Home The Red Lorelei of Gunter Grass
Home The Red Lorelei of Gunter Grass

The Red Lorelei of Gunter Grass

A few days after September 11 I saw a quote from Gunter Grass on a Manhattan lamppost. In those dark days, the lampposts and walls that weren't covered in missing persons posters were decorated with the hysterical pamphleteering of the left urging us to blame ourselves for the attacks. The quote has long since been lost to memory, buried under smoke and ash, a green parrot perched on an empty staircase and crowds thronging on foot across the bridge.

The quote itself, like the latest Grassian screed, does not matter. Grass, like Gandhi and King, was one of the favorite go-to guys for the left's sticky sheets of paper. When you want to write a suicide note, then you reach for a line from Sylvia Plath or Emily Dickinson, but when you want to write a national or civilizational suicide note, there's always Gunter Grass.

As a writer, Gunter Grass is a blacksmith, hammering together graceless and shapeless lumps that aren't good for much except hitting people over the head. Take his latest masterpiece which has for a brief shining moment gotten people outside Germany and Sweden to mention his name in conversation. You don't have to know German to recognize that, "Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte" is not exactly Die Lorelei. In a fitting irony the author of the Tin Drum has a tin ear.

Like Die Lorelei's protagonist, Gunter Grass writes about being filled with unnameable emotions, but instead of seeing water nymphs combing their hair while ship captains ram their boats into the rocks, Grass is attempting to impress audiences with his bold struggle against Jewish accusations of bigotry to forewarn us about the threat of the Jewish state.

Netanyahu does not look much like a Rhine Maiden, but there is something about the Jewish state that drives European leftists to crash their ships against the rocks more reliably than any water nymph. No sooner does Israel buy a German submarine, than Gunter Grass leaves off staring at the Rhine Maidens to write a screed denouncing the Jews and their submarines.

Grass is a worse poet than Hitler was a painter and in an asymmetrical competition, the Fuhrer would have to edge out Gunter. But as writers they are both equally bad. "Was Gesagt Werden Muss" is a sort of compressed Mein Kampf, chronicling Gunter Grass' own Kampf in a more concise form. It reeks of the same stylistic inadequacies, the stench of self-righteousness mingled with self-pity. Like Hitler's postcard paintings, it is exactly the sort of tacky art that a Nazi would make.

Like that Austrian scribbling furiously in Landsberg Castle, Grass is all too eager to remind us that this is about him, his sacrifice and his determination to bring the problem to our attention. There is indeed less in "What Must Be Said" about Israel and more about a certain former SS Panzer Division member and his courageous denunciation of hypocrisy, submarines and other world problems. Unlike Hitler, Gunter Grass has not managed to put himself in the title, but he is everywhere else in his poem, and its reception has achieved his goal. Once again everyone is talking about Gunter Grass.

The original title of Hitler's magnum opus was "Viereinhalb Jahre des Kampfes gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit", which you don't need to know German to understand was much too long and self-promoting. Unlike Hitler, Grass doesn't seem to have an editor, which is the only way that you can explain a graceless title like, "Was Gesagt Werden Muss" or the entire horrid structure of tedious line after tedious line, as a man who has received too many literary awards without learning to write, bores you with his angst and self-involvement. 

Being a bad artist or writer, a shameless egotist who hammers his own pedestal and waits for the adoring crowds to gather, does not make one a Nazi. But it doesn't help either. Neither does the  resentment over the war poorly fitted into a pacifist t-shirt which hangs over the paunches of the German and Japanese left. That adds a vindictive tone to their denunciation of American, British and Israeli warmongering. Beneath the pious self-righteousness is the spite of a Villefort who imagines himself a Dantes, a wrongly condemned man who finally has the chance to expose his tormentors as liars and criminals.

Grass, like so much of the German left, sees Nazis everywhere but in the mirror. The only lesson that he and his comrades have drawn is that they were wrong to march right, when they should have marched left. It does not occur to them that they should not have been marching at all and that the marching under red banners was the whole problem to begin with.

On the thirty-first anniversary of Kristallnacht, the progressives of the German terrorist left plotted to bomb a Berlin synagogue where a Kristallnacht commemoration was taking place. They didn't succeed, but their colleagues on Air France Flight 139 did, staging their own Aktzion, separating the Israelis from the non-Israelis and deciding who would go to the left or to the right.

Bose, the leader of the German Entebbe hijackers, who had told the hostages that he was not a Nazi, just an idealist, had proposed assassinating Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. That plot, like bombing a synagogue's Kristallnacht commemoration, seemed more like it might be up a Nazi's alley. Another symptom of how the German left could not help goosestepping right.

The answer to the conundrum and the unspoken thing that Gunter Grass dares not speak of may lie in a letter from the leader of another German leftist terrorist cell, Dieter Kunzelmann, who while sipping coffee with Muslim terrorists in Jordan, wrote home that, "The German left must overcome its Judenknacks" or hangups about Jews. By this little Dieter did not mean that the German left should stop hating Jews, he meant that it should learn to feel good about hating Jews.

Bombing the synagogue on Kristallnacht would help Germany get rid of its "Vorherrschaft des Judenkomplexes“, he wrote, which means something like the Supremacy of the Jewish Neurosis, Bombing a synagogue would help Germans break through their feelings of guilt and emancipate the German left from feeling any hesitation about killing Jews. The provocateurs of the left who had dedicated themselves to the war against bourgeois hangups about orgies and communal property would help break one more wrongheaded bourgeois taboo. Much like an icon of the German left confessing to having served in the SS and writing a poem that features him working out his own "Judenknacks" right on the page.

Gunter Grass is more of a moderate than Dieter Kunzelmann. Rather than tackling the Judenknacks head on by bombing a synagogue on Kristallnacht or shooting Simon Wiesenthal in the head, he takes the hack's route by treading the well worn ground of spinning the wheel of history until the Jews become the new Nazis. They have uniforms don't they, and an army and bombs. Such an observation wouldn't have been all that novel in the seventies, for Grass to pretend that his cowardly whispered take on it is something daring and shocking brands him as a true hack.

Grass volunteered to serve during the war to escape his bourgeois middle-class home like a Peter Pan flying away to a Nazi Neverland. At the age of 85 he is still running away from the bourgeois taboos, whispering headily about his willingness to challenge orthodoxy on that Israel question, like a child mouthing obscenities to awed schoolmates.

But Grass isn't really writing about Israel or about Iran and nuclear submarines. He's writing about his own Kampf against the Judenknacks of the left, it is a self-congratulatory epistle from Gunter to his adoring fans. The Israelis may be offended by it, but it wasn't really meant for them. It was only meant as another display of political courage from Germany's foremost writer, artist, sculptor and housepainter.

You do not come away from "Was Gesagt Werden Muss" having learned anything more about Israel or Iran than you did going in, but you learn something about what a fine fellow that Gunter Grass is, why he dares to say what no one else dares to say as he reclines on his own therapist's couch and achieves a breakthrough in tackling the Vorherrschaft des Judenkomplexes that plagues the left.

Mein Kampf wasn't about the Jews or England and France, it was about what a great man that Adolf is and why you should consider him for dictator for life. The European left's Anti-American and Anti-Semitic hiccups have little to do with the red, white and blue or the blue and white. They have to do with how impressive all the speakers are in taking on the Great Satan and the Little Satan. Down with General Electric, down with the A-Bomb, down with the Synagogue. Up with whoever is shouting through a megaphone about boycotting Israeli walnuts or American rockets.

The current shouter through the megaphone isn't just Grass, it's Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany' Social Democratic Party, a party that Grass has more than a passing affinity for. The elections scheduled for next year will determine a great deal and the attacks on the sale of submarines to Israel are aimed at Chancellor Merkel. Attacking Merkel for pandering to the Jews is a bit of 1930's politics, but that's just part of getting over the Judenknacks.

It's not about the left being Anti-Semitic, it's about it being socially acceptable for the left to be Anti-Semitic. And it's about the "courage" of leftists who dare to take on the bourgeois post-Holocaust hangups and switch them around so that the Jews become the Nazis, the Nazis become the Jews and the Mullahs become the Uberjews. The Jews are irrelevant except as a means for the left to rid itself of all rules and morals on the path to total revolutionary commitment.

In Cologne, Muslims want to distribute a Koran to every household in the country. But too many are still reading from Das Kapital and Mein Kampf. Like the boat captain in Die Lorelei, they can't see the cliff, they are too enraptured by the revolutionary songs of the red Lorelei. The Wagnerian thunder of all the old revolutions reborn again out of the dead earth, spotted with the blood of martyrs, the sharp uncompromising red of revolution.

"Raise high the red flags," the Battle Hymn of National Socialism went, "For German labor we will clear the path to freedom." Those red flags have not changed much since. The Blutfahne, the blood flag covered in the vital fluids of dead Nazis killed during the Beer Hall Putsch under which Nazis swore in new recruits. Or the red flag of Soviet Union memorializing the blood of the martyrs of revolution. Or the red tulips of the Iranian flag which represent the blood of martyrs.

It's all the same in the end. Red faces hiding behind red flags. Red Gunter mixing his poison with sugar, closing the circle of his life even as the international left goes back to smashing Jewish windows and crowds gather with megaphones outside Jewish stores. It's not really about the Jews, it's about the men and women with megaphones who have spent too long looking in mirrors and waiting for the applause to begin.

They are cheering Gunter in Berlin, in Moscow and Tehran, not to mention London, Paris and Boston. Not because he has said anything terribly daring, but because he has thrown a stone at a window. And it isn't the size of the stone, it's the breaking of taboos. And when enough taboos have been broken, then the red flags will freely wave again.


  1. Anonymous11/4/12

    He was a member of the Waffen SS. Of course he was in his 80's before he admitted this. But you are right about him and his "followers". They will forever justify their antisemitism, and their children will justify their parents' antisemitism by explaining that the Jews are horrible people who deserve it. On and on it goes...

  2. The simple approach:
    ......Your an anti-semite? on what reason?........Well I don't know, just hate Jews......
    I'll give you a reason to hate this Jew (hit the bastard in the nose hard)

  3. Altalena11/4/12

    To me it seems there is a growing and absolutely legitimate need in Germany to move on from the feeling of shame and responsibility about the Holocaust. Not from the factual acknowledgment of the responsibility, but the permeating feeling of shame. This is an understandable, timely, and may I say well-deserved, need three generations after the Shoah.

    The danger is that this growing need in German society will be exploited by the Left and channeled into their kind of anti-Zionism, in other words anti-Semitism. If the Left is the only political representation to address this issue, and Zionist Jews in Europe and the government of Israel does not help Germany to put the feeling of shame behind them, this overdrawn shame will turn into resentment and indeed turn into a new anti-Semitism.

    Israel and European Jews must understand this and take the initiative to draw the discussion away from the Holocaust to release Germany from this kind of pressure, and instead turn it into a discussion about the Left. Pretty much how Daniel does in this article.

    But what happens instead is that we get remarks from Lieberman about a "second Holocaust" in context with Grass. And we get the same approach very markedly from Jewish intellectuals in Europe who can't seem to think of a better viewpoint than the Holocaust when condemning Grass, when condemning Western appeasement of Iran, when talking about pretty much anything in present-day European politics. Instead of establishing new alliances (e.g. with the new nationalist movements, think 'Gates of Vienna' for example), the Holocaust symbol puts the whole continent and the whole of Germany under the same unifying condemnation.

    European Jewry and to an extent the Israeli government is playing into the hands of the Left by repeating the same analogy of the Holocaust over and over again. We need to see how present-day politics in Europe differs from 70 years ago and find new metaphors to express what is wrong in the continent. The problem with Grass is not that he was in Waffen SS, the problem is here and now with the Leftist post-colonial narrative, the victimization of Muslim terrorists, etc. Certainly it has its roots in the past but the Holocaust should not be the ultimate symbol we always resort to. It has become counterproductive, and what's more, there is a much better narrative instead to focus on the political Left.

    1. Kyra Nelson11/4/12

      Why is it my responsibility to help Germans get rid of their shame???? If they want to get rid of it it is up to them to act in a different manner at each new opportunity. They don't so I don't give a sh*t about all that inconvenient messy guilt. Now let me go eat my matzah.

  4. Anonymous11/4/12

    @altalena - Agreed.

    I see Israel and the Jews as allies of Germany and the Germans.
    I see Zionism as nationalism for Jews.
    And I see Germany greatly in need of German nationalism, German Zionism.
    Because today they both have a common enemy, the Left, and the wrecking ball of the Left, islam.

    If Israel and Germany looked to the future they would be allies in the fight against islam and the Left, and allies in the promotion of the idea of the nation state as opposed to the "one world government" of the Left.

    The nation state should be the fundamental building block of the world just like the family should be the fundamental building block of the state.
    Israel and Germany wouild both benefit from working together to promote the legitimacy of the idea of the nationalist ethnostate.
    The alternative is the destruction of both countries by islam and then the final victory of the "one world government" of the Left.

  5. Altalena11/4/12

    For one thing, Germany has truly earned its historic rehabilitation in the past decades, I don't think there can be much debate about that. They have come very far, indeed a bit too far and have fallen into the grip of the Left in their self-humiliation.
    The reason Israel needs to help them is because in this new situation the old narrative of the Holocaust guilt doesn't work anymore, it has become obsolete. There will be a new narrative and Israel should try to influence what that will be.

    History is understood through stories that have morals, this is simply how our cognition works, and whoever is giving a society a more compelling story is winning the hearts and minds of people.
    Israel is in an ideological race with the political Left as to whose narrative will capture more hearts in the world. The Left has a very powerful weapon with their narrative of universal brotherhood, it seems very moral, very progressive. Superficially it seems the right idea to pursue. (In fact it isn't, it is immoral and deadly, but that understanding needs a more detailed analysis of the narrative.)

    In this Leftist myth, Israel is a hindrance to world peace and to universal brotherhood with its Zionism, with the so-called oppression of the victimized Palestinians, etc. If this narrative connects with the German need of overcoming their Holocaust shame, it will provide Germany with a story where their feeling of disgrace will appear to be the fault of Zionist Jews, and it will turn into anti-Semitism.

    Someone has to offer a different narrative to Germany. The need to overcome their disgrace can be redirected into a new nationalist German movement where a proud Germany is in alliance with Israel against the anti-nationalist, destructive Left.
    But this hardly happens by itself, political institutions or governments will have to do it, or at least help it along. The Left has a popular narrative - if Israel does not, it will lose the ideological race.

  6. @Vlad: Absolutely.

  7. Anonymous11/4/12

    This is worth watching

    The legacy of socialism


    The evils of communism/socialism have been known since the 70′s. The sheer scale of the holocaust perpetrated by the communists has no parallel in history. That too is well known. Yet the MSM, and in particular the standard bearer, the BBC, a hive of well paid socialists, has never ever addressed it, in the fullness, and time, that such a despicable ideology should have been.

    What this lecture does very well is its condemnation of the The Big Holocaust (150 million people massacred), perpetrated by the communists/socialists/Left, as well as the silence of the supposedly objective academia and MSM. It does so with restrained anger. The entire world should be made aware of the genocidal crimes of the communists/socialists, when they achieve power. The lesson should be repeated every five years for the next crop of young people.

  8. Anonymous11/4/12

    I don't think Jews should forgive Amalek, not now, not in the future not ever. By the way it is all semantics, right, left and in between, it all comes down to assimilation, self de-judaization, wanting to be one with the "world" when G-d made us separate in all ways. Even our terrible Holocaust the loss of 1/3rd of our nation is being used to hit us on our collective heads. In the end we will probably see it because there will be no choice, but at what price?

  9. The problem is that European nationalists are still in a state of chaos.

    The Nazis were arguably pseudo-nationalists, angling for a continental superstate based on a dubious notion of an Aryan race with heavy doses of socialism, but that past still characterizes some elements of the European right, sizable chunks of which dragged themselves in afterward.

    Chunks of the right still have their own Jewish obsessions that they can't let go of. That's more of a problem in America, but it's still an issue in Europe.

    The rise of a rational right might be the only thing that could save Europe.

    The core issue is not whether Jews and Germans get along, no more than it is whether the English and the Irish get along, it's recognizing the larger threat.

    There's a lot of ugly history all throughout Europe. People have the right to their own history and their own story. And that really is what this is about.

    The fight against the left and Islam is the resistance to those who would impose a collective outside narrative, eliminating cultures, nations and religions.

  10. As an addendum, I don't think it's the Holocaust that haunts Germany, it's more of a convenient explanation.

    Post-WW2 Germany is haunted by the same things that haunted post-WW1 Germany and Post WW2 Japan. Americans have had a small taste of that after Vietnam.

    The Holocaust in Germany lends moral grandeur to what would otherwise be a disastrous military adventure that ended with massive death and destruction at home.

    Germany is "getting over" the Holocaust to the extent that it needs getting over, but it's likely to continue repeating the past and its 20th century history with disastrous results. Not the simplistic swastika flags version, but the grand experiments.

    The EU is arguably a thin repetition of the same follies.

  11. Anonymous11/4/12


    I DISAGREE 100% with you. The german "shame for the Shoah" is such an hypocrisy. Of course I know I am generalizing with this, and I'm sorry if I offend any german who thinks it differently, but my opinion is that the german mentality is fertile ground for national socialism. Germans are fervent statists and civil servants. For them state is above family. To this add their strong attachment to the "heim" (homeland) and obsession for rules and regulations and you get an incubator for certain ideas. "Ideology" is also something that lurks quite deep in the entire middle eurasia, meaning germany and russia. And ideology is very dangerous weapon.

    In germany is a total taboo to even think about the holocaust. Because of sense of shame? Maybe. For some. But left and extreme right have too good synergy in germany (even if silently and sneakly) in hating the Jews (and the other "tribes" like the italians and the greeks). I think the incredibly lousy "intellectual" Herr Grass represents many of these "guilty but not really" types.

    German "rehabilitation" is bogus in my opinion, actually in big part of europe jew-hatred is just dorment.

    Israel and the Jews should relieve the germans from their sense of guilt? Sorry? Was this a joke? Like the "holocaust is obsolete"? Sure: soon it will be revised and it will become the biggest hoax of history. Is the explosion of holocaus denial "scientific documentaries" on youtube a plot to release sense of guilt? I guess so.

    Daniel 100% right here: "Germany is "getting over" the Holocaust to the extent that it needs getting over, but it's likely to continue repeating the past and its 20th century history with disastrous results. Not the simplistic swastika flags version, but the grand experiments.

    The EU is arguably a thin repetition of the same follies."


  12. Altalena -
    no German who didn't put Jews in the ovens has any reason for shame.

    trhe real reason any Jewhaters feel shame about the Holocaust is because they want to put Jews in the ovens but know it is wrong to do so. But they cannot rid themselves of this hatred/desire and so they feel shame.

    No German - or anyone else for that matter - who is a true human being needs to be ashamed in their present life.
    They do, however, need to be vigilant and prevent it happening again.

    However, Europe's go-to repsonse in any crisis or temper tantrum is to blame/massacre Jews.

    That's their problem, and Jews do not need to feel ashamed about anything.

    Pressure Germany? Please. There is no pressure by Jews on Germany, and by saying Jews should not discuss the Holocaust, is to, in effect, forbid them from remembering the dead.
    Again, NO OTHER PEOPLE is told to forget their dead, their culture, or themselves.
    Only the Jews.

    I'm not a fan of wallowing in the Big H. But Jews are not the ones pressing the matter. It's antiSEmites constantly whinging about Israel being set up to compensate for the Holocaust (a lie) and antiSemites constanly complaining about the presence of Jews.
    You know what?

    It's their problem, and our job is to stop them making their problem our problem.
    If seeing living Jews is such a problem for them, let thenm peacefully kill themselves and have done.
    Meanwhile, normal non-Jews, who are normal people who have no problem with Jews, can flourish and good luck to them.
    We don't need the others and the world does not need the others.

  13. Altalena - the Left has infiltrated EVERY democracy, and every democracy ois suffering and being subjected to anti-Semitic agitations in different forms according to the country.
    They all need to divest themselves of this poison, not just Germany.


Post a Comment

You May Also Like