This weekend, I went to my third concentration camp in two months. First was Rabštejn, a little known underground aircraft factory and work camp in the northern Czech Republic that mostly held political prisoners. Three weeks ago, I went to Auschwitz. And this Sunday, I experienced Terezin.
Let me begin by saying that it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve learned about the Holocaust or heard survivors speak or watched Holocaust related movies or read Holocaust related books. Nothing can prepare you for visiting the sites of these atrocities. Let me also say that my third trip to a camp wasn’t any easier than my first. In fact, I think it was even harder.
However, while each trip has been extraordinarily difficult, each has also been inspiring.
Take the story of Petr Ginz. Transported to Terezin at the age of fourteen, Petr was an incredibly smart and talented young boy. Quickly upon his arrival in the ghetto, he put these talents to good use: founding, contributing to, and editing an underground youth magazine called Vedem (We Lead). Every week, Petr and a group of young boys published this magazine filled with stories, poems, jokes, and pictures.
Vedem spread not only information, but also hope. It both documented and comforted. And every week for two years, Petr made sure its material was collected, edited, and hand copied to be distributed throughout the Terezin community.
Petr, like many other exceptional individuals, did not allow the Nazis to break him. He did not allow them to extinguish his hope or strength or belief. He did not allow them to take away his humanity.
Note: a sketch by Petr Ginz was taken on the ill-fated flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia by Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.