The history of Europe's Jews is one of oppression and violent persecution. As vulnerable minority communities in the midst of suspicious, resentful, or hostile peoples, Jews developed the prevailing attitude that in their own defence the only recourse was to negotiate with those who threatened them. But occasionally this long-suffering spirit broke down, and isolated individuals lashed out in sudden violent eruptions against those who would persecute them. "Violent Justice" tells the stories of three such lone Jewish activists, who at different times and different places refused to be victims any longer and by political assassination sought to gain world attention to the plight of their people. In 1926, Samuel Schwartzbard, soldier and revolutionary, gunned down Simon Petliera, the leader of the independent Ukraine, for helping to kill thousands of Jews. In 1936, Yugoslav David Frankfurter show Wilhelm Gustloff, a Nazi leader in Switzerland, to short-circuit the growth of Nazi sympathisers. And in 1938, German-born Herschel Grynszpan willed Ernest von Rath, a German diplomat, to avenge the deaths of Polish Jews.
Unlike more famous assassinations of noted political leaders, these acts of vengeance did not significantly alter the course of history. But they were among the first attempts to force the world to acknowledge Jewish persecution and to put an end to the history of slaughter. How the killings were carried out, the international response, and the surprising reaction of many Jews to the assessions make this one of the extraordinary, though lesser-known, chapters in history.