A visit form prehistory | play based on Petr Ginz's novel

Petr Ginz 1942

František Tichý 2019


  • Screenplay: František Tichý; based on Petr Ginz’s novel A Visit from Prehistory
  • Directed by: František Tichý, Jakub Fojtík, Michal Květák, Rozálie Kopecká
  • Music: Enriko Štec, Vít Novotný, Josefína Nedbalová, Adam Tichý, Adam Pochman, Mikoláš Pešek
  • Stage design: Magdalena Schmidtová, Prokop Císler, Viktor Komárek, Ondřej Kučera

"Are there possibly people similar to ourselves somewhere in the outer space? Is our Earth the sole cradle of human beings who, in their pursuit of progress, mercilessly fight, murder, and persecute one another? Compared to the majesty of the space, what is this human anthill?"

Petr Ginz

Petr Ginz (Feb, 1st, 1928 – Sep, 28th, 1944) was born in Prague into a mixed Jewish-Christian family. Since early childhood, he was a boy of multiple talents: he drew, painted; he had a keen interest in history and science; he loved scientific experiments and technical discoveries. Above all, however, he read and wrote. At the Jewish school on Jáchymova street he attended, he was the editor of the Rozhled magazine and he became the class president.

In October 1942 he was deported to the Terezin ghetto, where he was located at the boys’ dormitory 1 led by Prof. Valter Eisinger (the boys were on first-n kmame terms with Prof. Eisinger and called him “Shorty”). Here Petr, with the assistance of Kurt Kotouč, started to publish the Vedem magazine, a work of worldwide renown nowadays. In the magazine the boys depicted their every-day life at the ghetto and at the dorm, and they also published their essays, poems and short stories. While in Terezin, Petr also created a few dozen drawings and paintings, and he was an active member of the boys’ self-administration at the dorm.

The seed of a creative idea does not die in mud and scum. Even there it will germinate and spread its blossom like a star shining in darkness.

Petr Ginz, Terezin, 1943

In September 1944 Petr and most of his friends from Heim 1 were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where – shortly after arrival – Petr was murdered in a gas chamber.

Petr’s younger sister Eva and both the parents survived the war and moved to Israel, where Eva (the well-known visual artist Chava Presburger) lives to this day.

Petr’s story and his legacy travelled the world when the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon took Petr’s drawing “The Moon Landscape” with him on board of the Columbia space shuttle.

A Visit to Prehistory

… is the name of Petr’s first finished novel. He wrote it while still in Prague, at the age of 13. The story was actually a tribute to his beloved author, the French writer Jules Verne. A fictitious story of a long-forgotten and rediscovered Verne manuscript precedes the novel itself, and Petr sticks to the Verne-like style and archaic mode of speech throughout the book.

Petr himself, however, wrote at the time of the Protectorate, with anti-Jewish measures on the rise and with the threat of transports into the unknown ever imminent. His story from the Belgian Congo thus also addresses the timeless questions of good and evil, discrimination and the power of solidarity among people, which, in the end, will prevail over any darkness in the world.

He was planning to return to his book in Terezin, but the unmerciful fate proved faster. Petr’s notes were therefore used only later on by Eva who supplemented the story and prepared the novel for publication 15 years ago.

The Nature School and Petr Ginz

The Vedem magazine as well as Petr Ginz’s life and work were one of the original sources of inspiration for the “Terezin Legacy” (Terezínská štafeta) project. Having reached well beyond the scope of the Nature School itself long ago, the project has inspired many hundred young people all over the Czech Republic to “take over the Terezin baton”. This has been achieved thanks not only to two rounds of the “Take Over the Terezin Baton” competition, a CD of songs set to Terezin poetry called “Words Can Be Heard From Beyond the Walls”, the play “The Bells of Terezin” and a number of workshops for schools co-organized with the Jewish Museum in Prague, but also thanks to three books: “Prince with a Yellow Star”, “The White Colour of the Clouds Right Alongside”, and “The Transport Beyond Eternity”.

The aim of the play “A Visit from Prehistory” is to stage Petr’s novel of the same name as well as his unique life story in a way that does not terrify in a superficial and schematic way, but rather pays tribute to the power of Petr’s spirit and his efforts to remain true to himself notwithstanding the hardness of the times.

The roles have been taken on by Nature School students, who have invested a lot of their free time since the autumn of 2018 to prepare the performance. The music and the stage design has been created under the guidance of experienced teachers as part of this years’ Nature School art-project week in January 2019.



The premiere of the performance has been co-funded by the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic and supported by the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Salesian Theatre, Prague.