Tommy was drawn by the Czech
artist Bedrich Fritta as a present for his son Thomas on his third
birthday – a birthday celebrated in the book the way people would
celebrate outside of the ghetto – with a party including cakes,
presents, and a clown. Fritta illustrated the book with drawings of
the life he remembered outside the ghetto walls. He wanted to teach
his son about all the things in a normal world, such as trees,
parks, birds, and flowers - for the day in the future when he hoped
Tommy would face a better life. The book did not reflect reality –
instead, it was a gift of optimism.
Fritta was head of the Theresienstadt ghetto’s technical department,
whose workers were Jewish artists imprisoned in the ghetto. Forced
to prepare propaganda for the Germans, whenever possible they also
secretly documented the grim reality of their daily lives.
Fritta perished in
Auschwitz, and his wife Hansi died in Terezin. After the war,
Tommy was adopted by his father’s friend and fellow artist Leo Hass
and his wife Erna, who also recovered the manuscript.
The book was published by Yad Vashem in 1999, in both adult and