UMD history professor Herf reacts to Gunter Grass' new poem criticizing Israel.

By Jeffrey Herf, The New Republic

This week, the editors of theSüddeutsche 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.

Grass wrote that “my origin” in Germany is “laden with a never to be overcome burden,” namely the crimes of the Nazi regime against the Jews, and that he had therefore been “silent” about the policies of Israel, “a country to which I am bound and will remain bound.” But, Grass explained, he was now willing to break that silence and say that the “nuclear power Israel” threatens world peace—because if he waited any longer to speak out “it could be too late.”

Suggesting that Israel was contemplating a “first strike” with nuclear weapons against Iran—which “could extinguish the Iranian people”—and that a submarine which Israel had received, or will receive, from Germany would be used for such a first strike, Grass said that Germany could be “deliverer of a crime” and would thus share in the guilt of this possible crime. He criticized the German government for providing the submarine, “whose specialty consists in the ability to deliver all-annihilating warheads to a country in which the existence of even a single atom bomb remains unproven.”