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.
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Stephen Koch is the author of two novels and many books of nonfiction on subjects ranging from Andy Warhol to World War II. After serving as chairman of the Creative Writing Division in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, he wrote a classic text on writing, The Modern Library Writer's Workshop. The director of the Peter Hujar Archive, he lives with his wife in New York and has one daughter.
Daniel Smith is the author of the books Monkey Mind and Muses, Madmen, and Prophets. He holds the Critchlow Chair in English at The College of New Rochelle.