Jewish Youth Herschel Grynszpan Shoots German Diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, Triggering Kristallnacht

Among the expelled was the family of Sendel and Rivka Grynszpan, Polish Jews who had emigrated to Germany in 1911 and settled in Hanover.

Their seventeen-year-old son, Herschel was living in Paris with an uncle. His sister, Berta, sent him a postcard from the Polish border describing the family's expulsion: "No one told us what was up, but we realised this was going to be the end... We haven't a penny. Could you send us something?"

Grynszpan received his sister's postcard on November 3. On the morning of Monday, November 7, he purchased a revolver and a box of bullets. Grynszpan then went to the German embassy, asked to see an embassy official, and was taken to the office of Ernst vom Rath. Entering vom Rath's office, Grynszpan shot him three times in the abdomen. He made no attempt to escape the French police and freely confessed to the shooting. In his pocket, he carried a postcard to his parents with the message "May God forgive me... I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do."

On November 8, Germany announced the first punitive measures in response to the shooting. Jewish newspapers and magazines were to cease publication immediately. This ban cut off Jews from their leadership, whose task was to advise and guide them, particularly about emigration. It was a measure, one British newspaper explained, "intended to disrupt the Jewish community and rob it of the last frail ties which hold it together." There were at the time three German Jewish newspapers with a national circulation, four cultural papers, several sports papers, and several dozen community bulletins, of which the one in Berlin had a circulation of 40,000. It was also announced that Jewish children could no longer attend German state elementary schools, something that had been allowed where there were not sufficient Jewish elementary schools. All Jewish cultural activities were also suspended indefinitely. Their rights as citizens had been stripped.

On November 7, 1938, after having learned of the deportation of his parents from Germany to the Polish frontier, Grynszpan assassinated Ernst vom Rath, the third secretary of the German embassy in Paris. The diplomat's subsequent death two days later was used by the Nazi regime as justification for unleashing the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10. In 1940 Grynszpan was turned over to the Germans by the Vichy government, but the date and place of his death have never been clarified.