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Gunter Grass poem English translation What must be said

Stories and News No. 428

What must be said

Why did I remain silent, silent so long,
about something so clear we used
in war games, where, as survivors,
we are just the footnotes?

That is the claimed right to the formal preventive aggression
which could erase the Iranian people
dominated by a bouncer and moved to an organized jubilation,
because in the area of his competence there is
the construction of the atomic bomb.

And then why do I avoid myself
to call the other country with its name,
where since years – even if secretly covered -
there is an increasing nuclear power,
without control, because unreachable
by every inspection?

I feel the everybody silence on this state of affairs,
which my silence is slave to,
as an oppressive lie and an inhibition that presents punishment
we don’t pay attention to;
the verdict “anti-Semitism” is common.

Now, since my country,
from time to time touched by unique and exclusive crimes,
obliged to justify itself,
again for pure business aims - even if
with fast tongue we call it “reparation” -
should deliver another submarine to Israel,
with the specialty of addressing
annihilating warheads where the
existence of one atomic bomb is not proved
but it wants evidence as a scarecrow,
I say what must be said.

Why did I stay silent until now?
Because the thought about my origin,
burdened by an unclearing stain,
had avoiding to wait this fact
like a truth declared by the State of Israel
that I want to be connected to.

Why did I say it only now,
old and with the last ink:
the nuclear power of Israel
threat the world peace?
Because it must be said
what tomorrow will be too late;
Because - as Germans and with
enough faults on the back -
we might also become deliverers of a predictable
crime, and no excuse would erase our complicity.

And I admit: I won’t be silent
because I had enough of the Western hypocrisy;
Because I wish that many will want
to get rid of the silence,
exhorting the cause of a recognizable
risk to the abdication, asking that a free and permanent control
of the Israel atomic power
and the Iran nuclear bases
will be made by both the governments
with an international supervision.

Only in this way, Israelis, Palestinians, and everybody,
all people living hostile face to face in that
country occupied by the craziness,
will have a way out,
so us too.

Translation by Alessandro Ghebreigziabiher

The News (Haaretz): German Nobel laureate Gunter Grass' new poem: Nuclear Israel is a threat to world peace.

Read other Stories with morals


  1. Oh, don't you know that any time you question any act by the state of Israel, regardless of how unlawful, or ruthless that act may be, you are guilty of the crime of "anti-semitism". Why does the German nation prostrate itself so, for a lie.

    1. What act unlawful act has been commited? Oh did you mean the Isaraeli suicide bombers going into Palestine? Did you mean the attempt to stop a Flotilla of terrorists that eneded in Israeli deaths. Germany should speak up against actual violations when they happen. The mouth peice should not be a former Waffen SS however. That generation has to stand in the corner on this subject. They stood by while others died in secret and pretended their naighbors where just on a train trip out of town.

  2. o fine. but until there will be "mutual supervision" we shall still have to be stronger, and perhaps use german post-nazi tax-payers money to defend ourselves, the survivors of their death-camps.
    we're the real danger to the world? sure, and now excuse me, I have to go and add the christian boy's blood to my Matses...

    1. For five thousand years you.could not get along with your neighbors, why should today be any different

  3. noting should be said. it s best to shut up.......
    it s very dangerous to talk against israel.

    you may get lost, you may commit suicide, you may fell down from the balcony. you may get labeled as a child molestor. etc.

    be very carefull. better watch what you say.

    after the second world war. jews created this new germany.

    german goverment and their legal system will be for the jews against you.

  4. Iran has to be broken not because of its alleged nuclear ambitions, but because, since the trashing of Iraq, it is the only remaining obstacle to USrael's absolute domination of the entire Middle East.

  5. "What must be said" is an objective stance against all nuclear war possibilities.

  6. Of course it is crime to say the truth and only the truth!

    But thi time is different! Most of the mankind are tired of the hypocrisy. Anti Semitism has been cheapened by the very people it was suppose to defend

  7. They want to attack Iran, because Iran has oil. every one know the reason is oil not bomb!

  8. Alaaddin al-DhahirApril 6, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    Why should Israel or Jews be above criticism? Israel is a threat to peace wheather you agree with Grass or not. Isreal is a foreign body in the Arab world and will remain so. If Israelis want peace, they should at least accept and apply ALL UN resolutions and withdraw to 1967 borders.

    1. I see. So you want to see this "foreign body" expelled or "exterminated, if you will.

      I see you hint at the usual Nazi verbiage -- Jews as a "VIRUS" -- that's what you mean by foreign body, correct? At least you didn't compare Jews to "rats" scurrying around. Well, not here anyway.

      Of course, Islam has a proud history of Nazi collaboration during WW2 in the Balkans. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem , Muhammed Amin al-Husseini, spent the war as Hitler’s special guest in Berlin, advocating the extermination of Jews in radio broadcasts back to the Middle East and recruiting Balkan Muslims for infamous SS “mountain divisions” that tried to wipe out Jewish communities throughout the region.

      Coincidentally Gunter Grasse was also a member of the Waffen SS. Maybe they met!

      400 million Arabs. 1200 million Muslims. And they're still obsessed with killing Jews.

    2. Most middle class Americans agree with grasse glad some one said it . Does israel have nuclear weapons ? the un should go into israel and inspect there facilities to see if there is really WMD's there . To put all this to rest , I'm interested in knowing if its true . My displeasure with israel is they threaten war and gas at the pumps goes up .50 cents usf overnight. Do the math . Times every third american by 10 gallons of gas ( low ball ) per week ( just the price increase of .50 ) I am just trying to pay my bills and raise my children . if my neighbor did something to transgress against me or my family I would not tell him I was going to punch him in the eye ,I would just do it . but I have to weigh the possibility that he's gonna punch me back in the eye, so the conclusion is .

  9. Europe's bad faith is perfectly revealed by this poem with its incessant "I"s revealing its narcisstic self-contempt and rage. This is not about Isearl or Iran. It is about a dying civilization that cannot recover from the horror it perpetrated and only entangles itself further in that horror in its efforts to escape -- perfectly expressed here by one who also never honestly disentangled himself from that same horror.

    1. look in the mirror Jon. At least Germany's sins are, thankfully, in the past - other than selling arms to current human rights violators as Grass points out. Palestine, however, is an entire nation that resembles a WWII death camp and you can not point the finger at europe for this ongoing tragedy. These sins are in the present. "Preventive war" of agression is a threat to the future. The past is important but the present and future is much more important. Look at yourself first Jon.

    2. Well said, Zionism is an acronym for Fascism!

  10. Just shows, you can take the Gunter Grasse out of the Waffen SS Panzer division, but you can't take the SS out of the Grasse.

    Regarding his "poetry" (really just the same old Jew hate from former member of the SS) I assume it's from a collection entitled The Tin Ear.

    1. Grass has been an outspoken critic of Antisemitism, nationalism and warfare for over six decades. I get the impression a lot of people here have no idea what they are talking about!!

  11. Just consider this poem as freedom of expression , every human being entitled to give his/her opinion

  12. this is another western hypocrisy turns around different way ... ... ...

    1. Freedom of speech is not a hypocrisy , It is a pride of our western society

  13. Many thanks for giving us what we most need to know: the work in question. I'm 69, a long-time published poet and prose writer in the USSA [sic], Kanada [sic], and the UK. Most of the prizes and awards I've won were for my poetry; this background is so you know that I'm pretty sure I know a poem when I read one.

    I'm also that very rare item, the first-born of Italian immigrants who came over to escape Mussolini's fascism. So we know a fascist when we see one.

    Günter Grass is not a fascist, nor is he a communist. He is a human being who experienced the insane inhumanity of war, and spent his life writing to ensure that those of us who haven't known those horrors are at least aware of the acts that take us there.

    The comments I've read here range from utterly inane stupidity to profound insights of this poem and its author's wider meanings.

    [Inadvertent break in writing the rest, as I hit the 'return' key by accident.]

    I'd written much more that I feel was both relevant and useful to this discussion, but now my swollen hands and the demands of having to attend to my contracting business force me to break this off. Perhaps I can return later tonight.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response to this poem. In the posts above I see a lot of the usual rhetoric: any criticism of Israeli government policies is anti-semitic (I really wish they'd consulted the dictionary before fixating on this label).
      I can and do criticize my own Canadian Government and other governments around the world, without being called names, why should I be labelled as a hater just because I disapprove of the Israeli Government's policy towards the Palestinians?
      BTW I do hate, I hate any and all bombs be they atomic or improvised.
      I think Mr Glass has said openly something that many people believe and needs to be commended not vilified.

  14. It was great emotional topic and the translation was super. Leaving back the giants, today no Federal is worried regarding any issues as simply the answer is quite and only one – NUCLEAR !!! The history will speak out the tales and the geography lies with a smooth communication between each one to make the globe exist along with all other planets. There is no need to follow any footnotes…as a millions born every second.
    German English Translator


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