The teenager who triggered Kristallnacht

The LA Times reviews a  biography of Herschel Grynszpan, the young Polish Jew whose shooting of a German official became the pretext for a night of terror:

The assassin fully expected to be hailed as a hero among Jews around the world. Instead, he was vilified by just about everyone, especially by German Jews, who feared his act would bring down fresh hell upon their heads. Of course, they were right, and to the extent that Grynszpan is remembered at all it is as the guy who “caused” Kristallnacht. It is Kirsch’s contention that instead of being blamed for Kristallnacht, Grynszpan should be placed in the pantheon of Jewish resistance fighters. (By contrast, Gavrilo Princip, the young man whose assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand “lit the fuse” for World War I, was hailed by Serbs as a national hero. Princip later got a plaque in Sarajevo; Grynszpan has gotten nothing, not even a T-shirt in Tel Aviv.)

… The story.. takes on bizarre twists and turns, including the argument, eventually deployed successfully by Grynszpan, that both he and his victim were gay and that the killing was a crime passionel. We don’t know whether this is true (it’s highly doubtful), but the possibility that it might be kept Grynszpan, who languished through the war years in German prisons, from being shot until early 1945. Or was he shot? Rumor had it that he survived the Nazi camps to become (secretly, of course) an automobile mechanic in Paris. It’s only fitting that this mystery-filled saga should end with a ghost story.

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