Published in Covenant, Volume 1, Issue 2 (April 2007 / Iyar 5767)
Abstract: In August 2006, the German writer and Nobel laureate Günter Grass caused a media-quake of major proportions when he revealed that he had served in the SS. While the ensuing controversy pushed the debate about the war between Israel and Hezbollah into the background, both issues once again brought up the problematic legacy of a past that, reflecting postmodern preferences, is increasingly viewed as a “grand narrative” structured in terms of “victims” and “perpetrators.” Highlighting a casual remark of Grass about his supposedly first encounter with racism as an American POW and his failure to break his silence when he accepted the offer of an honorary doctoral degree from an Israeli college, the article explores how Europe’s “grand narrative” shapes the European discourse about Israel and the Middle East.
At the end of 2006, the Guardian’s Berlin correspondent noted that Germans would remember the year “for just one rather marvelous thing–the World Cup.”  Under the title “The War is Over”, the article highlighted some of the World Cup’s aspects that doubtlessly were appreciated even by those (relatively few) Germans who couldn’t care less about football: the country had shown for all the world to see that it had emerged from the shadows of its past–Germans could wave their flag and cheer their national team without projecting anything but a harmless, infectious enthusiasm for a popular sport.
Among the fans watching the World Cup was the famous German author and Nobel laureate Günter Grass. The almost 80-year-old writer had just finished his latest book, an autobiographical work about his youth that was due to be published a few weeks after the World Cup. He had also been offered an honorary doctoral degree from an Israeli college, and in between watching the World Cup matches and reading the proofs for his book, he made time to meet the representatives of Netanya Academic College.
It was reportedly a pleasant meeting that took place at Grass’s home near Lübeck in northern Germany. The Nobel laureate told his guests that he was happy to accept the honor offered to him and that he looked forward to visit Israel for an official ceremony that would be organized by the college. But Günter Grass did not tell his guests what he would tell an interviewer a few weeks later: his forthcoming autobiography Peeling the Onion would reveal a secret that he had kept for more than sixty years. The secret was a most unexpected one from a man like Grass who had spent a lifetime speaking out passionately about the need for Germans to face up to their Nazi past. The secret was that Günter Grass himself had kept silent for more than sixty years about his own service in the SS. Continue reading