over the next year, more prohibitions were passed against Jews, who had to wear a yellow star badge and were forbidden to leave the country. Jewish composers were forbidden to give public performances, but Klein and some other composers attempted to circumvent these laws. For a time, Gideon did find a way to give public performances, by posing as a Christian, with the use of a pseudonym. When it became too dangerous to continue, he instead performed in secret venues and taught music classes to children at the Prague Orphanage. Gideon was offered a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London during this time, but had to turn it down because the Nazis would not let him leave Czechoslovakia.

Gideon was in one of the first transports to Terezin, in December 1941. The people on these transports, many of them young men, were tasked with preparing the camp for the arrival of thousands of more prisoners. When the later transports arrived, the children were separated from their parents and made to live in homes, and Klein took it upon himself to teach music to these children. At this time, such activities were forbidden in Terezin, but Klein was undeterred and continued to secretly teach the children about music, poetry, and literature. Over the next few years, he became one of the prime organizers of cultural activity in the camp. He also composed a variety of musical works, including his String Trio, String Quartet and a piano sonata. In addition, Gideon performed at numerous recitals and chamber music events at Terezin.

Gideon was transported to Auschwitz on October 16, 1944 and survived the initial selection. He was later sent to a forced labor camp, and as the Allies began to advance, Gideon and about 1,000 other prisoners were taken by the SS on a death march toward the west. It is certain that he did not survive the war, but the exact circumstances of his death remain unknown.

Gideon’s Terezin works still survive, preserved by his girlfriend at Terezin, Irma Semtka, who survived the war. Irma reconnected with Gideon’s sister Eliska in Prague following liberation and gave her the compositions. Academics only had access to these works for many years, leading to the misconception that Klein only developed as a composer during the war. Then, in 1990, a family friend discovered a suitcase which contained numerous compositions that Klein wrote before the war. The works included chamber music for strings and woodwind, piano sonatas, and vocal pieces. Klein’s works are still performed to this day, and the act of performing them sustains the legacy of this gifted musician and composer whose life was tragically cut short.

Elie Wiesel, Of Blessed Memory

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Elie Wiesel, who did so much to bring the story of the Holocaust to the world and who urged actively fighting injustice and inhumanity, reminding us that inaction and indifference only help the oppressors, never their victims.

Unlike the vast majority of individuals persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, Elie Wiesel’s story is very well known. What is not so widely known is that his famous book, Night, is a much condensed version of the original manuscript. The original work was written in Yiddish, and was over 800 pages long. Wiesel also chronicled his intense rage toward the Nazis in the original manuscript, and expressed a desire for vengeance, which were edited out of the condensed version that later became so famous. Yet, Wiesel eventually was able to overcome his rage and devote his life to defending victims of injustice and fighting oppression against Jews as well as other persecuted groups.

Much of his anger was directed towards God, as he was unable to reconcile how a just God would allow people to inflict such suffering on each other. Still, he did not turn away entirely, and in his later years he could sometimes be seen attending synagogue and praying. I remain in awe of his ability to overcome such terrible suffering and loss, his courage in fighting for justice and the incredible resilience that allowed him to live a meaningful life despite all he had been through. And now he is gone, and the void that he has left can never be filled.

Wiesel’s death also reminds me that most of the living Holocaust survivors will no longer be with us in another generation, and it will be up to the living to ensure that their memories endure. My fear is that as the number of survivors dwindle, the Holocaust will be relegated to history books and no longer seen as relevant. This is another reason why I am so committed to sharing the stories of Terezin, even though I was born 40 years after the end of World War II and have no relatives who were impacted by the Holocaust. It will never be enough, I know, and my writing will likely only be read by a few people. But this is what I believe I am here for, and I will not give up on my mission. I will continue my work to honor the memory of Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, and all those who suffered and died in the Holocaust.

Side view of the New Old Synagogue in Prague. Built in 1270, it is the oldest active synagogue in Europe, and is to me a powerful reminder that Judaism in Europe lives on.
Side view of the New Old Synagogue in Prague. Built in 1270, it is the oldest active synagogue in Europe, and is to me a powerful reminder that Judaism in Europe lives on.

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Terezin: Why It Matters Today

082Today I opted to write a slightly different post, focusing on the significance of Terezin for today. I often fear that the stories of the artists of Terezin will be regarded as a part of history, and it seems that the lessons of history are so easily overlooked in the present. The stories of the past are sometimes regarded as no longer relevant, as they seem so far removed from today, from our daily lives.

A friend of mine who teaches language arts to middle school students told me that Anne Frank’s diary had very little impact on her students. Many of her students live in impoverished inner-city neighborhoods and face incredible hardships. Still, they were simply unable to relate to the intense struggles and fears of a young Jewish girl living in hiding during the Nazi regime. It was the same when I read Anne’s diary as a middle school student and most of my classmates showed little interest in her story. Even then, I was saddened by this lack of interest, and I wanted to do something about it.

Sharing the stories of the artists of Terezin is a start, and those who take the time to read them have been deeply moved by these individuals. I have also incorporated some of these stories into my young adult novel, which I am trying to publish. But there is so much work to be done, as these stories remain largely unknown. This is such a shame, because these artists can inspire us and teach us about empathy.

Many psychology studies on empathy, such as Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, show that it is very easy for people to quickly lose all compassion for those they perceive as different from themselves. We see this and hear the news reports every day: people who are different in some way from the dominant social group are bullied, persecuted and killed. And the perpetrators are not usually violent people or criminals, but ordinary people who feel threatened by the “outsiders” and who have no empathy for them. But other studies have shown that it is possible to cultivate empathy towards others. Studies that required people to get inside another’s head and understand their perspective, such as by reading a personal account or identifying with a complex literary character, later displayed increased empathy toward the other. In the case of Terezin, we know so little about most of the artists, which makes it harder to truly understand who they were and to feel a connection with them. But I believe we can glean something of their individuality through the works they created, and empathize with them if we are truly listening carefully.

Above all, we need to remember the lesson of Terezin, that even in the face of human brutality, even during the most devastating genocide the world has ever known, the human spirit endured, and creativity flourished. If the artists of Terezin could keep on creating during such a time, it seems to me that there is hope for humanity. It is up to us, those who came after, to listen to their words, to their music, to view their art and try to understand and empathize with the individuals who created these beautiful works. The artists of Terezin can teach us a great deal about empathy and compassion if only we take the time to listen.

Ilse Weber and a Terezin Lullaby

Ilse Weber was a Czech Jewish poet and songwriter best known for the children’s songs she composed, including some she wrote while imprisoned in Terezin. Born Ilse Herlinger in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, she learned to play a variety of instruments as a child, including the guitar and mandolin though she did not study music formally.

In 1930, at the age of 27, she married Willi Weber and moved with him to Prague, where she became known for the articles she wrote for children’s magazines. She also wrote a children’s book Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children and produced pieces for a Czech radio station. In 1939, after the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia, Ilse and her husband managed to secure a place on a Kindertransport for their older son, Hanus, who survived the war in Sweden. Unfortunately, Ilse, her husband, and their younger son Tommy were unable to escape and were sent to Terezin in February 1942.

At Terezin, Ilse worked as a nurse in the children’s infirmary, caring for the children as best she could despite the lack of medication and supplies. She also wrote more than 60 poems, some of which she set to music and performed for the children, accompanying herself on a guitar.

In October 1944, Ilse’s husband Willi was assigned to a transport to Auschwitz. Many of the children Ilse cared for were also on the transport. Worried about the children, and wanting her family to be together, Ilse decided to join the transport with her son Tommy. Ironically and tragically, Ilse and Tommy were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz upon arrival, while Willi survived the camps and outlived them by thirty years.

Many of Ilse’s poems survived the war, and were published in a 1991 book entitled Inside These Walls, Sorrow Lives. Some of her songs were later recorded by others singers, most notably her Terezin lullaby, “Wiegala”. Ilse’s surviving son Hanus Weber has also commemorated his mother and her work through his participation in various cultural programs honoring her work. Hanus also published a book called Ilse Weber: A Love Story Without a Happy Ending, a tribute to the gifted, compassionate mother who saved him from the Nazis.

Rendition of Ilse Weber’s lullaby (Wiegala) set to a slideshow of pictures of Ilse.

Hans Krasa and Brundibar: A Children’s Opera

Hans Krasa was born in Prague on November 30, 1899 to a Czech father and a German Jewish mother. He began studying the piano and violin as a child and his musical gifts became evident at an early age. Hans later studied composition at the German Music Academy in Prague and after graduation he worked at the New German Theater as a pianist and vocal coach. While working there, he met an Austrian-Jewish conductor and composer named Alexander Zemlinsky, who became his mentor. In 1927 Krasa accompanied Zemlinsky to Berlin, where he continued his studies and was introduced to prestigious composers of the day. Krasa was terribly homesick for Prague, and returned to his former job at the New German Theater. However, Hans also made his debut as a composer during this time with his work Four Orchestral Songs. Several other works followed, the most successful being his opera Betrothal in a Dream, performed in 1933.

Composer Hans Krasa
Composer Hans Krasa

His most notable work, however, the one which would become his legacy, was a children’s opera called Brundibar, the final work he completed before being transported to Terezin on August 10, 1942. In Terezin, he produced an arrangement of the opera which became wildly successful, performed a total of 55 times. The premise was straightforward: two poor children, a brother and sister named Pepicek and Aninka, go to the market one morning, hoping that by singing they will be able to raise enough money to buy milk for their sick mother. A cruel organ grinder named Brundibar bullies the children and prevents them from singing. Pepicek and Aninka are joined by a dog, cat, and brave sparrow and the children of the town and together they prevail over the tyrannical organ grinder.

The message of triumphing over a tyrant resonated strongly with many people imprisoned in Terezin, which may have contributed to its popularity. It also provided a creative outlet for the children in Terezin, and those who survived remember how participating in the opera offered them a temporary relief from the horrors of their daily life in the camp.

Brundibar was involved in the Terezin deception, as it was performed for the Red Cross and featured in a propaganda film shot at the camp. This is by far the darkest aspect of the opera, the way in which it was exploited by the Nazis. At the same time, Brundibar should be remembered for the respite it provided for the children of Terezin.

Hans Krasa continued to compose in Terezin but Brundibar is by far his best remembered work. In October 1944, Krasa, along with other composers and many of the children who performed in the opera were put on a transport to Auschwitz where most were murdered upon arrival, including Krasa. He is memorialized by the opera Brundibar, which continues to be performed to this day.

Below: Clip of Brundibar performance at Terezin

Below: This video tells the story of the children’s opera Brundibar, and follows a present-day staging of the opera.

 

Picture of Hans Krasa from Krizkova, Marie R., Kotouc, Kurt J. & Ornest, Zdenek. We Are Children Just the Same: Vedem, the Secret Magazine of the Boys of Terezin. The Jewish Publication Society, 1995. Print. Used with permission.

More on Hans Krasa and Brundibar:

We Are Children Just the Same: Vedem, the Secret Magazine by the Boys of Terezin (by Marie Krizkova, Kurt Jiri Kotouc and Zdenek Ornest)

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2003/sep/06/classicalmusicandopera

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/09/theater/reviews/09brun.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Ilan Ramon and Petr Ginz: The Astronaut and the Prodigy

There is an incredible and tragic connection that exists between the young prodigy Petr Ginz and the astronaut Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space. He was born Ilan Wolferman in Ramat Gan, Israel. His father’s family fled Germany in 1935 and his mother and grandmother were Holocaust survivors who were imprisoned in Auschwitz. They left Poland after the war, and emigrated to Israel.

Ilan graduated from Tel Aviv University with a degree in computer engineering in 1987 and joined the Israeli Airforce, where he became a highly accomplished fighter pilot and earned the rank of Colonel. During his fighter pilot training he adopted the surname Ramon. In 1997, he was accepted by NASA and began training to be a Payload Specialist, a process which took five years. He participated in the 113th mission of the Space Shuttle Program, aboard the shuttle Columbia.

Though described as secular, as the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan saw himself as a representative of the Jewish people. He opted to eat kosher food on the mission, and consulted with a rabbi on how to keep Shabbat in space. Ilan also brought with him a variety of objects that held special significance. These objects included a small Torah scroll that was saved from the Holocaust, a dollar bill with the image of the Lubavitcher Rebbe – and a copy of a drawing by Petr Ginz.

Petr’s drawing depicted a lunar landscape, mountainous and desolate, with an image of the Earth shining in the distance, though Petr did not live long enough to see the first pictures of Earth taken from space. Ilan took the image to commemorate Petr, who died in Auschwitz, and all the others who were affected by the Holocaust.

**To view Petr’s drawing and NASA portrait of Ilan, please visit: http://www.science.co.il/Ilan-Ramon/

 

Ilan and his crew members completed their mission, but tragically, their Shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry, killing all on board. The disaster happened on February 1, 2003, which would have been Petr’s 75th birthday. The copy of the drawing was destroyed, but part of the diary that Ilan kept on the mission survived the disaster. Though badly damaged, after 5 years forensic scientists were able to restore about 80% of its content. One of the pages was a handwritten copy of the Kiddush prayer, another way Ilan expressed his pride in being part of the Jewish people. The diary that Petr kept, along with many poems, stories and articles have been saved. These writings give us greater insight into who this man and boy were, and ensure that some part of them lives on. I greatly admire their many achievements, but they shared other qualities that impress me even more than what they accomplished. Most of all, I remain in awe of how they were able to look beyond their immediate surroundings, to imagine all that lies beyond the confines of Earth and how they had the courage to envision and to work for a better world.

Further Reading

Memorial site for Ilan Ramon:    http://www.science.co.il/Ilan-Ramon/

Petr Ginz: A Prodigy Behind Walls

Petr and Eva Ginz with their parents before the war.
Petr and Eva Ginz with their parents before the war.

The life of Petr Ginz, an artist, writer, Esperantist, magazine editor and scholar, dramatically illustrates the creativity and talent of so many children who died in the Holocaust.

Petr was born on February 1, 1928 in Prague to Otto and Miriam Ginz. His father was a manager in a textile company, and both his parents were passionate about Esperanto. In fact, his parents met at an Esperantist convention and taught the language to Petr and his younger sister, Eva. The children were from an interfaith background; Otto was Jewish and Miriam was Christian.

From a young age, Petr’s intelligence, curiosity and passion for knowledge was evident. He wrote his first novel at age 8 and wrote 5 novels in all before he was deported to Terezin. A skilled artist, Petr also illustrated the novels himself. He was interested in a wide variety of subjects, including literature, art, science, history and geography, was an avid reader and also recorded his experiences in a diary. Petr’s enthusiasm for the arts and learning did not diminish after he was transported to Terezin at age 14, in October 1942. He continued his studies and borrowed countless books from the makeshift Terezin library, and wrote short novels. He also made a major contribution to the cultural life of Terezin when he established a literary magazine called Vedem (We lead), which he published weekly. Petr wrote many of the pieces himself, and other boys from his barrack contributed work as well. The magazine featured pieces on daily life in Terezin, satirical essays, short fiction, poetry and artwork.

A close bond developed between the boys of Petr’s barrack, L417. They called their barrack the Republic of Shkid, and created a flag and national anthem. Their creativity and imagination in such circumstances were remarkable, as was the amount of work they produced for Vedem, much of which survives today.

Petr often wrote very matter-of-factly about the events he experienced and life in Terezin, and even managed to insert some humor. He did write some poignant pieces as well, most notably a poem in which he described how he missed Prague, though he knew it did not miss him. He described how he could not return because he was living like a caged animal but would always long for Prague, his “fairy-tale in stone.”

Tragically, he would never see Prague again. Petr was assigned to one of the last transports to leave Terezin, in September 1944. His sister Eva, who adored him, wrote about the day Petr left in her own diary. After Petr boarded the train, Eva spotted him at one of the windows and managed to pass some bread to him through the window, to hold his hand one more time before she was chased away by guards. Eva wrote honestly and poignantly about how she worried about her brother and wondered if he was still alive.

At the age of 16, Petr was murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, like hundreds of thousands of others. A prodigy was lost that day, and we will never know how many other gifted, talented young people were lost that same day. What remains are the writings and drawings he left behind, which his sister Eva preserved and shared with the world after the war, a poignant reminder of all that was lost the day Petr Ginz died.

Picture of the Ginz Family from Krizkova, Marie R., Kotouc, Kurt J. & Ornest, Zdenek. We Are Children Just the Same: Vedem, the Secret Magazine of the Boys of Terezin. The Jewish Publication Society, 1995. Print. Used with permission.

Further Reading
We Are Children Just the Same: Vedem, the Secret Magazine by the Boys of Terezin (by Marie Krizkova, Kurt Jiri Kotouc and Zdenek Ornest)

The Diary of Petr Ginz (edited by Chava Pressburger)