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Günter Grass’ Stupid Poem About Israel and Iran

And how it is only a symptom of a larger German problem

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Günter Grass today in Germany.(Marcus Brandt/AFP/Getty Images)

Günter Grass, the 84-year-old German novelist who won a Nobel Prize in part for ostensibly reckoning honestly with Germany’s Nazi past (and who many years later revealed that, rather than having been a young bystander, he was in the Waffen-SS), yesterday published a poem accusing Israel rather than Iran of being the prime threat to regional stability, since it already has nuclear weapons. “It is the claimed right to a first strike/that could wipe out an Iranian people,” he writes, “subjugated by a loudmouth and steered to organized jubilation/because the building of an atom bomb is suspected in their territory.” (Why this complex geopolitical argument is best expressed in verse, I haven’t the faintest.) And now that Prime Minister Netanyahu has responded, the story won’t go away so easily. “Grass’s 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,” the prime minister said.

He’s right. Tom Segev explains it succinctly: “unlike Iran, Israel has never threatened to wipe another country off the map. And contrary to Grass’ sanctimonious verses, under no circumstances would a military action against Iran lead to the extermination of the Iranian people, because as far as we know, it would exclusively target the country’s nuclear facilities.”

An interesting thing to know—not because it obviates the blatant bias in the silly poem, but because it is, well, interesting—is that the poem was provoked by Germany’s sale of a nuclear submarine to Israel. In other words, in Grass’ head and in his argument, this is about Germany helping to enable another bit of cataclysmic destruction. As the memory of the Holocaust recedes and the generation who actually lived during it dies out, German guilt is being replaced by German resentment—or, as Germany’s greatest anti-anti-Semite would have put it, Ressentiment—and so where Grass, the innocent, was Germany’s moral conscience, now Grass, the former SS member, is Germany’s spiritual pride. The poem “expresses a sense of anger against Israel that—justified or not—many Germans seem increasingly to share,” reports Hans Kundnani at the Guardian. He adds: “Increasingly, Germans seem to see themselves as victims rather than perpetrators. … anger against Israel is exacerbated by the sense some Germans have of not being able to say what they really think—as Grass suggests in the poem” (which is called “What Needs To Be Said”).

At Heeb, Fabian Wolff has an excellent take as well as a fuller translation. “Actually,” Wolff writes, the poem “is about a cranky and dirty old German who is so sick of being constantly reminded of the Holocaust by the world and his own guilt that he constructs the possibility of another Holocaust—this time, perpetrated by the former victims—just so he can feel better and righteous once again.” The world’s not going to buy it, and I bet his own guilt ultimately won’t, either.

Prime Minister Netanyahu Comments on the Hateful Poem by Günter Grass [Prime Minister of Israel/Facebook]
Günter Grass’ Poem Is More Pathetic Than Anti-Semitic [Haaretz]
Should We Care About Günter Grass’ Vaguely Anti-Semitic German Poetry? [Heeb]
Günter Grass and Changing German Attitudes Toward Israel [Guardian]

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r Kroll says:

Gunter Grass is no threat to Israel since all the discussion is about the messenger and not the message.

However, since ’67 (when international support for Israel peaked) Israel’s diplomatic position has steadily been eroded. So the message is getting through without people like him.

jacob arnon says:

The Germans seem to have rediscovered their Jewish problem.

Binyamin in O says:

Tom Segev is wrong on two counts.

1. Israel not only threatened to wipe Palestine off the map, but has actually succeeded in doing so.

2. Iran wants to wipe Jewish political and military power out, at least in the Middle East. THey are happy to have the Jews stay, as dhimmi. In that regard they are no different than most Jewish Israelis who will tolerate Arabs in Israel, but not Arab power.

(He got the part about Holocaust denial right.)

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Grass’s “poetic” expression is the latest version of the accusations of Jews, right before Pessah, of Jews killing Christian children in order to bake with their blood the matzot for the holiday.

This time, this blood libel however is more “politically correct” version: The Jews are not after Christian children; they are rather after the children of Iran.

Some things change, but some remain alive, including the deep rooted centuries-old hostility to the Jews!!

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

A poster at the Jerusalem Post wrote:

“This just goes to show us how low these EU/UK Leftists can stoop to.That a News paper like The Guardian could actually post an article that promotes and encourages an ex Waffen-SS soldier.Despicable Disgusting people…..”

To which I replied:

“The Guardian is one of the main mouthpieces of the UNHOLY TRINITY, that amalgamation of classic anti-Semites, “progressive” anti-Jewish racists, and 7th century-based Islamists.

“The three elements of this UNHOLY TRINITY, seemingly have nothing in common but one: deeply rooted hostility towards Jews-Judaism-Zionism-Israel.

“The Guardian and Grass belong to the second segment of this UNHOLY TRINITY, namely, “progressives” who are anti-Jewish racists”.

Mister Grass is worried about The Iranian peaple… Tell me who your friends are and I’ll know who you are. The excplicit Iranian threat against the Jewish peaple missed Gunter’s inspiration of course, what we can lrarn about his poem is that there is no new Germany, the old Judofobia rises its head again. Mr Grass feels right to blame the Jews for imaginary crimes again… After all he got “good” aducation .

To Binyamin in O, You’re airing claims which are absolutely baseless, what do you mean by “Israel succeeded to wipe the Palesinans”? Are you serious? Do you know about concentration camps or you simply imagine? The facts are that there is a conflict but from that to claim your claims and to believe in them you must be some kind of a lunatic.

Jack Ross says:

Gunter Grass is a hero. Israel is the unprovoked aggressor against Iran. The Israeli obsession with Iran is simply not rational and cannot be understood in rational terms. Iran is nothing but a scapegoat for all of Israel’s problems. One of the gravest mistakes of the postwar era was for Adenauer to offer reparation payments to Israel and thereby legitimize its claim to be the representative of Hitler’s victims – to represent the invented “Jewish people”, a distinct race just as Hitler imagined them.

Charlie in NY says:

The lack of historical knowledge underlying some of the responses here is disappointing but not surprising. The group that prevented a state of Palestine from coming into being was Arab. It was not the Jews who accepted a much smaller piece of land had the Arabs too accepted the UN partition plan (which itself violated international law as set out in agreements such as the San Remo Conference, the Sevres Treaty and the League of Nations Mandate – but that is a separate story). Those who claim otherwise have to explain why no Arab state was created between 1949 and 1967 when all of the West Bank, Gaza and a severed Jerusalem was under Arab control. As to those who, from the safety of their homes far from Israel, play the parlor game that the only thing coming out of Iran and Arab countries is harmless rhetoric, while it may be comforting it is not a realistic basis for setting a nation’s policy where lives are actually at stake. Perhaps the ultimate irony, given Europe’s general public anti-Israel bias (though most of the EU seems perfectly content to deal with Israel quietly on day-to-day commercial issues and intelligence gathering) is the manner in which Europe resolved its own national problems after WWII: what happened to the German inhabitants of Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia would today not be called simply “population transfer” but because of the brutality of the transfer would be ethnic cleansing” in the original sense of the term, not the ideologically driven variant that is applied to Israel’s treatment of its Arab population. Either out of guilt or blindness, the fact remains that if you seek an example of ethnic cleansing in the Middle East, one need look no farther than the treatment of the Jews by the Arabs. Moral inversion happens not only in Germany, it seems, but among many who seek not only simple solutions to a complex problem but in so doing must infantilize the Arabs as a group without any agency or any responsibility for their actions

jameson says:

All the same old nonsense, both from Israel’s detractors and its defenders. Grass’s poem is just plain stupid. A symptom, perhaps, but perhaps only of his senility. Charlie, stop blaming the Arabs for Israel’s current Palestinian problem. It’s a self-inflicted wound after 1967. And Joe, learn how to read. Binyamin talks about wiping out Palestine, not Palestinians.

Charlie in NY says:

Jameson, while I appreciate your comment to my question of why no Arab state was established in the period of Egyptian control of Gaza and Jordan’s control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank (from of all which every Jewish inhabitant was thrown out), I can’t help but notice you fail to answer it. It is not, as you would have it, an attempt at “blaming the Arabs” nor is it a “self-inflicted wound after 1967″ unless you mean by the Palestinians themselves – which I doubt. My comment was meant to focus attention on the historical background that too many people, including you apparently, prefer to waive away rather than confront. As to your take on Grass’ poem, do you have any evidence at all of his “senility” or is it simply another illustration of your preference for averting your eyes as a method of avoiding grappling with a potentially harsh or unsettling reality?

Jon Ihle says:

The world is not going to buy it? They’ve bought it already. The whole European/left critique of Israel shifted onto this ground a decade ago. The idea that Jews are the real Nazis is now firmly embedded in the global consciousness. Tidy, isn’t it? With Israel as the scapegoat for European Holocaust guilt – if they are doing THIS, surely they must have deserved THAT – people like Grass can forget their own dismal history and stop thinking about the Middle East at the same time.

David says:

Well, Grass was always a half-baked author anyway. He came to fame as someone willing to ‘confront’ the Nazi past head on. The true literary meaning of his work was that it was all founded on a hill of lies and denial. A good example of how, more often than not, poetic truth is found in life, not literature.

MethanP says:

It’s less a German problem as one of liberal western society. After all. In most western nations he would be aplauded. In Gemany he was condemed.

tantelaeh says:

This old Nazi is still alive? He’s still mentally impaired. Don’t the Germans have mental hospitals for elderly fascists who learned nothing in the past 70 years? Few people in Germany hold on to those Hitlerian ideas. They have moved on changing their beliefs and living different lives now.

Phil N says:

As usual the Jews stand alone. Thank G-d Israel has enough nuclear weapons to make the Islamic nations and the European nations think twice about trying to initiate a second Holocoust.

r Kroll says:

The Günter Grass out roar shows exactly how irrelevant the opinions of elder citizens and politicians have become. While the current power structure discusses settlements and first attacks, the majority of the discussions in world wide Internet have moved on: from the injustice of post 1967 settlement policies, on the believability of the ethnic cleaning charges against Ben Gurion, through expression of regrets for the 1947 UN partition, to discussions to what extent it is possible to correct the 1947 mistake. With today’s media and communication possibilities the evolution of political thought is order of magnitudes faster than it was when information was only in academic papers and newspaper archives. Even in those countries tied to Israel by Guilt or Political-tradition this shift is occurring. We are now less than a decade away from the shifting of political generations and what that will mean for the concept of “Israel’s right to exist”.

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

True to tradition that has prevailed in Grass’s part of the world, the poet has come out, right before Pessah, when Jews celebrate their liberty from slavery, and, with a minor subtle twist, doesn’t accuse the Jews this time of killing Christian children in order to bake with their blood the Pessah special matzah bread. He, instead, accuses the Jewish people’s nation-state of about to kill Iranian children this time.

Grass of course could have inserted into his opinion-poetic column a call upon the rulers of Iran to cease calling for the mass murder of Jewish children in Israel, but he didn’t do so. Nor did he call upon the Iranian rulers to cease denying the Jewish Holocaust that Germany inflicted upon the Jews, since he could bring a first-hand testimony, having been a volunteer Waffern SS member, that such acts are horribly and should not be repeated, neither by German or by Iran.

But the “humanist” Grass has chosen to be traditional; to follow his forefathers and mothers and with a modern twist, accuse the Jews, once again, of being blood thirsty. This is the face of a Nobel Laureate, which reminds one: Mr. Yasser Arafat, with a lot of Jewish blood on his hands, also received the honor…

George says:

Jack Ross says…’Gunter Grass is a hero. Israel is the unprovoked aggressor against Iran. The Israeli obsession with Iran is simply not rational and cannot be understood in rational terms. Iran is nothing but a scapegoat for all of Israel’s problems.’

Of course, how silly for Israel to be concerned with a country which has threatened to wipe it off the map with acquiring a nuclear warhead capability. A country which is also the biggest supplier and supporter of Hamas and Hizbollah. This is a problem?

Well, obviously if you’re a moron like Jack Ross, it’s nothing to be concerned about.

Gunther Grass simply fumbled beyond his intellectual capacity.

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Clearly, Mr. Grass suffers from an internal – known or unknown – predicament: He senses the need to cleanse his soul for his deeds and the deeds of his people, having managed to bring the death of 50 million people throughout Europe, during the Second World War.

The best way to do so, from his perspective, is to deflect the sense of guilt onto others, blame the Jews for being ready to annihilate Iran and its population, a country of some 80 million people, and when that is done, and he probably hopes it will be done, his soul will be cleansed, seeing his victims, the Jews, doing even worse than he and his comrades did to humanity – he volunteered to the Waffen SS!! – thus ensuring that he could die peacefully.

One predicament he has not considered: Israel has NEVER called or expressed interest in annihilating Iran and its people. For that matter, Israel has never threatened or expressed the desire to annihilate any country and its population, NEVER!

The contrary has been the case, when the Iranian leaders, both religious and secular, call every single Friday, in public, for the death of Israel and the annihilation of every trace of Jewish life in it. But, this fact is missing from Grass’s “poem” for some reason, since inserting it will destroy his desperate need to cleanse his soul, and that can be done only, in this case, by spewing yet another blood libel on the Jews, right before Pessah, in keeping with tradition of the circles of people from whence he comes.

JehudahBenIsrael says:

Gunter Grass’ delusions / Yehoshua Sobol

In his subconscious, the author needs Israel to wipe out the Iranian people, because the day Israel exterminates 80 million people will be the day that Grass – in his own delusional mind – will finally be acquitted in the court of history.


This is the second time in the last six years that writer Gunter Grass has broken his silence. Last time, he broke a 60-year silence: It took him that long to publicly admit he had served in the Waffen SS. After Grass’ confession, he also started to point out the suffering that the German people endured during World War II, in order to give credence to the claim that Germans were not only the perpetrators – but also the victims – of the war. To nurture a sense of German victimhood, Grass blamed Stalin for murdering 6 million German prisoners of war (POWs).

The journalist who quoted Grass at the time did not examine the credibility of this mystical number, and published Grass’ claim verbatim. The truth is that the total number of Germans who were held captive by the Russians is just more than 3 million – 3,127,380, to be exact. Of these 3 million, slightly less than half a million Germans, or 474,967 to be exact, died in Russian captivity. Where did Grass get the 6 million figure? He could only have pulled it from his subconscious, from the same place where he keeps his most secret wishes. 

Grass needed the Russians to have exterminated 6 million German POWs to clear his conscience for the murder of 6 million Jews. And thus, with a few words, he turned half a million German soldiers who died in Russian captivity – into 6 million. Twice the total number of Germans who were in captivity, whether they were killed or not!Grass needed for every German captive to have been killed twice to clear his conscience of the murder of 6 million Jews. When your soul yearns for exoneration, the imagination can invent a delusional reality.

Years passed, and the total nonsense Grass went on about at the time, regarding the 6 million murdered German prisoners, was exposed as a complete misrepresentation of facts. But a man’s need to liberate himself from the weight of complicity in mass murder apparently grows stronger with age, as he nears his own end. In all likelihood, that is how the bizarre text Grass published under the heading “What must be said” came about. This title indicates a powerful internal struggle, a psychological need that emanates from deep within the subconscious.

And now, once again, Grass is inventing a delusional reality, but this time he is projecting into the future. Israel could launch a preemptive strike and wipe out the Iranian people, he writes, and therefore Israel should be viewed as a threat to fragile world peace.

Just as Grass imagined a past that never was out of a need to exonerate himself, the same need is compelling him to imagine a future that will never be. Israel has never threatened Iran’s existence, whereas Iran’s leaders are constantly vowing to wipe Israel off the map.

But Grass’ subconscious needs Israel to wipe out the Iranian people, because the day that Israel exterminates 80 million people will be the day that Grass will finally be acquitted in the court of history: Hitler and the Third Reich, whose uniform Grass donned, only killed 50 million people – and Israel is about to exterminate 80 million people.

What a monstrous secret wish has emerged from the depths of this great writer’s psyche! What hellfire burns there, deep inside the soul of the former SS man. Demons erupt from the depths of the soul “with what ink remains,” as he writes.

The problem is not Gunter Grass. The problem is the 50 percent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung readership that agrees with him, according to an Internet poll taken by the German newspaper. Does the entire Christian world have a psychological need for Israel to commit a worse crime than the ones committed by the Nazis?

Is this the secret wish of all those who question Israel’s right to exist? Do they hope that Israel will, once and for all, justify the general yearning to destroy it by giving the world the gift of a massive crime against humanity? Is their disease so malignant and incurable?

Original article: Israel Hayom


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Günter Grass’ Stupid Poem About Israel and Iran

And how it is only a symptom of a larger German problem

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