Grass’ Gaffe

Political Thinking Shouldn’t Be Left to Novelists

Why do people continue to stubbornly believe that novelists have anything special to contribute to political matters? As German Nobel laureate Günter Grass has repeatedly shown, just because you can come up with pleasant stories doesn’t mean that will translate to sage political thinking.

A Commentary By Jan Fleischhauer

Let’s imagine for a moment an aging writer of a conservative political bent mentioning the murder of Europe’s Jews and the liquidation of German soldiers in the same context in an interview with an Israeli newspaper as well as mixing up the relevant numbers. Instead of discussing the 1 million German soldiers who died in Soviet POW camps, he suddenly puts the figure at 6 million, the figure more commonly given for the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

One doesn’t need much imagination to envision how the enlightened public would react to this writer’s math. Under normal circumstances, the man’s career as someone with political statements to be taken seriously would be over. But, in this case, the man behind the strange Holocaust math was none other than legendary German writer and Nobel Prize laureate Günter Grass, who made the statements in an interview published by Haaretz on Aug. 26 on the eve of the publication of the Hebrew translation of his autobiographical book "Peeling the Onion," which had been published five years ago in Germany and sparked a massive debate here because of Grass’ revelations he had been a member of the Nazi Waffen-SS .

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Nobel Prize-winning German author Günter Grass participates in an anti-nuclear protest in front of an atomic power plant in April.  DPA

Nobel Prize-winning German author Günter Grass participates in an anti-nuclear protest in front of an atomic power plant in April.

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