A remarkable story of a forgotten seventeen-year-old Jew who was blamed by the Nazis for the anti-Semitic violence and terror known as the Kristallnacht, the pogrom still seen as an initiating event of the Holocaust. 

A tightly written examination of the life of a relatively minor figure who casted a large shadow on the politics surrounding the Second World War.

After learning about Nazi persecution of his family, Herschel Grynszpan (pronounced “Greenspan”), an impoverished seventeen-year-old Jew living in Paris, bought a small handgun and on November 7, 1938, went to the German embassy and shot the first German diplomat he saw. When the man died two days later, Hitler and Goebbels made the shooting their pretext for the great state-sponsored wave of anti-Semitic terror known as Kristallnacht, still seen by many as an initiating event of the Holocaust.

Overnight, Grynszpan, a bright but naive teenager—and a perfect political nobody—was front-page news and a pawn in a global power struggle. When France fell, the Nazis captured Grynszpan after a wild chase and flew him to Berlin. The boy became a privileged prisoner of the Gestapo while Hitler and Goebbels plotted a massive show trial to blame “the Jews” for starting World War II. A prisoner and alone, Grynszpan grasped Hitler’s intentions and waged a battle of wits to sabotage the trial, knowing that even if he succeeded, he would certainly be murdered. The battle of wits was close, but Grynszpan finally won. Based on the newest research, Hitler’s Pawn is the richest telling of Grynszpan’s story to date.

A Note from the Author…

While mired and miserable in an unrelated (and hopeless) project, I stumbled across the irresistible but almost forgotten true story of a seventeen-year-old Jewish boy whose teenaged recklessness matured into the grown up heroism that enabled him to outwit Hitler and change the Second World War.

A breathless, beautiful, but tragic story.

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Praise for Hitler’s Pawn

“Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi—these are the pivotal figures who will forever stand against the twentieth century’s submission to Auschwitz. Yet history urges the inscription of still another indestructible touchstone: Herschel Grynszpan…Stephen Koch’s heart stopping account reveals how, in the very pit of Nazi perfidy, this fragile yet steadfast young man devised the ingenious trap that outwitted the Goebbels. In the light of Koch’s scrupulous unearthings, we must now count the brief tormented life of Herschel Grynszpan among the lasting necessary chronicles.”

 

—Cynthia Ozick, author of Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays

Steven Koch has written a compelling account of the little-known but important story of Herschel Grynszpan. The book is hard to put down. Though one knows how it ends, the incidental details along the way are gripping. The chapter on the day of the assassination in particular, but really the whole book, is cinematic in the way it cuts between scenes and summons up the feel of events. Koch is careful to distinguish between what is known, what is very likely, and what is speculative. The book is written with a historian’s care and precision but a novelist’s narrative force.

 

—Amazon Review 

This is a tighly written examination of the life of a relatively minor figure who casted a large shadow on the politics surrounding the Second World War. It is well researched and written in an easy to read style, with plenty of background information for those who are not intimently familiar with the time period. A good read for anyone interested in the events leading up to the Second World War and the Holocaust.

 

—Alex Sullivan, Good Reads

Hitler’s Pawn: The Boy Assassin and the Holocaust by Stephen Koch is a mesmerizing and captivating read about a period much-forgotten history for many.

The story of the boy who started the events which many believed led to the horrors experienced by the Jewish people is one which is not taught in schools today. His story appears to have been lost to our current generationd one which would like to be forgotten by past generations.

Koch writes with great skill, compassion, and research. He leaves few details out when discussing the youth described as the catalyst for Hitler’s plan to remove the Jewish population.

In my opinion, this book should be on the reading list in all high school history classes, colleges and in every home library. This book is important. This is a part of history which should not be forgotten.

 

—Christy, Good Reads

I enjoyed reading this small, intimate narrative that was such a crucial event in the build up to World War II. I knew of Kristallnacht, but did not know how Herschel Grynspan was used as a catalyst for this event. A sad, captivating tale of being pushed to the limits.

 

—Chuck, Good Reads

About Stephen Koch

Koch is the author of two novels and five books of nonfiction, ranging from history to literary history and a handbook on creative writing called The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop. His most recent book is Hitler’s Pawn – The Boy Assassin and the Holocaust  about the life of a Jewish teenager who in 1938 assassinated a minor German Diplomat and gave Hitler his pretext for Kristallnacht, and had worldwide repercussions in the lead up to the second World War. 

Koch has steadily written essays and reviews about literature, art, and the cultural scene. One of his books, Stargazer – The Life, World, and Films of Andy Warhol, is now regarded as a classic discussion of Warhol’s films, art and sensibility. Read More…

About Stephen Koch

Koch is the author of two novels and five books of nonfiction, ranging from history to literary history and a handbook on creative writing called The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop. His most recent book is Hitler’s Pawn – The Boy Assassin and the Holocaust  about the life of a Jewish teenager who in 1938 assassinated a minor German Diplomat and gave Hitler his pretext for Kristallnacht, and had worldwide repercussions in the lead up to the second World War. 

Koch has steadily written essays and reviews about literature, art, and the cultural scene. One of his books, Stargazer – The Life, World, and Films of Andy Warhol, is now regarded as a classic discussion of Warhol’s films, art and sensibility. Read More...

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