Herschel Grynszpan was born in Hanover, Germany in 1919. As German Jews the family suffered persecution after Adolf Hitler gained power in 1933.
In 1936 Grynszpan moved to France to live with with his uncle and aunt living in Paris. On 7th November, 1938, Grynszpan decided to assassinate the German Ambassador in France. It appears that this was an act of revenge for the expulsion of around 15,000 Polish Jews, including his own family, who in October 1938, had been forced across the Silesian border at Zbaszyn.
However, after waiting outside for some time for the German Ambassador he shot Ernst vom Rath
, a minor official at the embassy. He died two days later. Rath was in fact an anti-Nazi and was under investigation by the Gestapo at the time. Adolf Hitler himself sent his two best doctors, personal physician Karl Brandt and surgeon Georg Magnus, to Paris to try to save vom Rath’s life. Hitler promoted vom Rath, who had been a junior officer at the embassy, to the rank of Legal Consul, First Class (Gesandtschaftsrat I. Klasse) hours before vom Rath’s death
Why Grynszpan, who had fled from Germany to France in 1936, chose vom Rath is not known with certainty, although he was upset over news that his family was being deported from Germany back to Poland. As far as it can be established, Grynszpan and Rath did not know each other. Most accounts of the shooting state that Grynszpan did not ask for vom Rath by name but only asked to speak to a member of the diplomatic staff. The records were falsified in 1942, and the Germans spread propaganda that Grynszpan’s intention was to kill the ambassador, Count Johannes von Welczeck.
As a result of the assassination the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) organized Crystal Night on the night of 9th-10th November, 1938. During Crystal Night over 7,500 Jewish shops were destroyed and 400 synagogues were burnt down
. Ninety-one Jews were killed and an estimated 20,000 were sent to concentration camps.
When the German Army invaded France in 1940 Grynszpan was handed over to the Gestapo
. It is not known exactly what happened to Grynszpan. One report said he was executed in 1940 while Fritz Dahms, an official in the German Foreign Office, revealed that he had died just before the end of the World War II.
In 1957 an article written by the German historian, Helmut Heimer, claimed that he was sent to Sachsenhausen Prison and survived the war. Another article by Egon Larsen published two years later argued that Grynszpan had changed his name and was living in Paris and working as a garage mechanic.
Karl Brandt was hanged in the Landsberg prison, age 44 on 12-06-1948 and Count Johannes von Welczeck. died old age 94 on 11-10-1972 in Marbella, Spain.