One Who Fought Back: Herschel Grynszpan and the Holocaust

A new book gives reason to reflect on the little-known story of the Jewish teenager who assassinated a German diplomat in 1938, an act that served as the pretext for Kristallnacht.

Herschel Grynszpan under arrest for the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath, Paris, November 7, 1938. Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo/Getty.

Herschel Grynszpan under arrest for the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath, Paris, November 7, 1938. Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo/Getty.

Observation
April 25 2019
About the author

Rick Richman is an attorney and frequent contributor to Mosaic. He is the author of “What Would Brandeis Do?” (August 4, 2016) and Racing Against History: The 1940 Campaign for a Jewish Army to Fight Hitler (Encounter Books, 2018).


On the morning of November 7, 1938, a seventeen-year old named Herschel Grynszpan entered the German embassy in Paris. Hidden within his three-piece suit was a gun he had purchased earlier that day; in his pocket was a postcard on which he had written an abbreviated Hebrew phrase invoking God’s help and a message in German for his family:

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More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust