One of the treasured objects lost in the Columbia space shuttle disaster was a painting of the Earth as it might look from the moon, created 61 years ago by a Jewish teenager in a Nazi concentration camp. Petr Ginz, born in 1928 to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, painted "Moon Landscape" at Theresienstadt, a Nazi showcase just north of Prague intended to demonstrate that captive Jews had a good life.
In 1944, two years after Ginz painted the celestial scene, he was taken to Auschwitz, pronounced too skinny to work and killed, but his artwork survived. His roommate at Theresienstadt kept some his drawings and paintings and gave them to the Ginz family after the war. The family moved to Israel and donated the works to Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.
"Moon Landscape" remained at the museum until a few weeks ago, when Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was preparing for his fateful trip. The child of a Holocaust survivor, he contacted the museum and requested a Holocaust-related item to take into space. A curator suggested Ginz's work and Ramon agreed, stating that his journey would fulfill the boy's dream.
Many dreams were dashed when the Columbia broke up, but Ginz's legacy lives on -- in part at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The museum has some of his work on display in its current exhibition, "Friedl Dicker Brandeis: An Exhibition of Art and Hope." The show pays homage to Brandeis, who taught art classes at Theresienstadt, and features works by Ginz's classmates.