We’re all generally taught that Kristallnacht occurred spontaneously, the implication being German anti-semitism was ‘primally’ caused, that is, a manifestation of orgiastic German hordes acting on pure, irrational, and non-contextualized resentment of Jews. (Actually, we’re taught this as the ‘explanation’ of every major historical instance of anti-semitism — from England in 1290 to Spain in 1492 to France in the 1890s to Germany in the 1940s.
In The Weekly Standard, I learned of this precursor to Kristallnacht:
Who was Herschel Grynszpan? He was a 17-year-old Polish Jew, born and raised in Germany, who in November 1938 walked into the German embassy in Paris, where he had been living for two years, and shot a 29-year-old diplomat named Ernst vom Rath, who died two days later. Vom Rath’s assassination was the immediate pretext for Kristallnacht in Germany, the Nazi pogrom in which some 90 Jews were killed, 1,300 synagogues were burned, and nearly 8,000 businesses destroyed.