« A Disappointing Assessment of U.S. Investment in Iraq by Dr. Christopher Bolan | Main | Passover and Easter »

06 April 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


A German colonel with ravaged eyes spoke to me of the pressure put on him by the Israeli Military attaché (he was dying of cancer even then), "There is nothing I can do. If I refuse, it will be seen as refusing for the wrong reason."

Gunter Grass stikes home. Will this implied collective guilt force us to acquiesce to an equally large genocide?

John Stack

Gunter Glass was CONSCRIPTED as a 17 year old boy into the SS and served for 3 months at the war end when he was injured.This does not mean that he cannot point out that a nuclear armed Israel is threatening to murder Iranians, who dont have nuclear weapons, using German weapons.

Israelis try to attack the person to avoid his clear points that because Germans have a past of which they are ashamed means that they must be quiet about Israeli murder.


I translated the Grass poem into English staying with as near to the original as I could.

The Guardian also provided a translation but that one is seriously misleading.


Bibi may just lift the burden of collective guilt that older Germans still feel. Unless the possession of submarine platforms for launching Israeli nukes can be blamed on the Germans!


I relish Bibi being unhappy.....I could go on but I will not. The following might be a bit OT but I find it pertinent. If I was a citizen of the Nutmeg State, this gal would have my vote.


I would not give a hoot where she stood on other issues. Until "We the People" wake up to the inherent security threat posed by the Zionist...foreign and domestic....and their Roundhead(Thank you Col.)/Neocon enablers...the Republic is not safe nor sovereign.


Col. Lang,

When I grew up in Germany in the 80s Grass was on the extreme left of what was supposed to be the democratic spectrum of FRG politics.
The main thing about him was his strident Anti-Americanism and unceasing left wing preaching. I also recall that anybody to the right of the Social Dems (SPD) at the time was branded as a Nazi, a Nazi Sympathizer or a potential Nazi. Of course there was no mention of Grass`s service in the SS which he managed to conceal for a very long time indeed.

BTW. if you are "into" left wing German moralising, there are more talented practisioners, even today.

I do not recall whether you speak German or have ever served in the FRG. The best analysis (in German) wd be in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, yesterday`s issue. Result: poem is not about Israel, or Bibi, or nukes just a manifestation of the classic "antizionism" of a part of the German left.

Rgds Renaud



Here's Sueddeutsche.de's article


Pirate Laddie

Then again, some might argue that arming the Zionist state may just be the next phase of the Final Solution. Kinda like giving someone a really cool knife to take to a gun fight.
The Liberty/Dakar equivalence still thrills the romantic mind.

The beaver

Younger Germans are defending him:

Israel relies on Germany for some of its most critical military hardware. Three Dolphin-type military submarines have been supplied to the Israeli navy, with three more due for delivery in the coming years. Germany has shouldered most of the cost of Israel’s submarine fleet, supplying the first two vessels for free and financing a significant share of the others. Indeed, Mr Grass’s poem was prompted by the latest submarine deal, signed last month.

William R. Cumming

I have always liked the phrase "merchants of death"! Did the US sign off on the sub sale?

Kim VIner

A good analysis in English from a German commentator.


"Just because a fool says the sun is shining doesn't make it dark outside"- Sophocles, the Theban plays.

Grass's career matters not. Two wrongs don't make a right and the Shoah does not give Israel the right to inflict damage. On others.


Grass is correct.

Beyond that what I find interesting is the fact that the "man of letters" concept is still alive, in Germany at least--that there are intelligent and learned public individuals without any official imprimatur who can say things publicly that are taken seriously enough to stir national debate.

That seems long gone in the US.


I see that the term "Waffen SS" has been mentioned a number of times -- and I get the feeling that what's been said has not been very clear. Please, don't confuse the Waffen SS with the Death Head SS. In the 40's the Waffen SS was a military unit under the command of the German military (whereas the evil Death Head SS was under Himmler)and consisted largely of conscripts (draftees) from occupied areas. Near the end of 1943 and Spring of 1944 conscripts were the sole source of fresh Waffen SS troops in the occupied areas.

Maybe Col Lang has more information than my superficial understanding. I only researched it with respect to the Latvian Legion because my father was conscripted in the Spring of 1944 into a unit that suffered heavy losses trying to restrain the Soviet onslaught in retaking Latvia (the Soviets had originally invaded Latvia and the other Baltic States in 1940 only to be supplanted by German occupation in 1941, with the Soviets returning in Late 1944). There are no simple answers to the wars, occupations, and violence in this part of the world, much less simple labels on who was a good guy or bad guy.

Keep in mind that Mr Grass was 17 when he was conscripted as cannon fodder into a part of a German Army that happened to be called Waffen SS. I think using his conscription into a Waffen SS unit to attack his views on Israel-with-nukes-on- submarines is a bit of a cheap shot.

Morocco Bama

Renaud2000, if you perceive the continuum/spectrum as an almost closed circle, the far left and far right are so close to each other, they can practically hold hands. It's why Stalin and Hitler had so much in common.

What this Nazi says may be right, but it falls on deaf ears when it comes from the likes of him. Surely there's a better source for such accurate condemnation. This source only serves to sully the legitimate charge.
b cannot be considered an objective source. He would like to see all "Americans" annihilated like his forefathers tried to do to the Jews. I'll see you on the battlefield, b, mano y mano...leave your tank behind. If your latest battle with that cold is any indication, you're toast.


Juris V

You are mistaken. The Waffen SS was not part of the German Army although many of its units were under the operational control of the German Army when committed to battle. There are many books; "SS, the alibi of a nation," "The German Generals," "The Waffen SS,"etc. The SS in all its parts was a party militia. under Nazi government sponsorship. Hitler's intention was to replace the German Army with the Waffen SS part of the SS if his government had survived the war. The SS in its entirety was condemned at Nuremberg as a criminal organization. That included the Waffen SS. Your father was conscripted into one of the "national" units of the SS? Unfortunate. pl

robt willmann

I inquired of a World War II historian, fluent in German, who has done original research, meaning he does not just quote other people's books. He believes that the association of Gunter Grass with the Waffen SS began in the closing weeks of the war.

The original poem in German in the Suddeutsche should be here--


Neil Richardson


I wouldn't be so quick to absolve the Waffen SS. It's fairly well known that the Allgemeine SS and Waffen SS had plenty who were members of both (e.g.,LSSAH, Das Reich and Totenkopf). As for Wiking, most early members were volunteers despite what the survivors have said. The simple fact is that a lot of personnel records were misplaced or destroyed during the war as I've discovered at BA-MA.

I knew some of the veterans of the 7th Panzer when I was at Bad Kissingen. They'd be aghast at the description of the organization as "a part of a German Army that happened to be called Waffen SS." They were under the operational control of the OKW. At times they were under the tactical control of Heer formations as necessary during operations. They were part of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) not the Heer.

Were there some who were "honorable" ?(although this term has limited utility when applied to the Ostheer) Sure. I can remember how Bittrich treated the British 1st Airborne. However, even Hohenstaufen and Frundsberg were fairly brutal toward the Dutch civilians who were caught hiding Allied personnel caught behind the lines.

I remember coming across one report submitted by Kurt Meyer when he was in Leibstandarte when he claimed about 1400 partisans killed and two taken as prisoners. And they'd captured a few Papashas and rifles.



Perhaps it was in the closing hours of the war, or perhaps minutes. pl


imo it is pretty much ludicrous to call Grass a Nazi because he joined the SS at the age of 17. By that standard I would be justified to call you a snotty-nosed brat today - because at some point you certainly were one.

So the juvenile Grass may have been a Nazi then, or not. It wouldn't be surprising considering the education system in Germany and the propaganda he must have been exposed to.

Firstly, you cannot ignore his political history as a leftist (that suggests that he did change), and secondly, you also cannot gloss it over with the assertion that a Leftist and a Nazi are so close anyway that it doesn't matter who is exactly what (a false dichotomy, and wilfully sloppy at best), and thirdly, it doesn't negate his argument.

since I grew up in the 1980s in Germany I agree that Grass was a leftist, but to dismiss his argument as the old leftist trope is the same guilt by association smear that MoBo uses, with you also having someone making it for you in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Now, what about the merits of his argument?


I have always said, since Germany is paying for them, I want them for the German Navy, not Israel's.



I think the whole issue of the war service of various aged Germans (Grass, Benedict et al) is ludicrous. Let us not gloss over the criminality of the regime, but let us also remember that their homeland was under assault from every side. That would include the Balts, Hungarians, etc. If someone has evidence of specific crime against civilians or under the law of war, let them speak. Otherwise, be silent. pl


To paraphrase the I Ching - 'those who fight dragons long enough-- become dragons". The Likud is very nearly -if not actually treating the Palestians the same as they were treated in WW 2 . The modern Israeli state is replicating those practices used by the Nazi to oppress the Jews. This need to be said often and out loud - that their is no moral grounds for many of the actions taken by the Isrealis to secure their state . The worst atrocities taken by Abu Mazen or no worse or no better morally then what was done by the Ben Gurion crowd during the Arab expulsions from what is now Israel.
Now the Likud wants to start WW 3 by nuking Iran -(or at least threatening to use WMD on the Persians) . And given the Likuds history why wouldn't Tehran take this loose talk of war seriously?
How is our current support of Isreal making these United States any more safe ?


It feels this is a misleading statement, Renaud, only if you consider the (SPD), the social democratic party extreme, your statement is correct.

One of the few books by Grass I read, is his little booklet From the diary of a snail about his campaign for Willy Brand. Brandt happened to be my generation's spiritual father, but was also called a traitor to the fatherland in some circles.

Do you think Brandt was on the extreme left too? Because of his New Eastern Policy? Do you know the numbers of people killed in WWII, e.g. in Russia? The industrialized and systematic extinction of European Jews surely is at the center of our guilt, but it is not the only guilt we bear.


You grew up in Germany, but aren't German, correct?

I am not anti-American, not a bit, but I surely think that the cold-war allowed Germans to sweep unpleasant matters under the carpet. Would you consider it Anti-American too, if some people here in Germany were highly critical of the acceptance, support and cooperation of the US with people like e.g. Globke in Adenauer's close circles?


Now compare what he did, with Grass' guilt.


This guy could have surrendered at the time Grass' was drafted in Oct. 1944, don't you think? While Grass' may have understood what his training in the Hitler Youth was all about.

Yes, some of his statements feel anti-American to me too, but he seems to assume that Obama will attack anyway, and gave Netanyahu free reign. Here is still hope, this isn't the case. I don't think Grass' understands US politics well enough. He is still very active as an artist, I doubt he has much time to understand US politics more deeply.


I appreciate the information Neil because this is an area of interest to me. My family's history has been affected by the Great Power machinations in area between Germany and Russia for a long time -- even well before WW2. Buffeted by big, dancing, elephants is a sanitary way of saying it. Unfortunately, it led pretty much directly to the horror's of WW1 and WW2 (Modris Eksteins in "Walking Since Daybreak;" and Timothy Snyder in "Bloodlands" cover this depressingly well).

As I said (or tried to say), my views are from a very narrow perspective and limited to my father's situation from the Spring of 1944 till he was gravely wounded in Late September (but miraculously survived). As an aside, the battles in September North of Riga were very, very costly for the Latvian conscripts in their attempt to slow the Soviet advance, but they provided time for my mother (with me, 2 weeks old, and my 3 yr old sister) to escape the Soviet advance. To understand why it was important for her to be able to escape you'd have to talk to all my relatives who were not not so "lucky."

I agree with you that only in the later part of the war beginning in late 1943 in some regions, and definitely by early 1944 in Latvia the Waffen SS inductees were ALL conscripts. Early in the war that may not have been the case.

I was not trying to absolve the Waffen SS of anything in my previous post! All I was saying that near the end of the war the Waffen inductees were conscripts. They were given, as in the Godfather, an offer they could not refuse. This was a situation/story with all sorts of shades of gray, black and red. Not a simple story at all in a discussion of the Waffen SS. What a wretched brand.

Back to the main point -- Gunter Grass! He's 17 yrs old, gets conscripted (did not volunteer), survives intact for only 3 months,is seriously wounded; and then gets chastised 60 years later because he has the moral courage to question German military aid to a nuclear-armed Mid-East belligerent. I don't see the validity of bringing up the Nazi and Hitler argument, as Netanyahu did, in an attempt to discredit Grass's cry for sanity.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad