January 26, 2005

Asteriod Named After Murdered Czech Jewish Boy

PRAGUE (AFP) -- An asteroid has been named after a Czech Jewish boy who became famous almost 60 years after his death in Auschwitz when a picture he drew while incarcerated was taken on the ill-fated space shuttle mission, astronomers said.

On February 1, 2003, the day that would have been his birthday, Peter Ginz's black and white sketch of earth viewed from the moon, was taken on the fatal 2003 Columbia space shuttle flight by Ilan Ramon, the first-ever Israeli astronaut.

Ginz, a keen writer, was deported to the transit camp at Terezin from his native Prague in 1942, aged 14. Two years later he was sent to Auschwitz and gassed at the age of 16.

According to Czech astronomer Milos Tichy, the International Astronomy Union (IAU) has approved Ginz's name for asteroid number 50413. The asteroid is part of the main band of asteroids between the planets Mars and Jupiter and revolves around the sun once every 4.49 years.

The Czech post office meanwhile has also just issued a stamp featuring Ginz's drawing.

Next month Ginz's diaries, short stories and an unfinished novel will be published.

Ginz's diary, written between 1941 and 1942 during the Nazi occupation and before his deportation, was discovered in a Prague attic only in 2003 and then passed to his sister Chava Pressburger, who survived the Holocaust and now lives in Israel.

The diary opens with the words: "The time is hazy. The wearing of Jewish stars has become compulsory. On my way to school I counted 69 sheriffs."

Pressburger told the daily Lidove Noviny, "I believe it is a historically interesting document that people should read. It is a warning. Petr's diary is absolutely truthful, demonstrating how a child behaves and lives in those conditions."

During his short life Ginz wrote a wealth of poems and essays and even two science-fiction novels, reflecting his fascination with science and space. He also illustrated many of his works.

While incarcerated at the Terezin camp, he edited, wrote and illustrated 800 pages of a science magazine that was distributed to other prisoners.


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