Jeffrey Herf: The Odious Musings of Gunter GrassRoundup: Historians' Take
Jeffrey Herf, a professor of modern European history at the University of Maryland in College Park, is the author most recently of Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.
This week, the editors of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal Munich newspaper, published a diatribe—in the form of a poem—by the well-known German author Gunter Grass. Entitled “Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”), the poem denounced a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities....
The poem is, to put it bluntly, morally obtuse and politically embarrassing. Having reversed the arrows of causation, Grass says nothing about the hatred of Israel that the Iranian regime has publicly expressed since 1979, about its specific threats to “wipe it off the map” in the past decade, or the vicious Jew-hatred that is a steady diet of its propaganda. Apparently he has not read the most recent reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency that confirm Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons. Nor does Grass understand that the purpose of missile-carrying submarines is to ensure the credibility of a second strike should Iran or any other power attack Israel first. These submarines are essential for a stable system of deterrence. No Israeli leader has spoken about delivering a first strike with nuclear weapons that would “extinguish” the Iranian people. All of this comes from a man who was “silent” for five decades of his very successful literary career about the fact that as a young man he was a member of the Waffen SS at the end of World War II....
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