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Grass Compares Israel to Myanmar, East Germany After Entry Ban

Guenter Grass
Guenter Grass, author of "Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum)." Source: Steidl Verlag via Bloomberg

Guenter Grass, the Nobel Prize winning author of “The Tin Drum,” compared the ban on his entering Israel to his treatment by dictatorships in Myanmar and East Germany in an article for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

On April 8, Interior Minister Eli Yishai declared Grass persona non grata and barred him from entering Israel, after Germany’s best-known living writer published a poem calling the nation’s nuclear capacity a threat to world peace.

“I have been denied entry into a country three times,” Grass wrote in the short article, which was pre-released by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung before its publication tomorrow. He compared the wording of Yishai’s ruling to the tone of his ban by Erich Mielke, the minister in charge of East Germany’s Stasi, or secret police.

Grass wrote that the experience would not erase fond memories of his journeys to Israel, a country to which he still felt “irrevocably bound.” He repeated his criticism of Israel. “As a nuclear power of uncontrolled dimensions, the Israeli government acts only on its own authority and heeds no reprimands,” Grass wrote.

“Let the man say what he wants,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, reached by telephone today, said of Grass’s latest article. “There’s no need to add more oil to the fire.”

Nuclear Potential

In the poem titled “What Has to Be Said,” published on April 4, Grass described Israel’s nuclear potential as “out of control, because no one can examine it.”

He criticized Germany for promising to deliver a submarine to Israel whose specialty is “directing warheads of mass destruction to a place where the existence of a single nuclear bomb is unproven,” referring to Iran.

Grass, who is 84, unleashed a storm of criticism with his poem. Yishai drew attention to the writer’s Nazi past as a member of the Waffen-SS in the final months of World War II and said he was attempting “to guide the fire of hate toward the state of Israel.”

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