Steven Heller

Picture Post, November 26, 1938

An excerpt from his essay "Power to the Picture"

History pivots on major and minor events that are unforeseen but somehow inevitable. Photographs sometimes capture these moments and tag them for what they are at the time or use them as evidence long after the fact. This double page spread from the London-based Picture Post on November 26, 1938 edited by German exile Stefan Lorant, captures the beginning of the horror that would end in the Nazi “War on the Jews.”

On November 7, 1938, Herschel Grynszpan (1921-45), a 17-year- old, German-born Polish Jew living in France for several years after Hitler came to power in 1933, learned that the Nazis had exiled his parents to Poland from Hanover, Germany. They had been legal residents for many years until Nazi racial laws ordered their deportation. In a state of despondence, the teenager retaliated by shooting Ernst vom Rath (1909-38), a German diplomat in Paris. Rath died two days later.