On the morning of November 7, 1938, a seventeen-year-old Jewish refugee, Herschel Grynszpan, walked into the German embassy in Paris and assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a low-level Nazi diplomat. Two days later, the Third Reich exploited the murder to inaugurate its long-planned campaign of terror against Germany’s Jewish citizens—what became known as Kristallnacht. On the seventy-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht, Kirsch— lawyer and bestselling author—unpacks the moral dimensions of one of the most enigmatic cases of World War II.
Jonathan Kirsch is the author of 13 books, including The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God; God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism; and The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible. His new book is The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat and a Murder in Paris. Kirsch is a lawyer specializing in intellectual property issues, the book editor of The Jewish Journal, and an adjunct professor on the faculty of the Professional Publishing Institute at New York University. He is a three-time president of PEN U.S.A.
Louise Steinman is curator of the award-winning ALOUD series and co-director of the Los Angeles Institute for Humanities at USC. She is the author of three books: The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War; The Knowing Body: The Artist as Storyteller in Contemporary Performance; and The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation (fall, 2013). She was a recent fellow at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, FL. Her work appears, most recently, in The Los Angeles Review of Books, and on her Crooked Mirror blog.
Main photo: The broken window glass that littered the streets of Magdeburg and other German cities and towns on the morning after Kristallnacht inspired the lighthearted designation of the official pogrom as "Crystal Night." (Yad Vashem)
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