The Last Flight of Petr Ginz
By 14 he had written five novels and penned a diary about the Nazi occupation of Prague. By 16 he had produced 120 drawings and paintings, edited an underground magazine in the Theresienstadt Ghetto, written numerous short stories and had walked to the gas chamber at Auschwitz.
Slight and stoop-shouldered, filled with intellectual curiosity but prone to mischief, he read voraciously, wrote constantly, developed cryptographs to record BBC broadcasts, built exploding toy cannons to frighten his classmates and hapless adults and drew and painted the world around him and the world he longed for—one full of adventure and exotic locations. In his novel and allegory of Hitler, A Visit from Prehistory, Petr wrote and illustrated the story of Kadu, a giant robotic creature that resembles a dinosaur and is used by a government official to terrorize natives in the Belgian Congo. He ends the book, which was published in the Czech Republic in 2008, with the following warning: “Is it not possible that a new monster may appear on the surface of this earth, worse than this one—a monster that. . .will torture mankind in a terrible manner.”
What makes Petr’s story so relevant, so contemporary and so unusual, is the fact that he draws and paints what he sees and what he imagines and he calmly, objectively and, at times humorously, relates the horrors of his everyday existence. In describing the infamous gold star Jews were required to wear, Petr wrote on September 1941: “When I went to school, I counted sixty-nine ‘sheriffs.’ Mummy counted more than a hundred of them.”
No film has told the story of this artistic and literary prodigy. In fact, much of Petr’s story was unknown until the 2003 Columbia space shuttle tragedy. Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, carried with him into space Petr’s drawing, Moon Landscape. The publicity surrounding the flight and its explosion led to the discovery of Petr’s diary and additional artwork and short stories in a Prague attic.
The Documentary Institute, which has exclusive non-fiction rights, will tell a Holocaust story for a new generation and will offer Petr’s “YouTube” window on his personal Holocaust experience. Through Petr’s artwork, novels, short stories and magazine articles, the viewer will see Petr make the journey from precocious child to young adult, from innocence to the painful awareness of inhumanity, from gifted artist and writer to prodigy.
But this is not a story of tragedy but celebration—a testament to how a boy’s wonder and creative expression represent the best of what makes us human.