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The Guardian,

October 31, 2001

All illustrations are added by this website, from David Irving, Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.


Did gay affair provide a catalyst for Kristallnacht?

Historian says Jewish boy killed his Nazi lover

Kate Connolly
The Guardian

THE assassination of a top German diplomat which triggered Kristallnacht, the organised Nazi pogrom against Jews across Germany, was not politically-motivated, as commonly believed, but the result of a homosexual love affair between a Nazi diplomat and a young Jewish man, according to a leading expert on the Third Reich.

Hans-Jürgen Döscher, considered Germany's foremost authority on the events of November 9, 1938 following the publication last year of his definitive history, Reichskristallnacht, has gathered scores of documents and eyewitness accounts, including the diaries of the French writer André Gide, to support the theory.

Vom RathOn November 7 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a Jew, walked into the German embassy in Paris and shot Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat (right), five times. Vom Rath died two days later. Nazi propagandists condemned the shooting as a terrorist attack to further the cause of the Jewish "world revolution", and the pogrom was launched.

The attacks -- called Kristallnacht (crystal night), an ironic reference to the broken glass left on the streets -- led to the murder of 91 Jews, the arrests of 26,000 others and the destruction of 177 synagogues. Until now, it was widely believed that Grynszpan had intended to shoot the ambassador, Count Johannes Welczek, in protest at the SS's expulsion of his parents to Poland.

But according to Professor Döscher, who teaches modern history at Osnabrück University, Grynszpan's actions were a spontaneous expression of anger over the broken promises of his lover, Vom Rath, not a political gesture.

In the updated edition of Reichskristallnacht, due to be published in November, Prof Döscher claims that Vom Rath was nicknamed Mrs Ambassador and Notre Dame de Paris as a result of his homosexual antics. He and Grynszpan -- a "boy with a beautiful penetrative gaze" -- met in Le Boeuf sur le Toit bar, a popular haunt for gay men in the autumn of 1938 and became intimate.

Grynszpan, who was in his late teens, had been living illegally in Paris, and Prof Döscher states that 29-year-old Vom Rath agreed to use his influential position to secure official papers for his friend. When Vom Rath went back on his word, Grynszpan reacted by storming into the German embassy on rue de Lille 78, demanding to see him, and opening fire on him with a revolver.

Grynszpan was arrested and languished in jail in France until 1940, when he was handed over to the Nazis, who planned a show trial which would be used to justify the outbreak of the second world war. A combined report from the German foreign, justice and propaganda ministries in January 1942 declared:

"The purpose of the trial should be to clarify to the German people and the world that the international community of Jews is to blame for the outbreak of this war."

According to Prof Döscher, when Grynszpan learned of this motivation for the trial in the early 40s, he revealed the real truth to his Nazi captors. Fearing embarrassment and humiliation, they then stripped Vom Rath of his martyrdom and scrapped their plans.

Grynszpan was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and then disappeared. He was declared dead in 1960. Prof Döscher gleaned his previously unpublished evidence from court archives, reports from the propaganda ministry, letters, diary extracts, and interviews with diplomats of the time.

Most startling are the diaries of Gide, in which the writer expresses his amazement that the scandal failed to gain public attention. Vom Rath, Gide wrote, "had an exceptionally intimate relationship with the little Jew, his murderer".

Referring to the fact that Vom Rath was both gay and had an affair with a Jew, Gide later said: "The thought that a such highly-thought of representative of the Third Reich sinned twice according to the laws of his country is rather amusing." But that was not what amazed him most. "How is it that the press failed to bring this scandal into the open?" he asked.


David Irving comments:


VERY interesting, but hardly new; I deal with this allegation in my biography, Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich, (London, 1996) [click for relevant excerpt]. The homosexual allegations were referenced in Joseph Goebbels' diaries and the Reich Chancellery files, and this is why the trial of Grynszpan was abandoned -- because although Goebbels knew the allegation to be untrue, it would be headlined by Germany's enemies worldwide. Rather spookily, like Banquo's ghost, Grynszpan hismelf survived the war and turned up at the post-war Hamburg (?) trial of Leopold Gutterer, Goebbels' state secretary, as the late Gutterer told me when Leopold Gutterer, aged 90I interviewed him (right) at length on my last trip to Germany on June 30, 1993. Herschel Grynszpan was pointed out to him, standing in the back of the courtroom, observing the proceedings.

Of course like the German "scholar" who recently "proved" that Hitler was homosexual, Professor Döscher is at little risk of prosecution for this further dismantling of German pre-war history. Conformism, however toe-curling, does have its benefits.

What demolishes this "scholar's" theory, in my view, is that the wartime court documents make plain that Grynszpan first accosted the ambassador in the street outside the embassy, and demanded to know "where he could find the German ambassador". Count Welczek, sensing trouble, did not identify himself but helpfully directed the stranger into the First Secretary's office, where the assassin, who was well-heeled with both money and an expensive gun that he had just bought for cash, pumped the bullets into Ernst vom Rath, believing him to be the ambassador. Hardly indicative of an intimate previous relationship between the two men, one might think.

The unemployed wastrel and illegal immigrant Grynszpan had checked into an expensive hotel just round the corner from the offices of LICA, the forerunner of the modern Jewish activitist group LICRA, and it was LICA who at once hired one of the foremost barristers in Paris, and paid his legal costs when he was arrested. People are entitled to draw their own conclusions.

Hanging on my study wall at this moment incidentally is -- not the lifesize Adolf Hitler painting about which Deborah Lipstadt fantasized in her libellous volume -- but the original front page of the Völkischer Beobachter reporting the death of Vom Rath from his injuries, printed on the morning of Reichskristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass: cause and effect. 

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