5.4.12

Günter Grass



1999- Gunter Wilhelm Grass (1927-)









Was gesagt werden muss

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind.
Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren - wenn auch geheimgehalten -
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt "Antisemitismus" ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.
Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.
Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?
Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir - als Deutsche belastet genug -
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden
zu tilgen wäre.
Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.
Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.
_________________________




What must be said


Why I am silent, silent for too much time,
how much is clear and we made it
in war games, where, as survivors,
we are just the footnotes.

That is the claimed right to the formal preventive aggression
which could erase the Iranian people
dominated by a bouncer and moved to an organized jubilation,
because in the area of his competence there is
the construction of the atomic bomb.

And then why do I avoid myself
to call the other country with its name,
where since years – even if secretly covered -
there is an increasing nuclear power,
without control, because unreachable
by every inspection?

I feel the everybody silence on this state of affairs,
which my silence is slave to,
as an oppressive lie and an inhibition that presents punishment
we don’t pay attention to;
the verdict “anti-Semitism” is common.

Now, since my country,
from time to time touched by unique and exclusive crimes,
obliged to justify itself,
again for pure business aims - even if
with fast tongue we call it “reparation” -
should deliver another submarine to Israel,
with the specialty of addressing
annihilating warheads where the
existence of one atomic bomb is not proved
but it wants evidence as a scarecrow,

I say what must be said.

Why did I stay silent until now?
Because the thought about my origin,
burdened by an unclearing stain,
had avoiding to wait this fact
like a truth declared by the State of Israel
that I want to be connected to.

Why did I say it only now,
old and with the last ink:
the nuclear power of Israel
threat the world peace?

Because it must be said
what tomorrow will be too late;
Because - as Germans and with
enough faults on the back -
we might also become deliverers of a predictable
crime, and no excuse would erase our complicity.

And I admit: I won’t be silent
because I had enough of the Western hypocrisy;
Because I wish that many will want
to get rid of the silence,
exhorting the cause of a recognizable
risk to the abdication, asking that a free and permanent control
of the Israel atomic power
and the Iran nuclear bases
will be made by both the governments
with an international supervision.

Only in this way, Israelis, Palestinians, and everybody,
all people living hostile face to face in that
country occupied by the craziness,
will have a way out,
so us too.



Translation by Alessandro Ghebreigziabiher





_________________





another attempt at translating to English. Less literal but perhaps more to the point.







What must be said
Why have I been silent, silent for so long?,
Our generals have gamed it out,
Confident the west will survive.
We people have not even been considered.

What is this right to “preventive war”?
A war that could erase the Iranian people.
Dominated by it’s neighbor, pulsing with righteousness
Smug in the fact that it is they, not Iran,
Who have the Bomb.

Why have I so far avoided to identify Israel by it’s name?,
Israel and it’s ever increasing nuclear arsenal,
Beyond reproach, Uncontrolled, uninspected.

We all know these things
Yet we all remain silent, fearful of being labeled:
anti-Semitic
hateful
worse

Considering Germany’s past these labels stick
So we call is “business”, “reparation” take your pick,
As we deliver yet another submarine.
As we provide to Israel the means to deliver annihilation.
I say what must be said.

Why did I stay silent until now?
Because I’m German, of course.
I’m tainted by a stain I cannot wash out
I’m silent because I want so badly to make it right
To put my sins in the past and leave them silently there.

Why did I wait to say it until now?
And write these words with the last of my ink?
Declaring that Israel threatens world peace?
Because it is true and it must be said,
Tomorrow will be too late.

We Germans now carry a new burden of sin on our shoulders
Through the weapons we have sold
We are helping to carry out this foreseeable tragedy
No excuse will remove our stain of complicity.

It must be said. I won’t be silent
I’ve had enough of the hypocrisy;
Please shed the silence with me,
The consequences are all too predictable.
It’s time to demand free and permanent control
of BOTH Israel’s nuclear arsenal
AND Iran’s nuclear facilities
enforced with international supervision.

It’s the only way, in a land convulsed with insanity,
Israelis, Palestinians, everybody, will survive.
And we too, will survive.

1999- Gunter Wilhelm Grass (1927-)sign


TexicanAustin
The truth usually does provoke intense criticism.
April 4, 2012 at 2:07 p.m.RECOMMENDED22

aboParis
Well it *is* hypocritical of the West to complain about Iran and not Israel. And Israel *is* probably the greatest threat in the Middle East to world peace. We will get nowhere if every time a person who makes true statements get shouted down.
April 4, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.RECOMMENDED12

MadridMadrid
Grass just said what every person the world over is thinking-- the truth for the New York elite hurts, but someone had to say it. The world is scared not of Iran (which spends less on defense than Singapore) but ISRAEL, which Martin Van Creveld, eminent Israeli military historian, says is the 2nd or 3rd strongest nuclear power in the world and which, according to him, has nuclear weapons aimed at every capital in the world including Rome.
April 4, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.RECOMMENDED10

MadridMadrid
I don't believe the NYT's will publish my earlier note about how Grass's poem reflects how most of the world sees Israel... how the world is scared of Israel, not Iran. In that note, I cited eminent Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld talking about Israel's nuclear policy, a statement for which the NYT's monitors probably censored my post. So here is the direct quote along with the source so that they have no reason to censor me. Van Creveld states of the Israeli military, "We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force…. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/sep/21/israelandthepalestinians.boo...

That is why most of the world is scared of Israel, and not Iran, which spends less on defense that Singapore.
April 4, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.RECOMMENDED8

Ahmed AliHamburg, Germany
Knowing the many peace-loving and level-headed Israelis personally, I am sure that the staunchest support for Gunter
Grass will eventually come from within Israel. Only peace within and with its neighbors is the real guarantee of Israel's continued existence and its prosperity. Live and Let Live! This is as simple as that.

The reality on the ground is that Israel is the only (covert) nuclear power in that region. Other states which do not have these weapons of mass destruction must be protected. Using his poetic license, Gunter Grass has warned against a political course at the end of which a Holocaust is the only outcome. The sufferings of the European Jews, in particular the collective pain and uprooting endured by them under the Nazi regime, for which the present generation in Germany, including Gunter Grass, feels a collective guilt, and rightly so, is all the more reason why a collective punishment must never be initiated by Israel. Gunter Grass said what must have been said a long time ago. I fully understand his anguish. Like him, I also have very dear Jewish friends in Israel, but
it is absolutely essential to stem the current Iranian-Israeli rhetoric
before it spirals out of hand.
April 4, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.RECOMMENDED7

TenicanKnoxville
Thank you Mr Grass. Well done. You have now made my Honor List.
April 4, 2012 at 9:15 p.m.RECOMMENDED4

AFHLower East Side
would be nice if you included a link to an english translation.
April 4, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.RECOMMENDED4

PotterBoylston, MA
Perhaps some Israeli's are looking for this, need it, around this time of year--part of the business of claiming victimhood even when they have the upper hand.

I'd like to read the poem in English. If the NYTimes does not feel it can publish it, that would be a disappointment.
April 4, 2012 at 9:15 p.m.RECOMMENDED3

AMartinBoston
Ok, get ready for the onslaught of nasty comments from Israel haters. Perish the thought that they would spill ink criticizing truly tyrannical regimes of this world like Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Myanmar, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Congo Afghanistan, Algeria, Belarus, Cambodia, Chad...so many more...and oh yes, Iran! And yet they pick on the one country in the Mideast where gays, women, minorities of all sorts actually have a decent life. Can anyone explain this continuous, bizarre, obsessive focus on Israel??
April 4, 2012 at 9:15 p.m.RECOMMENDED3

reneenyc
"Israel possesses between 75-400 nuclear warheads."
April 4, 2012 at 9:07 p.m.RECOMMENDED3

LaurentIndia
Why can't the NYT publish an english translation of the poem?
April 4, 2012 at 9:15 p.m.RECOMMENDED2

Markus310773Munich, Germany
One problem is that Mr. Grass has had problems with his own history. He has often attacked others for their history but only recently admitted to his membership in the Waffen SS.

In his biography he tried to equate 6 million dead Jews with alleged 6 million dead German soldiers (in the Soviet Union). 6 minus 6 is zero. So he implied that Germans have paid their due for the Holocaust.

First of all, however, the number was completely made up. Appr. 1.1 million German soldiers died in the Soviet Union. Second of all, it was appaling to equate dead woman, children and men with soldiers who go to war.

This is but one example of his selective "knowledge" about history.

The manner and the words he used in the article had similarities to Nazi speeches.

Mr. Grass is growing old. He came from an illeterate family. Thus he was maybe not able to intellectually counter Nazi propaganda in his youth.

I am German. We know why we critisize Günter Grass. We understand the subtle hints in his "poem".

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

One day after the tempest created in Germany by the publication of a poem critical of Israel, Günter Grass on Thursday defended himself against his critics. The Nobel Prize in literature recipient said he feels he has been misunderstood by critics who are conducting a campaign against him. "The overall tenor is to not engage in the content of the poem, but instead to wage a campaign against me and to claim that my reputation is damaged forever," Grass said in an interview with a German public broadcaster on Thursday.

In his poem, "What Must Be Said," published in Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung and two other major European newspapers, Grass is sharply critical of Israel's policies towards Iran. With his statement that the "nuclear power Israel is endangering a world peace that is already fragile," the 84-year-old triggered global controversy.
The broadcast is scheduled to air on Thursday night, but NDR released some of Grass' quotes in advance. "Old clichés are being bestirred, and some of them are injurious," Grass said. He said that, as he hinted would happen in the poem, the term "anti-Semitism" has quickly been used against him. "It has occurred to me that in a democratic country in which freedom of the press prevails, there is a certain forced conformity which stands in the foreground along with a refusal to even consider the content and the questions that I cite."

'

Anonymous said...

Injurious and Unworthy'

The author also references an editorial in a paper published by conservative German publishing giant Axel Springer. "The term eternal anti-Semite was used in a Springer newspaper, an inversion of the 'eternal Jew'," Grass said. "That's already injurious and unworthy of the democratic press."

In an editorial in the Bild tabloid, Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner, one of Germany's leading executives, wrote that Grass is "using the murmuring tone of a moralist to disseminate just one thing: politically correct anti-Semitism. He's trying to qualify the guilt of Germany by turning the Jews into perpetrators."

Earlier on Wednesday, Grass' personal secretary had said the Nobel Prize-winning author would not make any statement on the poem. "Mr. Grass said in his poem what he wants to say and won't make any further statement about it for now because of health problems," Hilke Ohsoling had said Wednesday.

But criticism of Grass continued to grow around the world on Thursday. An official English translation of the poem is still being completed.

Outrage in Israel, Praise in Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the poem with particularly harsh words. "Günter Grass' shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel, says little about Israel and much about Mr. Grass," a statement released by Netanyahu's office read. "For six decades, Mr. Grass hid the fact that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS. So for him to cast the one and only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and to oppose giving Israel the means to defend itself is perhaps not surprising."

However, Grass did receive praise from one source: Iran. Iranian state broadcaster Press TV reported on Thursday that, "Never in the history of postwar Germany has a prominent intellectual attacked Israel in such a brave way as Günter Grass with his controversial new poem. Metaphorically, the Nobelist has delivered a lethally lyrical strike against Israel."

Within the Western media, however, there has been widespread condemnation of Grass' poem, with critics describing it as a form of "politically correct anti-Semitism" and "document of vengeance."

German TV Interviews Planned

Israeli historian Tom Segev has emerged as one of the strongest critics. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he said he has the impression that Grass is driven largely by his decades of silence about his membership in the SS during the final days of World War II.

Grass, who is 84 and lives in the village of Behlendorf near Lübeck, now plans to address the poem in two televised interviews on Thursday night.
On Thursday, Grass did find one defender -- the president of the Berlin-based Academy of Arts, a respected institution that has counted Goethe and Brecht among its past members. "One must be allowed to express clear words without being denounced as an enemy of Israel," President Klaus Staeck told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

In his poem, Grass said he had been silent for too long. "But I will be silent no more," he wrote.

Anonymous said...

Is Israel a threat to world peace? German writer Günter Grass has been blasted as an anti-Semite this week for making just such a claim in a new poem. But while the verse may not win any awards, Grass has kicked off an important -- and long overdue -- debate. And, he's right.


A great poem it is not. Nor is it a brilliant political analysis. But the brief lines that Günter Grass has published under the title "What Must Be Said" will one day be seen as some of his most influential words. They mark a rupture. It is this one sentence that we will not be able to ignore in the future: "The nuclear power Israel is endangering a world peace that is already fragile."

It is a sentence that has triggered an outcry. Because it is true. Because it is a German, an author, a Nobel laureate who said it. Because it is Günter Grass who said it. And therein lies the breach. And, for that, one should thank Grass. He has taken it upon himself to utter this sentence for all of us. A much-delayed dialogue has begun.
It is a discussion about Israel and whether Israel is preparing a war against Iran, a country whose leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened Israel, referring to it as a "cancer" that must be "wiped off the map." Israel, a country that has been surrounded by enemies for decades, many of whom believe that Israel has no right to exist -- even independent of its policies.

It is a war that could plunge the entire world into the abyss. When a German speaks about such things, Germany must be part of the discussion -- and Germany's historical responsibility.

Such debates follow a pre-established pattern. Grass knew that he would be chided as an anti-Semite -- a risk taken by any German critic of Israel. Indeed, Mathias Döpfner -- the head of the publishing house Axel Springer, the parent company of the country's largest daily, Bild -- accused Grass of "politically correct anti-Semitism" in a Thursday editorial. Döpfner, a man who fancies himself the guardian of German-Israeli relations, also suggested that Grass should be committed to a historical rehabilitation center and inserts a few jabs about Grass' long-secret World War II membership in the Waffen-SS. Yes, Grass has to deal with such charges, as well.

Anonymous said...

Grass Is a Realist

But Grass is neither an anti-Semite nor a zombie of German history. Grass is a realist. He decries the fact that Israel's nuclear capabilities are "accessible to no inspections." He objects to Germany's weapons-export policies, which supports the shipment of an additional submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles to Israel. And he wearily rejects the "hypocrisy of the West," which -- he leaves unsaid -- has long been the guiding principle of our Middle East policies, from Algeria to Afghanistan.

Grass also writes nonsense. He goes on about how he kept quiet for a long time and how he is now no longer going to keep quiet -- "aged and with my last bit of ink" -- and that he wants to free others from feeling the need to remain silent. That part isn't very well-formulated. He also warns against the annihilation of the Iranian people, which is certainly not part of the Israeli agenda. The text could have been better shielded against attacks. But it still hits its mark.

Someone, after all, has to finally pull us out of the shadow of the words that Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in 2008 during a visit to Jerusalem. At the time, she said that Israel's security belonged to Germany's raison d'état. To avoid misunderstandings, she added: "Given that truth, it cannot remain empty words in times of trouble."

Helmut Schmidt, Germany's chancellor between 1974 and 1982, once said that feeling responsible for Israel's security is "emotionally understandable, but a foolhardy notion that could have serious consequences." Should war erupt between Israel and Iran, he went on, "then, according to this notion, German soldiers would have to fight, as well." Since then, Israel has considered Germany to be the only other country it can count on besides the US.

Anonymous said...

The World Holding Its Breath

Now, backed by a US in which presidents must secure the support of Jewish lobby groups in the run-up to elections as well as by a Germany in which historical penance has assumed a military component, the Netanyahu administration has the entire world holding its breath: "Netanyahu's Israel has dictated the global agenda as no small state has ever done before," writes the Israeli daily Haaretz. From oil prices to terrorism, there are plenty of reasons for the world to fear a war between Israel and Iran.

No one's claiming that Iran already has an atomic bomb. No one knows whether Iran is even really working on such a bomb. On the contrary, American intelligence officials believe that Iran halted its program to develop nuclear weapons back in 2003.

That, though, is of no interest to the Israelis. For them, it's no longer about stopping the Iranians from getting a nuclear bomb. Instead, it's about preventing -- and no longer merely being in a position to prevent -- the Iranians from being able to build such a bomb. They don't want to have to wrestle with the issue that the US had to with Iraq. The Americans still thought that they had to provide proof that their opponent had weapons of mass destruction. But such proof wasn't to be found in Iraq -- nor such weapons. So the Americans simply fabricated the needed proof.

Israel has thrust an ultimatum on the world. It doesn't want to supply evidence that Iran has a bomb. Nor does it want to provide proof that Iran is even building a bomb. Israel's stance is simple: It doesn't want Iran to reach the "zone of immunity." Accordingly, Israel is threatening to launch an attack before the Iranians can bury their atomic facilities so deep in the granite that even the largest bunker-busting American bombs can no longer reach them.

Anonymous said...

Time to Pressure Israel

Israel and Iran are playing a game of poker that both can win as long as there is no war. The tabloid press calls Ahmadinejad the "nut from Tehran." But he isn't crazy. He wants to remain in office and has oppressed his countries opposition in order to do so: Blood was spilled three years ago when he crushed demonstrations against his rule, locking up many opposition leaders in the process.

Ahmadinejad is intentionally keeping the world in a cloud of uncertainty regarding his nuclear intentions. He benefits from his strategic ambiguity just as much as the Israelis benefit from their threats of war. Both countries are helping each other expand their influence far beyond what their sizes actually merit.
In a perverse way, they find themselves in a state of mutual dependence. And that could have remained their own issue, if only they hadn't taken the entire world hostage. As Grass writes, it has come time to demand "an unhindered and permanent monitoring of Israel's nuclear potential and Iran's nuclear facilities by an international entity that the government of both countries would approve" (ed's note: Please note that this is an unofficial, temporary translation; the poem is currently being translated by Grass' official English-language translator).

At the moment, Iran is feeling the pressure of sanctions. But the time has finally come to put some pressure on Israel, as well. Mind you, whoever says such a thing is not trying "to relativize the guilt of the Germans by making the Jews into perpetrators," as Mathias Döpfner says. In this case, we're not talking about German history. We're talking about the world. And we're talking about the present.

Patrice Ayme' said...

Multumnonmulta: Glad to see you are alive and well, we have been missing you!

I was going to write about that too, but did not find the time.
There are two facets, not equal, but opposite.
It would be a disaster if Israel attacked alone, especially at this point.
Patrice Ayme

multumnonmulta said...

Patrice, I tried to reply to one of your replies to a comment I made at your website and was told by the system that I could no longer use the dummy email address I used to introduce. Hence I could no longer join the conversation.

I am glad for your visit, maybe we could think of something...

An Israeli officer (IDF) hits in the face a Danish pro-Palestinian said...

http://youtu.be/lj0WUF_1rAo

Anonymous said...

SPIEGEL: Mr. Gabriel, are you upset about losing a popular election campaigner for your party, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD)?

Gabriel: Who would that be?
SPIEGEL: Günter Grass. After publishing his poem critical of Israel, some of your party colleagues have said they forego his assistance in future campaigns.

Gabriel: I hope Günter Grass will continue helping the SPD in campaigns and that he will otherwise remain with us as a provocative literary figure, as well.

SPIEGEL: So you don't share in the widespread public outrage over Grass?

Gabriel: Regarding content, I share in some of the criticism. But some of it is excessive and, in parts, hysterical. Grass equates Iran and Israel in terms of the danger they potentially pose, which I consider wrong. Nevertheless, I feel the approach many have taken to the poem lacks the appropriate gravity. At its heart, the poem is a cry for help.

SPIEGEL: What makes you think that?

Gabriel: Günter Grass warns of an approaching war in the Middle East. At the same time, he makes a passionate plea against all atomic weapons. The text falls short in its description of the conflict and is, in my view, problematic. But I don't understand what's supposed to be so objectionable about it that one would not only refuse Grass entry into Israel, but also declare him a persona non grata within Germany's political culture.

SPIEGEL: Which parts of the poem do you find problematic?

Gabriel: Iran is the only country in the world that's threatening to erase another country from the map as part of a collective genocide. Characterizing the president there as a loudmouth is a dangerous trivialization. Jews all over the world who escaped the mass killing of the Nazis rightly point out that Hitler was also trivialized as a loudmouth for far too long. From that history, Israel has drawn an unambiguous conclusion: An Israeli government will never stand idly by as the country's existence is threatened. While it may be warranted to criticize Israel's consideration of carrying out a military strike on Iran, one has to understand this fundamental stance.

SPIEGEL: Yet you still consider the criticism of Grass to be excessive?

Gabriel: The poem is a permissible expression of a political opinion and alludes to the imminent danger of war. But the omissions and juxtapositions it contains unfortunately detract from the real issue. That is something for which one can reproach a wordsmith like Günter Grass.

SPIEGEL: What, then, do you think the real issue is?

Gabriel: We do need to ask ourselves how we can prevent this approaching war. For example, we have to be prepared to maintain an effective economic and oil boycott of Iran for an unforeseeable amount of time, even if doing so might have negative consequences for the German economy and German prosperity. At the same time, Iran needs an international overture so that it renounces its atomic program. We must also liberate the Palestinians from being hostage to Iranian policies and regional terrorism. Accordingly, we can no longer look on as the current Israeli government makes the two-state solution impossible through settlement policies that violate international law. But it was already clear to me during my first reading of the poem that precisely that wouldn't happen and that Grass would first take center stage in the debate, instead.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Gabriel: Because it was foreseeable that the self-appointed guardians of political correctness wouldn't miss a chance to finally bring out the big cudgel against Grass. They finally wanted to really give it to this man they had branded as a do-gooder. On top of that is the fact that Grass took a long time before going public about his membership in the Waffen SS as a young man. It didn't take much imagination to envision how the debate would proceed.

Anonymous said...

SPIEGEL: Grass didn't do himself any favors by claiming in his poem that he was breaking a taboo. Yet it was a taboo that doesn't exist. Similar strategic devices are popular among anti-Semites as well.

Gabriel: Günter Grass is not an anti-Semite. But it's really alarming just how deeply rooted anti-Semitic resentments still are in our country. Perhaps that's why we react so hysterically in such debates, because we sense this deeply anchored anti-Semitism and therefore want to quickly suppress everything, which seems to somehow play into it. Finding the right form of debate regarding Israeli policies will remain a challenge in Germany. Even with every conceivable and warranted criticism, the danger always arises that it will be exploited by those who consciously or unconsciously present anti-Semitism in a new guise.

SPIEGEL: Does Israel represent a danger to world peace, as Grass claims it does?

Gabriel: No. What could become a danger to world peace is Iran's nuclear program and the country's open threat to annihilate Israel.

SPIEGEL: Then we don't understand why you're so determined to defend Grass.

Gabriel: I've already said that I disagree with him on some key points. For me, it's about the scale and the form of the criticism. At first, for example, the debate in Israel was very rational and composed. But then some politicians couldn't resist the temptation to raise their profile in the upcoming election. Banning him from entering the country is absurd. I would have preferred the Israeli government or the Hebrew Writers Association to invite Grass to debate his poem and his views.

SPIEGEL: Some of your party colleagues have reacted similarly to the Israelis and declared that, despite his past involvement in SPD election campaigns, his presence is now unwelcome.

Gabriel: Writers like Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll have shaped my political biography. For me, as the head of the SPD, there's also the fact that Grass has always supported the Social Democrats. That's why I find the issue of whether one can still invite him to campaign events somewhat disconcerting. Think of what Grass has accomplished for the SPD, of the beatings he took when he campaigned for (former SPD leader and Chancellor) Willy Brandt. To disavow him now would be cowardly and ungrateful. Not just the SPD, but the entire country has much to thank Grass for.

SPIEGEL: Have you told him that in person?

Gabriel: Yes, of course.

SPIEGEL: Reinhold Robbe, a former SPD member of German parliament says that Grass has disqualified himself, that his time is passed.

Gabriel: My friend Reinhold Robbe is president of the German-Israeli Association (DIG), and his dedication against anti-Semitism and for Israel is exemplary. But, in this case, I don't agree with him.

SPIEGEL: In other words, Grass can act like a court jester and say whatever he pleases.

Gabriel: That makes no sense because Grass is anything but a jester. He is entitled to be treated in a serious rather than a knee-jerk fashion. In fact, I've experienced these reflexive reactions myself. I've been going to Israel and the West Bank for 20 years. I have friends who live in a kibbutz right near the Gaza Strip and have been terrorized by rockets coming out of the Palestinian territories for years. And it's precisely because I consider myself a friend of Israel that I can't keep silent about the fact that the Israeli government tolerates human rights violations in the Palestinian territories and in Hebron, in particular.

Anonymous said...

What Must Be Said

Why do I stay silent, conceal for too long
What clearly is and has been
Practiced in war games, at the end of which we as survivors
Are at best footnotes.

It is the alleged right to first strike
That could annihilate the Iranian people--
Enslaved by a loud-mouth
And guided to organized jubilation--
Because in their territory,
It is suspected, a bomb is being built.

Yet why do I forbid myself
To name that other country
In which, for years, even if secretly,
There has been a growing nuclear potential at hand
But beyond control, because no inspection is available?

The universal concealment of these facts,
To which my silence subordinated itself,
I sense as incriminating lies
And force--the punishment is promised
As soon as it is ignored;
The verdict of "anti-Semitism" is familiar.

Now, though, because in my country
Which from time to time has sought and confronted
Its very own crime
That is without compare
In turn on a purely commercial basis, if also
With nimble lips calling it a reparation, declares
A further U-boat should be delivered to Israel,
Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence
Of a single atomic bomb is unproven,
But as a fear wishes to be conclusive,
I say what must be said.

Why though have I stayed silent until now?
Because I thought my origin,
Afflicted by a stain never to be expunged
Kept the state of Israel, to which I am bound
And wish to stay bound,
From accepting this fact as pronounced truth.

Why do I say only now,
Aged and with my last ink,
That the nuclear power of Israel endangers
The already fragile world peace?
Because it must be said
What even tomorrow may be too late to say;
Also because we--as Germans burdened enough--
Could be the suppliers to a crime
That is foreseeable, wherefore our complicity
Could not be redeemed through any of the usual excuses.

And granted: I am silent no longer
Because I am tired of the hypocrisy
Of the West; in addition to which it is to be hoped
That this will free many from silence,
That they may prompt the perpetrator of the recognized danger
To renounce violence and
Likewise insist
That an unhindered and permanent control
Of the Israeli nuclear potential
And the Iranian nuclear sites
Be authorized through an international agency
By the governments of both countries.

Only this way are all, the Israelis and Palestinians,
Even more, all people, that in this
Region occupied by mania
Live cheek by jowl among enemies,
And also us, to be helped.

Anonymous said...

Trish Lawrence 1 month ago

Terrifying truth finally & bravely revealed. Thank you, Gunter Grass
162 people liked this.

Mark Kerpine 1 month ago in reply to Trish Lawrence

A Germans expiating his Holocaust guilt by accusing Jews of thinking about committing the same crimes that he actually committed? And an American supporting such a blood libel as the "truth"? Yep, some things never change.
20 people liked this.

ZachHenry 1 month ago in reply to Mark Kerpine

What crimes did he commit? He was drafted, the same way Israelis are currently drafted to serve in offensives in Palestine and other foreign territory.
62 people liked this.

alecrose 1 month ago in reply to ZachHenry

Well he wasn't actually drafted, he volunteered for the Waffen SS. Nevertheless, Grass was 17 years old at that time, and like many Germans, was convinced that his country faced an existential struggle. I'm not sure what the original poster means by "the crimes he actually committed." Grass's service was very short, coming at the very end of the war, and all the fighting he was engaged in was among hopelessly outmatched units in full on retreat from the advancing Red Army within the original boundaries of the Reich.

As far as Grass expiating his holocaust guilt, I would say that's been more or less a central interest of his work and what's more his message always seems to be that such atonement is always incomplete and provisional. Nowhere in the poem does Grass imply that Israel shares any thing like the motives of Nazi Germany, he is questioning the soundness of its keeping a nuclear arsenal. In fact he stresses his commitment to a Jewish state- "the country of Israel to which I am bound, and wish to stay bound." You'd really have to be deliberately obtuse to read this poem as anti-Zionist, let alone antisemetic.

It's not a particularly good poem of course but that's a different issue. The irony in all of the criticism though is that the bulk of the text concerns Grass musing over whether he has the right to question Israel in this way, as a German- in effect anticipating this very controversey.
62 people liked this.

FB363 1 month ago in reply to alecrose

No, he did not volunteer to serve in the SS, that is a simple lie that is being spread by the zionists. He was drafted. He had volunteered to join the submarine fleet, and was rejected.
38 people liked this.

moriahandrea 1 month ago in reply to ZachHenry

People were not drafted into the Waffen SS; they joined -- the SS was not a unit in the German army - it was the military wing of the Nazi Party and responsible for most of the unspeakable crimes against humanity committed by Germany during the war. As far as Grass' part in the SS - it seems he volunteered at age 15 for the army near the end of the war, but was sent to the SS - what part he played in their crimes is not known, nor why he was silent about it for 60 years.
6 people liked this.

Douglas Brough 1 month ago in reply to moriahandrea

Although a number of people did join the SS willingly a large number were forced to join by being members of other organisations and the said organisation being then considered part of the SS. In many instances even a person volunteering for the SS, or indeed any other organisation of the time, has to be considered against the background from which they joined. There were many cases of joining because of the fear installed by the military regime - in other cases employment and subsequently survival were respondent to membership of the SS so some can be considered as having to join in order to survive the war years..

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