Support for Günter Grass takes center stage at German anti-war protests

Demonstrators praise author for his criticism of Israel

Günter Grass (photo credit: AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
Günter Grass (photo credit: AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Demonstrators took to the streets in cities throughout Germany Saturday in a round of anti-war protests. Many used the occasion to show their support for author Günter Grass, who came under fire this week for a new poem that is highly critical of Israel.

Protesters in Berlin, Stuttgart and other cities shouted slogans like “Günter Grass, you are right. Thank you!” reported Voice of Israel radio.

In the poem, published in European dailies earlier this week, the 84-year-old German author criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel’s nuclear program, and he labeled the country a threat to an “already fragile world peace” over its stance on Iran.

Earlier Saturday, a high-ranking Iranian official said in a letter that Grass’ poem is a revelation of “truth that may awaken the silent conscience” of the West. The semi-official Fars news agency posted the letter on its website.

Grass was widely criticized by Israeli officials for the new poem, particularly in light of his recently-acknowledged past as part of the Waffen-SS during World War II.

The Nobel laureate has been accused this week of anti-Semitism, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuked his views as “ignorant and objectionable.”

In an interview published Saturday by the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Grass explained that he was criticizing the Jewish state’s government, not the country as a whole. He said he sought foremost to single out the policies of “Netanyahu’s current government.”

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