Gunter Grass, Red Flags and Anti-Semitism

Another love poem from the European Left.

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 unnamable 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.

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 left or 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 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 whispered take on it is something daring and shocking brands him as a true hack.

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.

"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 supposedly 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.

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.

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