German minister calls Israel’s treatment of Gunter Grass an overreaction

Danny Bahr also criticizes the poet for being prejudiced and stubborn

German Health Minister Danny Bahr (photo credit: Michael Dedeke)
German Health Minister Danny Bahr (photo credit: Michael Dedeke)

A day after Israel declared German poet Gunter Grass a persona non grata, Germany’s Health Minister Danny Bahr accused Israel of “an extreme overreaction.” In an interview with the German daily Die Welt on Monday, Bahr said that he cannot imagine Grass having any interest in ever coming to Israel, considering the views that he expressed.

Bahr also had harsh words for the Nobel laureate poet, saying that it is “sad to see that someone who has experienced all the controversies of postwar Germany remains marked by so much prejudice and stubbornness.”

On Sunday, Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai cited a law allowing the Interior Ministry to bar entry to former Nazis to keep Grass, 84, out of Israel. Grass served in the SS at the end of WWII.

“Grass’s poems are attempts to incite hatred towards the state and the people of Israel, and in doing so, promote the ideology to which he gave expression when he wore the SS uniform,” said Yishai in a statement. “If he wants to carry on dispersing his warped and hateful works, I propose that he does so in Iran, where they will have a favorable audience.”

The furor began last week with the publication of Grass’s poem, which chastises Israel for “threatening world peace” and seeking to “annihilate” the Iranian nation. The poem asserts that it is Israel, and not Iran, that threatens world peace with its nuclear program.

The poem has elicited emotional responses in Israel and Germany, with much of the criticism making note of Grass’s SS service.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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