Saturday, August 17, 2013

Children's Diaries, World War II

From Petr Ginz and Anne Frank, move on to Helga Weiss,  Helga's Diary: A Young Girl's Account of Life in a Concentration Camp, translated by Neil Bermel.  She had lived in an apartment in Prague, friends went missing, Jews had to wear the star, school expulsions, and finally the deportations. She passed through Terezin, with its dirt, cold, and starvation and disease and fakery to dupe the Red Cross, with some 15,000 other children, of whom only some 100 survived Terezin; Helga went on to survive Auschwitz, see 

She was liberated with her mother when Helga was 15. And they returned to their old apartment.

It has a self-conscious air, because much was written as a recollection later, when the ending was known.  It lacks some of the pathos of those who do not know their ends as they write, but is authentic in its careful listing of horrors. More gripping then Weiss' descriptions are the diaries written in hiding, but the recollection process has its own value.  There is time to explore more facets of events, take time to set them down right.

The Holocaust Museum lays out many identified children and their work, at Miriam Wattenberg,

Also see Witnesses of War: Children's Lives Under the Nazis, 2005, by Nicholas Stargardt

Monday, April 30, 2012

Reinhard Heydrich: Novel Approach by Laurent Binet

Petr Ginz was half-Jewish.  That status delayed his being sent to Theresienstadt, then to his death in Auschwitz. He lived with his family in Prague until all fell apart, and kept his diary, including references to the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich:  organizer of Kristallnacht, death squads and the steps intended to exterminate the Jews.
Heydrich is the subject of a renewed interest in the novel, HHHhH.  Meet again Reinhard Heydrich, the Butcher of Prague, here with another nickname: Himmlers hirn heisst Heydrich -- "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich."  See NYT Book Review, Operation Anthropoid, by Alan Riding 4/29/2012, at
The novel, HHHhH, by Laurent Binet, has just been released in translation, having already earned the French literary prize for novels, the Prix Goncourt, 2010, see basic review at  I am on the library waiting list for it. The story was produced as an action film in 1975 under a new title, Operation Daybreak, see . 
Having read the Diary of Petr Ginz, and been to many of the the places he records, see Heydrich Assassination here, this is to suggest another viewpoint.  I have not yet read HHHhH, but suggest another perspective to this historical documentation angle for adults.
  • Build on the theater work about his life,
  • Tell the story in film as part of the WWII perspective of an actual child in Prague at the time. See a review of the diary at   He knew of the assassination and the reprisals. He wrote of them in his diary, however matter-of-fact.  Or re-release Operation Daybreak, even remake it, with Petr Ginz included.  
  • The Orthodox Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is still there with its museum and story-telling exhibits. The map of safe houses, the equipment, all are available for an illustrated story or interactive program for young people to teach them about WWII. 
The renewed adult interest that the SS General Heydrich, in HHHhH should generate, is groundwork for a broad appeal to younger audiences, readers. The story has already been produced as a play by English students, at the Shrewsbury School, and offered there and in the Czech Republic, see Radio Prague site, and the Expats newspaper,
Petr Ginz tours in Prague, for example, would not be difficult to put in pamphlet form for walkers.
Gripping, says Alan Riding, in the NYT review.  How could this story not be gripping.  Tell it, show it to the young.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yad Vashem - Petr Ginz. Central Database Resource, Holocaust (Shoah) Victims' Names

 Records at Yad Vashem
Holocaust Names, Information

Records are accessible on the Internet for researching information of the missing and believed or known dead, as provided in an extensive clearinghouse of data from third parties or records of transport, and whether the person perished. See ://

"Full Record Details for  Ginz Petr

"Source      Terezinska Pametni Kniha/Theresienstaedter Gedenkbuch, Terezinska Iniciativa, vol. I-II Melantrich, Praha 1995, vol. III Academia Verlag, Prag 2000
Last Name      GINZ
First Name      PETR
Date of Birth      01/02/1928
Key to 2nd Transport      שילוח מ - THERESIENSTADT,GHETTO,CZECHOSLOVAKIA ל - AUSCHWITTZ,ב- 28/09/1944
Prisoner Nr. in Transport      446
Prisoner Nr. 2nd Transport      1880
Type of material      List of Theresienstadt camp inmates
Victims' status end WWII      Perished"
From the public record.

The formal name for Yad Vashem is The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. See ://

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Prague. View from Charles Bridge to St. Vitus' Cathedral; Gate Towers

Gate Towers

Prague, view from Charles Bridge toward the Lesser Town Bridge Tower, and Judith's Tower; and more distant St. Vitus' Cathedral

Petr Ginz lived with his family in Prague during the German occupation in World War II. He wrote poems and stories, drew, and kept a diary. He was sent to Theresienstadt ghetto (Terezin CZ), see  ://; and then to Auschwitz (Osweicim PL) where he was killed at age 16.

Some of his art and writing survived and was held at Yad Vashem in Israel, see ://

He became known as a particularly gifted child. An astronaut, Ilan Ramon, took one of Petr Ginz' drawings on board the Columbia space shuttle, the tragic voyage that ended in explosion, killing all on board. See ://

Art and writing was discovered in the attic of the family's Prague home, in 1993, and translated into English in 2007: "The Diary of Petr Ginz 1841-1942," ed. Chava Pressburger (Petr's sister), Atlantic Monthly Press NY 2007.

  • Other resources:  See him, and read of his artwork, the diary and other writings, at ://  For an overview of listed facts, we are invited to link to Factbites, and do so here: Factbites, Petr Ginz.

This site: Photographs and informal research on places and issues from the Diary.

See our Czech Republic Road Ways for an expanded view of the country; and our Poland Road Ways for more information on the concentration camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Petr was killed.

Lesser Town:  on the castle side of the Charles Bridge.  The two main towers there are the Lesser Town Bridge Tower, and the Judith, the lower of the two. The original bridge burned in 1342, and the Judith Tower is all that remains of it. The larger tower was built in the late 15th Century. See ://

Why supplement The Diary with photographs.

Petr Ginz records, rather than narrates. The entries are succinct, not introspective, not a window into feelings: a child's inventory of the day. There are helpful and extensive editorial notes to explain places and events, but our brains wander without some Optics. 

For many of us, as well, the names are hard to remember.  Eastern European names, culture and locations are new. In its present, carefully historical form, the Diary may not even reach a child's library. The story, to us, asked for illustration, how the place appeared then (not our expertise) and now. The diary, particularly with its reference to the assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich, would make a fine film or play.

Researching further.

As you read the Diary, look up any unfamiliar references online, including in Images. We may be out of school, or school is not covering WWII, but we can self-educate.

For a broader look at war itself, see World War 1, World War 2, Studying War; and Studying War.

There is also a 1975 film depicting the Resistance assassination of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reynhard Heydrich in 1942 in Prague, ://, see "Operation Daybreak," :// Petr also writes of this event, identified by the Resistance as Operation Anthropoid. The village of Lidice was destroyed in retaliation. See://

The informal Car-Dan Tour Company (us) has no connection to the book, except a deeply feeling one.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Assignment in a Hierarchy - Petr as Mischling; Chava Chessburger, sister

Mixed Blood
Formal Designation, Nazi
Degrees of Mischling

Petr Ginz is not only a boy, a son, a student, a brother, nephew, grandson, person. He also is a Mischling - the Nazi designation of someone of mixed "blood" - One parent, a Jew. One parent a Roman Catholic. Their child is a Mischling. See a Nazi Certificate for this category at Lotte's story at A child of mixed blood. See also "Nazi classification for Germans of mixed race" at ://

Each degree of Mischling carried with it with different places and times for going to life or death. Definitions and consequences, Nazi, SS, Nuremberg Laws. See Petr and his sister.

His sister's recollections of what it was like to be a Mischling, and what it meant, (Chava Pressburger, who edited his diary) are in the introduction at the site here,,,2103166,00.html. She discusses the Mischling status, and their degree.

With a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, Petr's sister writes that the children were allowed to stay home until 14, and only then were sent to the concentration camps. So, other children - full-blood Jews - could be sent earlier. Petr's father, a Jew, only was sent to Theresienstadt toward the end of the war. A delay-dispensation of the marriage. His mother, an Aryan, remained home, and survived, as did Petr's sister, Chava Pressburger See,,2103166,00.html.

Prague - Wenceslas Square; Krakovska Street

Good Duke Wenceslas, in Wenceslas Square, mounted, Prague CZ

Petr writes that, at one point, Jews were not allowed to walk in this Square. Page 111.

Here is Wenceslas at the Square, on his horse.

The area is not really a square - it is a long, wide boulevard that used to be a horse market. See also See more on Wenceslas, and photos and post information at Czech Republic Road Ways, Wenceslas post.

Wenceslas was not a king, but a  Duke of Bohemia who lived from 907-929 AD, see the Carol for St. Stephen's Day, December 26 (not a Christmas Carol, technically). See "Good King Wenceslas" at :// and correct the lyrics to "Good Prince Wenceslas" or "Good Duke Wenceslas".

Krakovska Street.

Friends: Adlers.  Family friends, the Adlers, live there, at number 13. Page 72. The street is next to Wenceslas Square, info from one of the rental ads from a simple search on Krakovska Street Prague. There is also a hostel there.  Mrs. Chessburger, if you ever see this and have corrections, do let us know.

Prague, Nazi Assassination. Events: "Operation Daybreak" . See 1976 Film, Prague WW II: Petr Ginz's View

 Operation Anthropoid
Assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heidrich
and the Czech Resistance
Later Film:  Operation Daybreak 

What Petr tells us about the events in Prague that came to be known as "Operation Daybreak."

For an experience of the Heydrich assassination in film, see the 1976 or 1975 film about the Czech Resistance assassinating Nazi Reinhard Heydrich*, see post here, including at Places of Petr Ginz, Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. The film says that the assassination attack took place at Holesovice, a part of Prague referenced here: Places of Petr Ginz, Holesovice.

This Nazi resistance account is an exciting war story, but a tragic one, and somebody should reissue it - or do a faithful redo. Schools aren't teaching WWI or WWII much, I understand. Bring it home yourself. The Czech resistance - bravery, betrayal, superhuman effort and sacrifice.

1. Petr adds to the film story, and what he says is consistent with other sources. Having just seen the film, a scene jumps out as missing -

He writes that girls in the schools were taken out and their hair examined to help the Nazis find a brown-haired girl with a bicycle who was seen helping the assassins as they escaped from the scene. He describes those events, and they are left out of the movie.

2. Hollywood left out. Also left out: the parts of the Czech Radio and Czech Army sources about the young woman in the red hat who drove ahead of the motorcade as a signal that Heydrich was not "armed" - as I recall, that he did or did not have the armored vehicles surrounding his car as usual. That would have been a good addition to the film as well.

Next director, put it back in. Be authentic. It would be a small but needed as a realistic followup to Nazi efforts to find the assassins.

*This 1976 Hollywood film, see ://, is available for purchase but hard to find in any video store. Some sources list it as 1975 - see ://

Either way, it is worth your time and money if you are interested in life for people like Petr Ginz in Prague - the streets, the people, the events - during the Nazi Occupation.

Prague, Liben district. Reinhard Heydrich assassination background.

 Assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich

Petr wrote of one of the most memorable and history-changing events in Prague of his time:  the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the highest ranking Nazi in Czechoslovakia and other areas contiguous, an architect of the Holocaust, and known as the Butcher of Prague.

We put together here Petr Ginz' references to that event, its aftermath, and some research about the references.


 Liben itself was of lesser importance to the event than the places where it took place, but Petr wrote of Liben particularly, and was conscious of the Nazi response. See Heydrich at FN 1.

Swastika shape, adopted and adapted by Nazis, but not original to them

Nazi:  The swastika shape is also from the Sanskritl  This illustration is a long big-hat hatpin, predating World War II. See Hatpins Collection Tour, Swastika or Sanskrit


Liben was a district of Prague that was closed while the Germans tried to find those who helped partisans who attacked high-ranking Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich, see :// Petr writes that Germans shoot others in reaction. Diary Pages 110, 113. The History Place notes thousands killed.

Look up the Liben area.

Noted resident:  Novelist Bohumil Hrabal lived in Liben, and painted a wall with himself and cats, see  Hrabal wrote "Closely Observed Trains," at, and it was the basis of a 1966 film, same name. See also
  • Petr Ginz - Theatrical.
There is now a play about Petr Ginz, adapted by Peter Went, see ://  That "Closely Observed Productions" site takes its name from the same Bohumil Hrabal, and his "Closely Observed Trains." See also ://, and the play at the Prague Fringe Festival 2008. See also sister of Petr Ginz, Chava Pressburger, approving the work so it must be authentic, see ://

Context of Heydrich, importance - see FN 1


FN 1   Reinhard Heydrich:  An Introduction, two starting sources. Then go to Youtube and see footage of the funeral, at which Himmler spoke; and other film.  This event features frequently in Petr Ginz' diary, sometimes in passing mention, others offer new details.

1.  Heydrich.  See biography and historical chronology of events at the cited History Place, at :// That provides the traditional format for a narrative chronology.  Scroll down and find the Heydrich as Protector of Czechoslovakia.  He is the one who set up the ghetto at Theresienstadt for Jews as soon as he took over his position; he liked his green Mercedes; and then read about the assassination. Details: he didn't die from fragments of the bomb, he died from the blood poisoning from the bits of car upholstery, steel, and even his own uniform that lodged in his spleen.  Where else would you learn that?

2.  Heydrich.  The History Site gives much scholarly detail.  More interesting, though, and with the same basic information but given with a voice that has an authentic real-person flair, is a site about Heydrich in a different format - would you believe the History of Clothing, at  :// See introduction to the biographical details at  There is also a main Holocaust page. But clothing?

This source is odd - "Historical Boys Clothing"- is a large site that consists of photographs accompanied by discussion and biographies - odd and interesting. So, enjoy the web, and vet everything on your own.

  • Heydrich appears at that Historical Boys Clothing site in lederhosen with his wife in dirndl and small son, in his biographical section.
  • The biographical account appears to be typed into English by a non-English-speaker, with spelling or proof-reading errors, but the information to us (not expert); looks overall reliable. And we read the words more closely because we had to figure out some of them. Skimming not as easy.
  • Note that the assassination was by Czechs trained in Britain by British, and not actually carried out by British operatives, but that fact is corrected later by the speaker himself in the section entitled "Asassination - May 1942" and the Czech operatives Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik are named.
  • Who is speaking-writing? We would like a name. The sources for the information are given, but not the identity of the voice.

Fair use quote, spellings retained: a real human being did this, and one who is not a spell-checker-proofer. Fine.
Heydrich, is today known to the world as "The Hangman". He is considered by most to be the architect of the Holocaust. Adolf Eichmann is often seen as the director of the Holocaust. Eichmannwas in fact was primarily the administrator working on logistical problems. It is Heydrich more than any other single individual who planned the Holocaust and set the machinery of industrial killing in motion. Only his assisanation by British agents prevented him from seeing it through to fruition. And he would have been central to plans being prepared for the Slavs. He was beginning plans for an ethnic cleaning operation in Czechoslovakia aimed at deporting the Czechs. Heydrich at the time of his death was the third most powerful individual in NAZI Germany and in all liklihood if he had lived and the NAZIs had won the War would have been the second Führer.

Was Heydrich the first to use the term, "final solution?" Again, a fair use quote unedited:

Heydrich eventuallycame to believce that the "Jewish question" could not be solved by emmigration. About 200,000 German Jews had emmigrated, but because of the Anschluss and the seizure of Czecheslovakia, there were more Jews in the Reich and NAZI-controlled teritory than when the NAZIs seized power in 1933. After the success in the West and the defeat of the French, Heydrich wrote to the Reich Foreign Secretary Joachim von Ribbentrop that emigration no longer be seen as a sollution and that "A territorial Final Solution has thus become necessary." [Fleming, p. 44.] Not only did Heydrich change his mind about emmigration, he evebtually prohibited emiigration so that more Jews could be killed, referring to the "Final Sollution" (May 1941).

Prague, Vinobrady. Residential. Fafek family, Rela Fafek. Balbinova Street.

1. Vinohrady, or Vinobrady

And the girlfriend of one of the Czech resistance fighters, Rela Fafek.  The paratroopers who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, known as the Butcher of Prague, were often guests of the Fafek family who lived in the Vinohrady District. See  See Heydrich and an account of the assassination plot at ://  Search that spelling as well as Heidrich, see ://

The Nazis were looking for Rela Fafek after the assassination.

Read the google book, Bodyguard of Lies:  The Extraordinary True Story Behind D-Day, by Anthony Cave Brown, pages 223ff.

Find her role in the the assassination, and her role as girlfriend of one of the assassins, Joseph Gabcik (the other paratrooper assassin was Jan Kubis). The men were Czech, trained in Britain, and dropped into the area to accomplish the objective of killing Heydrich. Others were part of the group, waiting for them.  It would be a spoiler to tell you what happens, other than that Heydrich did die. See the old "Operation Daybreak" - Hollywood's version, but a good one, considering, from the 1970's. 

She was to drive ahead of the car in which Reinhard Heydrich was riding, and if he was unaccompanied by other guard cars, she was to wear a hat.  If he was escorted, she would wear no hat. See ://  Gabcik stepped out, aimed and fired, but his gun jammed. So Kubis threw a bomb, and shrapnel hit Heydrich, with blood poisoning and gangrene causing his death after a day or so.

2.  Daily life. 

On a more benign note, in this district, Petr helped put new school desks together. Page 36.

Friends, Milose or Milos.  Friends, the Miloses, were moving to an apartment there. Page 66. It seems to be a residential area with an elegant background. See See photo and description of solid pre-war apartments and wide boulevards at

This site calls it "leafy Vinohrady," and notes good chicken wings there. See
  • From those images, move to Operation Anthropoid again. See post on Boromejsky Church here.
2. Balbinova Street.

Petr goes here to paint numbers at #18. Page 116. This is in Vinohrady, looks like apartments still.

    Prague, Troja - Recreation Area; Operation Anthropoid


    1.  Recreation.  Here Petr and Eva (sister Chava Pressburger, who later edited the diary) got a boat ride. Page 28; or Petr would walk there with his friend, Popper. Page 44.

    Once he and Eva were walking there, and she cried from the cold. Page 64.  Petr seems never to talk about himself and his reactions, but does refer to others. Ms. Pressburger says that Troja is a suburb and Jews were allowed to go there.  But Jews could only get there on the embankment of the Vltava River that was in the direction of Old Town. Page 143.

    Troja still is a recreation area, with a zoo, garden and chateau. See; and Do an Images search.

    2.  Troja and Operation Anthropoid.

    Troja also is the name of the bridge at this suburb of Prague.

    It was the place, at a "hairpin" curve near the bridge, where the Czech partisans attacked the Nazi official, Reinhard Heydrich (also spelled Reinhard Heidrich), and his ultimate death.  This assassination led to the destruction of the town of Lidice, among other acts, in reprisal.  See this video about him, at Reinhard Heydrich Waffen SS 1/5 at  ://

    See entry May 11, 2005;;

    See also here concerning the Boromejsky Church, the Orthodox Church of St. Cyril and St. Methodius,  where the partisans, betrayed, were finally cornered and died.