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Tentatively designed for students at NYU (and CBST's Lehrhaus)
Proposed for November 2013 - the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht Fire in Synagogue Was There A Gay Connection As To Why Herschel Greenspan Shot Ernst vom Rath?

This course will utilize a Midrashic way of studying a piece of history including through LGBTQI eyes. This year's topic will be to explore in detail what actual caused the young man to kill the older German officer on November 7, 1938 in France, and what happened to him during the trial and aftermath.

The inclusive process for this class is as important as the outcome. We are inviting students from all parts of NYU that have a special interest in the Holocaust. The goal is for these groups to work together and then lead up to an Inclusive NYU Kristallnacht program in November, similar to the ones held in the past. Outreach will go to Keshet, the Bronfman Center, Deutsches Haus, the NYU LGBTQ Student Center, the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities and the LGBT Clinic at NYU Law School.

Class will be conducted by Professor Rick Landman, who worked and taught for NYU for 20 years and is a long term member of CBST, and whose father and grandfather were arrested on Kristallnacht and sent to Dachau on November 10, 1938. His father eventually gets to New York after his release from Dachau and joins the U.S. Army and liberates Dachau as part of the Third Infantry in 1945. Rick is currently an adjunct Professor at New York Law School and lead attorney at the LeGaL Walk-In Clinic for the LGBT Bar Association.

We are now accepting names of students who may be interested in participating in this project.



This Midrashic Class will consist of an intial class where the curricular approach will be explained and various teams will be chosen to research aspects of this historical event. We will then meet again once a month to follow up to discuss the research and weigh the veracity of what the participants find. In a few months (depending on how much time is required, we will form a consensus and complete our own Midrash of what happened in November 1938.

Outreach will go to Keshet, the Bronfman Center, Deutsches Haus, the NYU LGBTQ Student Center, the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities and the LGBT Clinic at NYU Law School.

Location & Time: To Be Determined. We will finalize this after the participants are chosen.

Limit: 12 participants in total


1. Each part of NYU will choose a liaison (not necessary the person taking the class.
2. We will have meeting of the liaisons to coordinate the parts of NYU, and choose the students for the class.
3. The students will meet and we will choose the days, time and place for the class, and then the students and Prof. Landman will meet and take the class.
4. The liaisons will work together on developing the program in November where we will present the findings of our study.
Herschel Greenspan

Curricular Approach:

We will use Midrashic and Talmudic explorations into parts of history that have been overlooked or just not deeply studied. Using our LGBT insights and gaydar we will take an initial Midrash about why Herschel Greenspan (Grynszpan) shot von Rath and then find "facts" through standard historical research and debate the issues based on the facts that we find to develop a final Midrash on why Herschel Greenspan shot the German officer, Ernst vom Rath. The final Midrashic story will be posted on the internet and can be offered to CBST for a possible drash and for NYU to have another Inclusive Kristallnacht Program for 2013.

The curricular experience will be just as important as the result. We will combine the views of various aspects of the NYU family with a direct connection to Holocaust; having different ages and perspectives in the discussion.

If this is successful as an idea, we can have other future investigations jointly conducted by various segments of NYU and CBST in the future.
Herschel Greenspan
Article on Herschel Grynszpan with post WWII photo
Initial Midrash:

Let us start with the possible idea that there was a 17 year old Jewish boy living in Paris in 1938 whose parents were Polish Orthodox Jews living in Germany and who being threatened with deportation. Let us assume for this Midrash, that the young man was not gay, but met an older German officer who was gay and said that if he would have sex with him, he would save his parents from deportation. He agreed, but the German officer never kept his word and just laughed at the Jewish boy when he asked for any progress. The boy then sought out a gun and went to the German Embassey looking specifically for that German officer and killed him. This course will examine several parts of this Midrash to see if we can develop one based on more facts.
Questions to be researched:

  • Was Herschel Greeenspan gay?
  • Was Ersnt vom Rath gay?
  • Did they ever meet each other before the day of the shooting?
  • Was Ernst vom Rath singled out to be killed by Herschel?
  • What happened to Herschel Greenspan during his trial?
  • What happened to Herschel Greenspan during the war and afterwards when the Nazis took over France?
  • When and how did he die?
  • What preparations did the Germans already have in place before November 8, 1938 to start Kristallnacht? Herschel GreenspanErsnt vom Rath
  • Resources for exploration and study

  • U.S.H.M.M. documentation
  • First Hand comments
  • Written sources

  • Process for the debate and discussions

  • Students will divide up and research and answer the questions, using degrees of veracity. From 100% verified to rumors.
  • Students will place facts in the center of the page
  • Students will then use the facts and use Midrash to fill in the blanks to develop a story with interpretations surrounding the facts in the center of the page.
  • Using the facts and interpretations Students will develop a Final Midrash story of what happened on that day on November 7,1938 that will later be used as the excuse for Kristallnacht on the night of November 9, 1938.

    Comments by Student 1
    Comments by Student 2
    Comments by Student 3
    Comments by Student 4

    For example: Was Ernst Vom Rath gay?
    Here is where we will list the resources stating if he was or wasn't.
    Comments by Student 5
    Collectively Agreed Upon Comments by Class

    • Rick Landman is a long term member of CBST (first came to CBST in April 1973) and is a first generation American and a second generation Holocaust Survivor. He started the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors in 1990.

    • His father and grandfather were arrested and sent to Dachau on Kristallnacht. He father after being released went to London and then New York and eventually joined the US Army and was with the 3rd Infantry when they liberated Dachau in 1945.

    • He is a Certified Planner (AICP) for over 30 years, and is an Attorney Emeritus with 3 Masters Degrees (M.C.R.P. in City and Regional Planning, Ed.M. in Curriculum Development, M.S. in Civil (Socio) Engineering); and a J.D. in law (cum laude).

    • He is an Attorney Emeritus and received 2 Awards for his pro bono legal activities helping pro se litigants in Housing Court or as a guardian ad litem. He is also the chair of the LeGaL Walk-In Clinic at the LGBT Community Center each week since 2008.

    • He was an adjunct Professor at NYU's Wagner Graduate School from 2003 - 2009. Since 2010 he is an adjunct Professor at New York Law School.

    • He was the founder of the Gay Liberation Front at SUNY at Buffalo in 1970 and was later elected the NY Representative to plan the First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. He first attended a Shabbat service to CBST in April 1973 and has served on the Board of Directors and in many other capacities over the years.

    • He was the Executive Director of Real Estate Development for the City of New York for 5 years and was the Director of Real Estate Development at NYU for 19 years.

    • He was the Valedictorian of his Hebrew School and Hebrew High School at the Bellerose Jewish Center.

    • He also has dual citizenship between the USA and Germany. He is the son of two Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and is active in several Second Generation programs.


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