Berlin: Anti-Semites Everywhere

Posted on August 22, 2006


by michael scott moore

Utter malicious nonsense about Günter Grass can be read here, here, and (for old time’s sake) here. Normally I like Hermann the German’s blog, but he leads the pack with a sentence that sums up the posturing of the peanut gallery: “One of the leading German Gutmenschen of the past two centuries, Günter Grass somehow forgot to mention in the last one that he was also bad once, too.”

Exactly wrong. What makes Grass more than just a “big time important writer” is the fact that he never pretended to be an innocent bystander under Hitler. “In Marienbad, on May 8 [1945],” he wrote last year, in an essay that surprised exactly none of his readers, “I was a naïve 17-year-old who had believed in the ultimate victory right to the end. Those who had survived the mass murder in the German concentration camps could regard themselves as liberated, although they were in no physical condition to enjoy their freedom. But for me it was not the hour of liberation; rather, I was beset by the empty feeling of humiliation following total defeat.” Grass, and most of Germany.

He went on to write uncomfortable novels that dramatized for a nation how the humiliation and profound unexpiated guilt might be dealt with — what it looked like, and what it might take to live again like a person. These are achievements most of the peanut gallery now going “Nyah-nyah” can only dream about. (Unless they’d prefer an unrehabilitated Germany. Some of them don’t think Iraq looks so bad.)

Grass kept the detail about the SS out of his official biography — which, I agree, is hypocritical — but it’s just kneejerk silliness to argue that he’s erased his work by keeping it secret. I’m so upset about this because readers have landed on Radio Free Mike searching for “Günter Grass Against Israel” — as if, now that the cat’s out of the bag, we can get the real goods on this oh-so-moral and inconvenient “anti-Nazi” and prove to the world that he’s really an anti-Semite, because, you know, he’s said bad things against globalism, and America, and he voted for Gerhard Schröder, and everyone knows that everyone on the left is a dirty anti-Semitic opportunist who just wants Israel to go away so the Communists can come back and rule the world with terrorists.

If your thinking inclines this way you can join Poland’s new leadership — speaking of anti-Semites — and pound the populist tin drum. This is not to defend everything Grass ever did or said. V.S. Naipaul is smarter than Grass on terrorism, for example. But the tone of the new criticism is amazing. (And it’s not restricted to the right; check out Brad DeLong’s idiotic post in the old-time’s-sake link above.) People have no idea who the good guys are anymore.

Image via BBC