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An Open Letter to Gunter Grass

Herr Günter Grass:

By now you must be tired of hearing how shameful it is for a former SS man to denounce Israel as a threat to world peace at a time when the government of Iran (among others) publicly threatens to annihilate the Jewish state. It is obscene to suggest, as you did in your diatribe "What Must Be Said," that Israel might "annihilate the Iranian people." Now that we have that out of the way, I would to set you straight about your own country's tragedy. It's all your fault. Well, perhaps not exactly your fault, but the fault of your way of thinking and of people who thought like you. I am not talking about your enthusiastic service to the Nazis.  I am going to surprise you.

People tend to forget that you hate Germany and the Germans almost as much as you hate Israel and the Jews. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the disgusting German Democratic Republic collapsed, you will recall, you pleaded with your government to give this monster another lease on life — not to reunify Germany, but to keep the GDR intact. As I used to tell my German friends before Wiedervereinigung, if you Germans had been as smart as us Jews, you would have gotten your own national homeland right after the war, like we did. But you hate the Germans so much that you did not want them together in a single state. That doesn't make us Jews feel any better, but your consistency is duly noted.

You did in fact offer an original solution to the postwar problem of being German in The Tin Drum,  and that is never to grow past the age of three. Your protagonist Oskar Matzerath is a freak whose "mental development is complete at birth," and who decides to remain two-and-a-half feet tall for the rest of his life. In this absurd condition, Oskar encounters the horrors of the Second World War like an undersized Simplicissimus, leaving death and madness around him. I never finished your book; I think I stopped after Oskar's mother killed herself by eating the most disgusting fish in the world.

Refusing to grow up is one possible response to the horrors of Nazism for which you enthused as a teenager. I grant that this became a popular solution in the postwar Federal Republic of Germany, where morbid self-obsession replaced a tarnished patriotism, and hedonism replaced family responsibilities. Nonetheless there are many grown-up things about today's Germany, including its skill at building silent and deadly electro-diesel submarines, of which Israel has three, with three more on order. They can be equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The German "complicity" of which you complained consists of providing Israel with a second strike capability. Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the real grown-ups among world leaders, and her concern for Israel's security is a matter of record.