Nobel Prize winner author Günter Grass, whose harsh attacks on Israel and Jews have led to his being banned from entering Israel, was asked not to visit the synagogue in Gdansk, his birthplace.
On Saturday the Gdansk Municipal Gallery will celebrate Günter Grass’ 85th birthday with an exhibition of his paintings headlined “Watercolors.” Grass is also scheduled to visit the Municipal Theatre in Gdynia, to attend a performance of a play based on his work. He will tour the city of his childhood, so colorfully depicted, along with the surrounding region, in his novel “The Flounder.”
But the Jews of Gdansk aren’t impressed.
“We wish Günter Grass a very fruitful and pleasant stay in Gdansk,” Michal Samet, chairman of the Jewish Community in Gdansk, told the Gazeta Wyborcza. “There are so many wonderful places in Gdansk, the city has more than a 1,000-year history; certainly he will have a lot of things to see here. He was in our synagogue once, five years ago, and I think that would be enough.”
Earlier this year, Grass published his poem “What Must Be Said,” which condemned the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel for agreeing to subsidize the sale of additional submarines “from my country” to Israel “justified as reparations.”
The 85-year-old leftist author said in his poem that he worried that Israel “could wipe out the Iranian people” with a “first strike” due to the threat it perceives in the Iranian nuclear program.
“Why do I only say now, aged and with my last ink: the atomic power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace?” asks Grass, and answers that Nazi Germany’s “incomparable” crimes against Jews and his own fear of accusations of anti-Semitism have kept him from openly criticizing the Jewish State.
Except that, according to Grass, “tomorrow could already be too late” and Germany could become a “supplier to a crime” – a reference to the sale last month of a sixth German-made nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine to Israel.
“I admit: I will be silent no longer, because I am sick of the hypocrisy of the West,” wrote Grass.
In 2006, Grass admitted in an interview that he had joined the Waffen-SS as a teenager at the end of World War II, and was accused at the time of having hidden the truth for decades while at the same time pointing the finger at others for hiding their Nazi past.
JTA contributed to this article.