Herschel Grynszpan
Convicted of the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath
Herschel Grynszpan
Herschel Feibel Grynszpan was a Polish Jew and political assassin. Grynszpan's assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath on November 7, 1938, after the deportation of his family, provided the excuse for the Nazi Kristallnacht, the antisemitic pogrom of November 9–10, 1938. Grynszpan was seized by the Gestapo after the German invasion of France and brought to Germany.
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Greifswalder Bachwoche liebt es «Engelisch» - Lausitzer Rundschau
Google News - over 5 years
Es erzählt die Geschichte des 17-jährigen Herschel Grynszpan, dessen Attentat auf einen deutschen Botschaftssekretär am 7. November 1938 den Nationalsozialisten den Vorwand für die antijüdischen Pogrome lieferte. Die Predigt im traditionellen
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Holocaust Survivor Tells His Story to Lake Zurich High School Students - Patch.com
Google News - almost 6 years
“Herschel Grynszpan, a Jew living in Paris, France, was so upset by the way his parents were being treated in Germany, that he killed German diplomat Ernst vom Rath,” said Fai Podlipnik. “That created an uproar.” Synagogues were burnt to the ground,
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NYTimes - over 17 years
To the Editor: In his analysis of Sir Michael Tippett's oratorio ''A Child of Our Time'' [''How Five Gunshots Inspired an Oratorio,'' Oct. 31], Paul Griffiths writes about Herschel Grynszpan, whose name is associated with Kristallnacht: ''Perhaps he survived the war and knew, from his experiences, that he had better keep his head down. Perhaps he
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MUSIC REVIEW; An Oratorio Evokes Kristallnacht but Also Hope
NYTimes - over 17 years
The curious career of Michael Tippett, composer, continued posthumously on Thursday night with the New York Philharmonic's first-ever performance of ''A Child of Our Time'' at Avery Fisher Hall. Lionized by the British musical establishment as one of the century's geniuses, Tippett has indeed attracted admirers outside his own territory. Yet when
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How Five Gunshots Inspired an Oratorio
NYTimes - over 17 years
WHAT did you do in the war, Daddy? Sir Michael Tippett was nobody's daddy; a lively homosexual existence kept him from that. But his oratorio ''A Child of Our Time'' was the answer he could have given to any children of his time, or later. The New York Philharmonic presents the oratorio beginning on Thursday at Avery Fisher Hall, and astonishingly,
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NYTimes - over 20 years
ART EXHIBITIONS Tastefulness is not what Toby Buonagurio is after when creating her flamboyant ceramic sculptures. They may be seen along with paintings by Vincent Baldassano at the Westchester Community College gallery in Valhalla, where the exhibition will open on Saturday and remain through Nov. 30. A reception is scheduled for next Sunday from
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The Road to Extermination: Kristallnacht Lessons Pondered by Historians
NYTimes - over 28 years
LEAD: Fifty years ago many Americans voiced shock at the terrible events of Kristallnacht. But not long afterward, when Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York proposed to stretch immigration quotas so that about 10,000 Jewish children could escape Nazi violence and come to the United States, the effort was defeated in a Fifty years ago many Americans
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Herschel Grynszpan
  • 1960
    Age 38
    Died in 1960.
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    Grynszpan was declared legally dead by the West German government in 1960, at the request of his parents who declared that they had heard nothing from him since the war.
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  • 1957
    Age 35
    In 1981, Heiber retracted his article of 1957, stating he now believed that Grynszpan had died during the war.
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    In 1957 an article written by the German historian Helmut Heiber claimed that he was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and survived the war, while another one 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.
    More Details Hide Details Heimer's article was revealed to be based entirely upon various rumors that he claimed to have heard that Grynszpan was alive and well, living in Paris while Larsen's report was likewise based on talks with people who claimed in their turn to have met people who knew Grynszpan was living in Paris; despite their claims of Grynszpan's survival, no one had ever actually seen Grynszpan in the flesh. The only person who claimed to have seen Grynszpan was the shady character Soltikow while everyone else claimed to have talked with other people who supposedly met Grynszpan.
  • 1952
    Age 30
    After the war the remaining family members immigrated to the Palestine Mandate, which became Israel. Sendel Grynszpan, Herschel's father, was present at the Israeli premiere in 1952 of Sir Michael Tippett's oratorio about Herschel Grynszpan, A Child of Our Time.
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  • 1947
    Age 25
    The origin of the story of homosexuality was the defendant's French attorney, Maitre Moro-Giafferi. He claimed in 1947 that he simply invented the story as a possible line of defence, one that would put the affair in an entirely new light.
    More Details Hide Details In fact, however, rumors about vom Rath's homosexuality were in the air in Paris immediately after the assassination. Whatever the origins of the story, its utility was obvious: the murder could be presented not as a political act but as a crime passionel - a lover's quarrel, in which the German diplomat could be judged incidentally as having seduced a minor. Moro-Giafferi shared the fears of the Grynszpan committee at the time of Kristallnacht that a political trial would be a catastrophe for the Jews of Germany and elsewhere. By adopting this legal strategy, they hoped to defuse the affair and also reduce the penalty drastically, possible even prompting a suspended sentence. Further evidence is presented by Gerald Schwab in the form of a letter, sent to Ernst vom Rath's brother in 1964 by Erich Wollenberg, a communist exile from Nazi Germany who claimed to be an associate of Moro-Giafferi:
  • 1945
    Age 23
    The complete absence of any sort of communication with his family after 1945 would have been very much out of character for Grynszpan.
    More Details Hide Details His parents, having sent him to "safety" in Paris while they and his siblings stayed in Germany, survived the war. Having been deported to Poland, they escaped in 1939 to the Soviet Union, where his sister, Esther, was murdered in 1942.
  • 1942
    Age 20
    Writer Ron Roizen suggested that the frequent claims of Grynszpan's survival despite all of the evidence suggesting that he died sometime in late 1942 reflected a bad conscience on the part of those Jews who shunned Grynszpan during his lifetime, because his "abandonment seems a little less problematic, too, once it is believed that the boy miraculously survived the war.
    More Details Hide Details Grynszpan alive permits us to avoid more easily the painful moral issues his case so profoundly symbolizes. Was Grynszpan's action that of a heroic martyr or a misguided pariah? Were the reactions to Grynszpan's action among those for whom it was carried out appropriate or inappropriate? Though nearly a half century has passed since Herschel Grynszpan's assassination of Ernst vom Rath, little or no progress has been made on these painful questions."
    By contrast, the American historian Alan E. Steinweis wrote that Grynszpan was executed by the SS in 1942 when it become clear that he would not be tried after all for the murder of vom Rath.
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    The French doctor Alain Cuenot who carried out the most complete search for Grynszpan in the late 1950s reported that not only could he find no evidence that Grynszpan was alive, but that he found no references to Grynszpan in the German documents after 1942, which strongly suggested that Grynszpan had died that year.
    More Details Hide Details Dr. Cuenot wrote: "If Grynszpan had survived the years 1943, 1944 and 1945, it would seem quite unusual that documents would not have been added to those already gathered". Cuenot further noted that because of the poor living conditions that the inmates of Sachsenhausen were forced to live under, epidemics of various diseases regularly killed thousands of inmates at Sachsenhausen. Cuenot speculated that it was quite possible that Grynszpan had died in one of those epidemics, and that because Grynszpan was supposed to be kept alive to be tried one day, that the SS camp officers would had a vested interest in covering up his death.
    All of the best available evidence suggests that Grynszpan died at Sachsenhausen sometime in late 1942.
    More Details Hide Details There are no historians today who accept the claim that Grynszpan survived. In April 1952, Michael von Soltikow, a German journalist and a man who had been an ardent National Socialist under the Third Reich published two articles claiming that Grynszpan was living in Paris, and repeated the gay lover theory for Rath's killing. Graf von Soltikow as he liked to call himself (his real name was Walter Bennecke and he was not an aristocrat) was a self-promoting former SS officer who had specialized in writing anti-Semitic tracts under the Third Reich, and after the war engaged in much sensationalist journalism, usually with the claim that he was boldly revealing "secrets" that no else dared to mention. Soltikow professed that he was doing a service to "World Jewry" by "proving" that Grynszpan had killed Rath as a result of a homosexual relationship gone bad rather than because he was a Jew outraged at the treatment of his family. However, there was a subtext to the Soltikow articles, namely the devaluation of the suffering of the Grynszpan family trapped in the no-man's land between Germany and Poland. In effect, Soltikow by writing that Grynszpan had killed Rath as a result of a sordid homosexual relationship rather than anger over the suffering of the 12,000 Polish Jews trapped out in the open on the German-Polish frontier was claiming the suffering of those Jews was not that serious, and was only used as an excuse to kill Rath.
    Grynszpan's fate after September 1942 is not known.
    More Details Hide Details Since his trial was never actually called off, merely postponed indefinitely, he was probably kept alive in case circumstances changed and a trial became possible. He was still alive in late 1943 or early 1944, when he was interrogated by Adolf Eichmann at Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. Grynszpan appeared before Adolf Eichmann in 1943 or 1944 according to Eichmann's own testimony at his trial in 1961, although he said he did not know, neither remembered, what happened to him in the end. Grynszpan's precise fate is unknown. One report said he was executed in 1940 while Fritz Dahms, an official in the German Foreign Office, stated that he had died just before the end of the war. There were frequent rumors after the war that he had survived and was living under another name in Paris, but there is no evidence for this.
  • 1941
    Age 19
    He had told one of his Gestapo interrogators, Dr. Heinrich Jagusch, that he intended using this defence as long ago as mid-1941, but the Justice Ministry had not informed Goebbels, who was furious.
    More Details Hide Details He wrote in his diary: The Justice Ministry reacted to this claim by indicting Grynszpan under Paragraph 175, an act that infuriated Goebbels who argued that this additional indictment implied there was something to the claim of a homosexual relationship between Grynszpan and Rath. In March Goebbels again saw Hitler, and assured him that the trial would get under way in May. He did not, however, warn Hitler of the problem of the possibility that Grynszpan might claim that he had had homosexual relations with vom Rath. In April he was still grappling with the problem. He wrote: "I am having lots of work preparing the Grynszpan trial. The Ministry of Justice has deemed it proper to furnish the defendant, the Jew Grynszpan, the argument of Article 175 German law against homosexuality. Grynszpan until now has always claimed, and rightly so, that he had not even known the Counsellor of the Legation whom he shot. Now there is in existence some sort of anonymous letter by a Jewish refugee, which leaves open the likelihood of homosexual intercourse between Grynszpan and vom Rath. It is an absurd, typically Jewish, claim. The Ministry of Justice, however, did not hesitate to incorporate this claim in the indictment and to send the indictment to the defendant. This shows again how foolishly our legal experts have acted in this case, and how shortsighted it is to entrust any political matter whatever to the jurists."
    It took some time to persuade everyone concerned of the "legality" of this, and it was not until October 1941 that he was formally indicted.
    More Details Hide Details The indictment argued that Grynszpan's objective in shooting vom Rath had been to "prevent through force of threats the Führer and Reichschancellor from the conduct of their constitutional functions" at the behest of international Jewry. In November Goebbels saw Hitler and gained his approval for a show trial that would put "World Jewry in the dock". The trial was set for January 1942. It was arranged for the former French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet to testify that "World Jewry" had been responsible for dragging France into a war with Germany. This was the political objective of the trial. January 1942 came, however, and the trial did not take place. This was partly because of more momentous events. The United States had entered the war in December, the same month that the German armies had suffered a major setback on the Eastern Front before battling the Soviets near Moscow. In February the Riom Trial of Léon Blum and other French politicians was due to begin - Goebbels did not want two show trials at once. It was partly also because of further legal difficulties. It was feared that Grynszpan would challenge the legality of his deportation from France, which the Justice Ministry officials felt had been "irregular". Most disturbing of all, however, was the revelation that Grynszpan would claim that he had shot vom Rath because he had had homosexual relations with him. This was communicated to Grimm, Diewerge, and other officials by Roland Freisler, later the head of the People's Court, but at this time State Secretary of the Justice Ministry, on 22 January.
  • 1940
    Age 18
    As a result, there was no trial, and Grynszpan was still in prison when the invading German Army approached Paris in June 1940.
    More Details Hide Details The French authorities evacuated the inhabitants of the Paris prisons to the south in early June. Grynszpan was sent first to Orléans, from where he was sent by bus to the prison at Bourges. En route, however, the convoy was attacked by German aircraft. Some prisoners were killed, while others escaped in the confusion. One of these was apparently Grynszpan, since he was not among the survivors who arrived in Bourges. But Grynszpan had not escaped; he had merely been left behind. Remarkably, instead of making good his escape, he walked to Bourges and turned himself in to the police. From Bourges he was sent to make his own way to Toulouse. Presumably the French expected him to disappear, but he duly presented himself at the prison in Toulouse and was incarcerated. Grynszpan had no money, knew no one in France, and spoke little French. Apparently he believed he would be safer in a French prison than wandering the countryside.
  • 1938
    Age 16
    Corinne Chaponnière, a Swiss researcher, has lately shown that this quotation is wrongly attributed to André Gide. It is his close friend and neighbour Maria Van Rysselberghe who quotes an information that their common friend Jean Schlumberger has brought home in December 1938.
    More Details Hide Details There are arguments against the theory that vom Rath had a sexual relationship with Grynszpan. There is no evidence that they had ever met other than second-hand gossip of the type recorded by Maria Van Rysselberghe. The officials at the German Embassy were clear that Grynszpan had not asked to see vom Rath by name, and that he saw vom Rath only because he happened to be on duty at the time Grynszpan visited the Embassy, and because the desk clerk asked vom Rath to see Grynszpan. While interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1941, Grynszpan told fellow inmates that he was intending to claim at his trial that he had had homosexual relations with vom Rath, but that this was not true. Michael Marrus, a post-war historian, wrote:
    From November 1938 to June 1940 Grynszpan was imprisoned in the Fresnes Prison in Paris while legal arguments continued over the conduct of his trial.
    More Details Hide Details The defence sought to delay the trial as long as possible by making procedural difficulties, in the hope that the publicity surrounding the vom Rath murder would quiet down and the trial would be less politicized. But the prosecution was also in no hurry. Goebbels sent Wolfgang Diewerge, a lawyer and a journalist who had joined the NSDAP in 1930 to represent the German government in Paris. A prominent German lawyer and a professor of international law at the University of Münster, Friedrich Grimm, was also sent to Paris, supposedly representing the vom Rath family, but in fact was widely known to be an agent of Goebbels. Grimm tried to argue that Grynszpan should be extradited to Germany, even though he was not a German citizen - there was no way the French government could agree to this. Grimn and Diewerge knew each other well, having worked closely together in the "Cairo Jew Trial" of 1934, and in many ways their efforts in Paris in 1938-39 was a repeat of their work in Cairo in 1934. The Germans argued that Grynszpan had acted as the agent of a Jewish conspiracy, and their fruitless efforts to find evidence to support this contention further delayed the trial. Grimn and Diewerge, who were both fanatical anti-Semitics were obsessed with the belief that Grynszpan had acted on behalf of an unknown Jewish "Hintermänner" ("backer") who was also responsible for the assassination of Wilhelm Gustloff by David Frankfurter in 1936.
    His assassination of the Nazi German diplomat Ernst vom Rath on 7 November 1938 in Paris provided the Nazis with the pretext for the Kristallnacht, the antisemitic pogrom of 9–10 November 1938.
    More Details Hide Details Grynszpan was seized by the Gestapo after the German invasion of France and brought to Germany. Grynszpan's fate is unknown. However, he most probably did not survive the Second World War. Herschel Grynszpan was born in Hanover, Germany. His parents, Sendel and Riva were Polish Jews who had emigrated from Poland in 1911 and settled in Hanover, where Sendel opened a tailor's shop, from which the family made a modest living. Because of the German Citizenship Law of 1913, based on the principles of Jus sanguinis, Grynszpan was never a German citizen despite being born in Germany. They became Polish citizens after the First World War, and retained that status during their years in Germany. Herschel was the youngest of six children, only three of whom survived childhood. The first child was stillborn in 1912. The second child, daughter Sophie Helena, born in 1914, died in 1928 of scarlet fever. A daughter Esther was born on 31 January 1916, and a son, Mordechai, on 29 August 1919. A fifth child, Salomone, was born in 1920 and died in 1931 in a road accident. On 28 March 1921, Herschel was born.
    On the evening of Sunday, 6 November 1938, Grynszpan asked his uncle Abraham to send money to his family.
    More Details Hide Details Abraham said he had little to spare, and that he was incurring both financial cost and legal risks by harbouring his nephew, an undocumented alien and unemployed youth. There was a furious scene, and Herschel walked out of his uncle's house carrying only about 300 francs. He spent the night in a cheap hotel. On the morning of 7 November, Grynszpan wrote a farewell postcard to his parents, which he put in a pocket. He went to a gunshop in the Rue du Faubourg St Martin, where he bought a 6.35mm revolver and a box of 25 bullets for 235 francs. He caught the metro to the Solférino station and walked to the German Embassy at 78 Rue de Lille. It is generally believed that Grynszpan wanted to assassinate Count Johannes von Welczeck, the German ambassador to France. While entering the embassy, Grynszpan walked by the exiting Count von Welczeck, who went out for a walk on the Paris streets every morning. At 09:45 am at the Embassy reception desk, Grynszpan represented himself as a German resident and asked to see an Embassy official; he did not ask for anyone by name (an important point in the light of later events). Grynszpan claimed to be some sort of spy who had very important intelligence, which he had to hand over to the most senior diplomat available, preferably the ambassador. Unaware that he had just walked past Count von Welczeck, Grynszpan asked if he could see "His Excellency, the ambassador", to hand over the "most important document" he claimed to have.
    At the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Sendel Grynszpan recounted the events of their deportation on the night of 27 October 1938: "Then they took us in police trucks, in prisoners’ lorries, about 20 men in each truck, and they took us to the railway station.
    More Details Hide Details The streets were full of people shouting: "Juden raus! Aus nach Palästina!" ("Out with the Jews! Off to Palestine!"). When they reached the border, they were forced to walk to the Polish border town of Zbąszyń (Bentschen, in German). Poland refused to admit them at first as the Sanation regime had no desire to receive the Jews and any others whom it had just stripped of their Polish citizenship. The expulsions only stopped when the Polish government threatened to start expelling members of Poland's Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) minority into Germany The Grynszpans and thousands of other Polish-Jewish deportees stranded at the border were fed by the Polish Red Cross. Conditions for the hapless refugees trapped out in the open on the German-Polish frontier were extremely bad. A British woman who went to work with the Red Cross in providing help reported: "I found thousands crowded together in pigsties. The old, the sick and children herded together in the most inhumane conditions." Life there was so bad, she continued "that some actually tried to escape back to Germany and were shot". It was from Zbąszyn that his sister Berta sent a postcard to Herschel in Paris, recounting what had happened and, in a line that was crossed out, apparently pleading for help. The postcard was dated 31 October and reached Herschel on Thursday, 3 November.
    From October 1938 onwards, Grynszpan was in constant hiding as the French police were looking for him in order to deport him, a situation that put Grynszpan under considerable stress and strain.
    More Details Hide Details The few who did know Grynszpan in Paris described him as a shy, but intensely emotional teenager who often cried when discussing the sufferings of Jews around the world, a subject that he was obsessed with, especially the suffering of his beloved family back in Germany. Grynszpan came from an extremely close-knit, loving family and for him, his family was his world; Grynszpan often spoke of his great love for his family and of how much he missed them. Meanwhile, the position of the Grynszpan family in Hanover was becoming increasingly precarious. Sendel's business was declining, and Herschel's siblings both lost their jobs. In August 1938 the German authorities announced that all residence permits for foreigners were being cancelled and would have to be renewed. This was in reaction to a Polish decree which was to take away the Polish citizenship of Jews living outside the country, including those in Germany. A few days before that decree was to come into force, on 26 October, the Gestapo was ordered to arrest and deport all Polish Jews residing in Germany immediately. The Grynszpan family was among the estimated 12,000 Polish Jews arrested, stripped of their property, and herded aboard trains headed for Poland.
  • 1937
    Age 15
    In July 1937, the Prefecture of Police ruled that Grynszpan had no basis for his request to stay in France, and in August he was ordered to leave the country.
    More Details Hide Details He had no re-entry permit for Germany and in any case had no desire to go there. In March 1938, Poland had passed a law depriving Polish citizens who had lived continuously abroad for more than five years of their citizenship. Grynszpan effectively became a stateless person as a result, and continued to live in Paris illegally. The lonely Grynszpan living in poverty on the margins of French life as an illegal immigrant, and with no real skills or having much in the way of a future, grew increasingly desperate and angry as his situation continued to worsen. Grynszpan was afraid to take a job because of his illegal immigrant status, and depended upon his uncle Abraham to support him, who himself was extremely poor, and could only provide so much for his nephew. Grynszpan's refusal to work caused much tension with his uncle and aunt, who frequently told him that he was a major drain on their finances, and he had to take a job, regardless of the heightened risk of deportation that it entailed.
    His re-entry permit for Germany expired in April 1937 and his Polish passport expired in January 1938, leaving him without legal papers.
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  • 1936
    Age 14
    He had no intention of staying in Belgium, however, and in September 1936 he entered France illegally.
    More Details Hide Details He was unable to enter France legally because he had no financial support, while Jews were not permitted to take money out of Germany. In Paris, Grynszpan lived in a small Yiddish-speaking enclave of Polish Orthodox Jews, and met few people outside it, learning only a few words of French in two years. Initially, Grynszpan lived a carefree, bohemian life as a "poet of the streets", spending his days aimlessly wandering the streets of Paris reciting Yiddish poems to himself; Grynszpan's two biggest interests other than exploring Paris were hanging out in coffeehouses and going to the cinema. Grynszpan spent this period trying to get legal residence in France, without which he could not work or study legally, but was rejected by French officials.
  • 1935
    Age 13
    Herschel attended a state primary school until he was 14, in 1935.
    More Details Hide Details He later said that he left school because Jewish pupils were already facing discrimination. He was an intelligent, sensitive youth with few close friends, although he was an active member of the Jewish youth sports club, Bar-Kochba Hanover. When he left school, his parents decided there was no future for him in Germany, and tried to arrange for him to emigrate to the British Mandate of Palestine. With financial assistance from Hanover's Jewish community, Herschel was sent to a yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) in Frankfurt, where he studied Hebrew and the Torah: he was, by all accounts, more religious than his parents. After eleven months he left the yeshiva and returned to Hanover, where he applied to emigrate to Palestine. But the local Palestine emigration office told him he was too young, and would have to wait a year. Rather than wait, Herschel and his parents decided that he should go to live with his uncle and aunt, Abraham and Chawa Grynszpan, in Paris. He obtained a Polish passport and a German residence permit, and received permission to leave Germany for Belgium, where another uncle, Wolf Grynszpan, was living.
  • 1927
    Age 5
    The outcome of the Schwartzbard trial in 1927 when Sholom Schwartzbard was acquitted for assassinating Symon Petliura in 1926 under the grounds that he was avenging the pogroms committed by Ukrainian forces was a major factor in Grynszpan seeking the "Jewish avenger" defense, much to the chagrin of Moro-Giafferi.
    More Details Hide Details A theory that Grynszpan was acquainted with Ernst vom Rath prior to the shooting has been circulated. According to this theory, vom Rath was homosexual, and had met Grynszpan in a Paris bar, Le Boeuf sur le Toit. It is not clear whether Grynszpan was himself alleged to be homosexual, or whether he was said to be using his youth and appearance to win an influential friend. According to this theory, vom Rath had promised to use his influence to get Grynszpan's position in France regularized. When vom Rath reneged on this promise, Grynszpan went to the Embassy and shot him. In support of the theory, Hans-Jürgen Döscher, a leading German authority on the period and author of Reichskristallnacht, published documents in 2001 which he said showed that Grynszpan and vom Rath had had a sexual relationship. Döscher quoted extracts from the diary of French author André Gide, himself homosexual and well-informed regarding Parisian gay gossip. Vom Rath, Gide would have written, "had an exceptionally intimate relationship with the little Jew, his murderer"; and further: "The idea that such a highly thought-of representative of the Third Reich sinned twice according to the laws of his country is rather amusing."
  • 1921
    Born in 1921.
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