Book Club: The Short Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan
The story of a young Jewish man who assassinated a Nazi diplomat in Paris, an act that was used by the Nazis as a pretext for Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) in 1938, often regarded as the start of the Holocaust. We have read several books by this author previously.
On the morning of Nov. 7, 1938, a troubled teenager walked into an embassy in Paris, lied his way past some rather nonchalant guards, was granted a private meeting with an attache and then shot the man dead. The boy was Jewish, the victim was a low-level Nazi diplomat, and the killing was quickly seized upon by Hitler and his agents of darkness to accelerate their campaign to drive Jews from Germany. Within hours of the attache’s death, Hitler unleashed the infamous Kristallnacht, or “night of broken glass,” a rather poetic name for a savage orgy of murder, rape, arson and vandalism in which more than 200 Jews were killed, 1,300 synagogues were burned and 7,500 Jewish-owned shops were attacked.
Author and critic Jonathan Kirsch dives into the events leading up to Kristallnacht in “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan,” bringing to life a forgotten slice of history — not Kristallnacht but Grynszpan, the teenager who inadvertently sparked it.
The history surrounding those events has been scoured for decades and subjected to wide-ranging debates over how much of Kristallnacht was planned and how much was spontaneous. Kirsch seems to split the difference. He believes that plans for a broad pogrom were in the works and that Grynszpan’s assassination of Ernst vom Rath gave the Nazis the pretext to unleash what propagandist Joseph Goebbels called “the justified and understandable outrage of the German people.” Continue reading in the Washington Post
Please note: Our future dates around the winter holidays are December 4, 2016 and January 8 and January 29, 2017. We hope to get back on our regular schedule of the last Sunday of the month after that.