The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan

The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan

The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan

The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan

Synopsis

On November 7, 1938, 17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan shot Third Secretary Ernst von Rath in Paris, setting off the Night of Broken Glass and the Holocaust. Examining German documents never-before-revealed--including a startling coded "confession", Schwab probes the background of Grynszpan and demonstrates the power of the human spirit against overwhelming odds.

Excerpt

It has been over fifty years, and yet these events remain clearly etched on my mind -- the news of the shooting and, later, the death of Ernst vom Rath, the pogrom of November 1938 or Kristallnacht, as it has become known, and above all the arrest of my father and his return some five weeks later -- a pale reflection of his former self, suffering severe frostbite -- from the concentration camp at Dachau. A few months later, I found myself on a small Swiss farm, thanks to the efforts of a Swiss humanitarian organization and the generosity of a simple farm family. It was certainly a selfless act on their part, but a traumatic experience for this city-bred youngster who was aware that he might never see his parents again.

We were fortunate, able to emigrate to the United States in 1940. A mere six years later, after a stint as a combat infantry soldier in Italy, I found myself at Nuremberg's International Military Tribunal, translating the testimony of Max Juettner, the last head of the Nazi SA (storm troopers). He explained to the commission hearing evidence against various Nazi organizations that the SA's efforts during Kristallnacht were limited to trying to stop the wanton destruction of Jewish property by an enraged population. (The witness could not leave well enough alone; during a break in the proceedings, he came to compliment me on my knowledge of German. When I said that I had learned it in Germany, he pressed on, repeatedly asking for details. I finally . . .

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