Grynszpan (1921- ?), Herschel

26 February, 2009
Bovy Daniel

Son of Polish-Russian parents who fled anti-Semitism, Grynszpan could not find a job because of the Nuremberg Laws. He obtained a visa for Belgium where he stayed for a short while before moving to Paris. At the same time in Germany, the deportation of Jews had begun. The Grynszpan family was deported to Zbaszyn, a small town located at the German-Polish border. Herschel received a terrible letter from his sister Berta who explained their painful situation and asked for some money. Completely confused, Grynszpan took a gun and went to the German embassy where he shot an embassy employee called vom Rath. He opposed no resistance when police arrested him. His lawyer proposed him to plead the crime of passion and to claim that vom Rath was homosexual. Because of the delicate relationships between France and Germany, the custody lasted some time while other people thought that a trial would be a good opportunity to criticize the Nazi regime. The desperate act served as an excuse for Nazis to activate the so-called Cristal Night in whole Germany, in Austria and in the Czech part of the Sudetenland. Grynszpan was extremely sorry about all that was happening because he first thought that his act would help Jews. Hitler instrumentalized the event, which could have remained a single criminal incident. When the Nazi Gustloff was assassinated in Switzerland under similar circumstances, the Nazis did not react, but this time, they accelerated the process aiming at solving the “Jewish question”. Shortly after, the Nazis said that should a war be declared, the first victims would not be Germans but Jews who would be exterminated. Left out in a French prison, Grynszpan was recuperated by the Germans in 1940. In Berlin, the Ministry of Propaganda and Goebbels wanted to use the Grynszpan case against the Jews but the trial never took place because Hitler did not want vom Rath to be considered a homosexual as Grynszpan claimed in Paris, following the suggestion of his lawyer Moro-Gaffieri. After the war no trace of Grynszpan could be found and today no one knows about the circumstances of his death.


Bareiss, A.-F., 2005, Herschel Feibel Grynszpan: Der Attentater Und Die Reichskristallnacht Eine Tatsachenerzahlung, Giessen: Haland Wirth.

Cite this item

Bovy Daniel, Grynszpan (1921- ?), Herschel , Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 26 February, 2009, accessed 17/02/2021,, ISSN 1961-9898
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