SFSC: What must be said – Poem by Gunter Grass, translation by Michael Keefer & Nica Mintz

What must be said

Günter Grass

Why have I kept silent, silent for too long
over what is openly played out
in war games at the end of which we
the survivors are at best footnotes.

It’s that claim of a right to first strike
against those who under a loudmouth’s thumb
are pushed into organized cheering—
a strike to snuff out the Iranian people
on suspicion that under his influence
an atom bomb’s being built.

But why do I forbid myself
to name that other land in which
for years—although kept secret—
a usable nuclear capability has grown
beyond all control, because
no scrutiny is allowed.

The universal silence around this fact,
under which my own silence lay,
I feel now as a heavy lie,
a strong constraint, which to dismiss
courts forceful punishment:
the verdict of “Antisemitism” is well known.

But now, when my own country,
guilty of primal and unequalled crimes
for which time and again it must be tasked—
once again, in pure commerce,
though with quick lips we declare it
reparations, wants to send
Israel yet another submarine—
one whose speciality is to deliver
warheads capable of ending all life
where the existence of even one
nuclear weapon remains unproven,
but where suspicion serves for proof—
now I say what must be said.

But why was I silent for so long?
Because I thought my origin,
marked with an ineradicable stain,
forbade mention of this fact
as definite truth about Israel, a country
to which I am and will remain attached.

Why is it only now I say,
in old age, with my last drop of ink,
that Israel’s nuclear power endangers
an already fragile world peace?
Because what by tomorrow might be
too late, must be spoken now,
and because we—as Germans, already
burdened enough—could become
enablers of a crime, foreseeable and therefore
not to be eradicated
with any of the usual excuses.

And admittedly: I’m silent no more
because I’ve had it with the West’s hypocrisy
—and one can hope that many others too
may free themselves from silence,
challenge the instigator of known danger
to abstain from violence,
and at the same time demand
a permanent and unrestrained control
of Israel’s atomic power
and Iranian nuclear plants
by an international authority
accepted by both governments.

Only thus can one give help
to Israelis and Palestinians—still more,
all the peoples, neighbour-enemies
living in this region occupied by madness
—and finally, to ourselves as well.

“Was gesagt werden muss” published in Süddeutschen Zeitung (4 April 2012)
Translation by Michael Keefer of the Seriously Free Speech Committee and Nica Mintz

One Response to SFSC: What must be said – Poem by Gunter Grass, translation by Michael Keefer & Nica Mintz

  1. What’s the big deal anyway? The poem does not pick sides and criticizes the Iranians as well as the Israelis.
    I am so sick of it the “No criticism allowed”-policy of Israel’s politicians. Israel is always screaming “Foul” and accuses the person of being antisemitic -or in case it is a German then he/she is branded as a Nazi. Then usually the Jewish Lobby in the U.S. will reinforce it in the media. It’s like someone would be called a racist just for criticizing the Obama administration. That is nuts right?!

    FYI Germany is financing Israel’s wars for years. Just recently the German government has subsidized four nuclear submarines for the Israelis.
    This poem was written because the author Mr. Grass fears the danger of a nuclear war. He questions the right of the country Israel for a nuclear first strike to annihilate the people of Iran just for a bad feeling that there MIGHT be a nuclear weapons program going on. (Like the big lie of “weapons of mass destruction” in Afghanistan you all fell for.) Mr. Grass also says that by questioning Israel one is automatically branded as an anti-semitic. (Which BTW totally happened!!) Mr. Grass is afraid Germany could participate in a future wrongdoing, where we later can’t say that we haven’t already known. He wants to achieve that both countries nuclear program is inspected/supervised by an international authority that is approved by BOTH countries Israel and Iran.

    IS THAT REALLY SUCH A BAD THING? Why do so many people twist the facts and make Mr. Grass look anti-semitic? He has a point! I pray that the people in the Mideast will one day live peacefully without suppression and wars again.
    I am with the author and believe that it isn’t the right solution to add fuel to the fire!