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.

April 25, 2019 | Rick Richman
About the author: Rick Richman is the author of Racing Against History: The 1940 Campaign for a Jewish Army to Fight Hitler (Encounter). His most recent contribution to Mosaic was “One Who Fought Back: Herschel Grynszpan and the Holocaust.”

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

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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