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Robert Lowell scooped Gunter Grass

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Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell

Scott McConnell is at work on a project for which he’s spending a lot of time in the archives. He sent me this gem today.

From a letter from the American poet Robert Lowell (1917-1977) to poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), June 14, 1967:

Did the late war scare you to death? It did me while it was simmering.  We had a great wave of New York Jewish nationalism, all the doves turning into hawks.  Well, my heart is in Israel, but it was a little like a blitzkrieg against the Commanches—armed by Russia.  Nasser is like a Mussolini ruling some poverty stricken part of India.  I never saw a country I would less like to stay in, yet the Egyptians were mostly subtle and sad and attractive.

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38 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    April 16, 2012, 11:50 am

    “All the doves turning into hawks” and poor Peter Beinart’s love affair with Israel not even on a sound footing yet! And today the chicken coop (West Bank division) is so full of foxes (settlers) that the army, poor dears, cannot protect a few bike riders and must shut down a bike ride for reason of safety (of the bike riders, one supposes). Perhaps if the army were ready to smash some Jewish faces (as they seem ready to smash (presumed) non-Jewish faces, the foxes would calm down or even leave the chicken coop.

  2. LeaNder
    April 16, 2012, 1:27 pm

    no mistake, a check.

  3. Taxi
    April 16, 2012, 1:32 pm

    From Wikipedia:
    “Lowell was a conscientious objector during World War II and served several months at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. He explained his decision not to serve in World War II in a letter addressed to President Franklin Roosevelt on September 7, 1943, stating, “Dear Mr President: I very much regret that I must refuse the opportunity you offer me in your communication of August 6, 1943 for service in the Armed Force.” In the letter, he goes on to explain that after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, he was prepared to fight in the war until he read about the United States’ terms of unconditional surrender which he feared would lead to the “permanent destruction of Germany and Japan.” Before Lowell was transferred to the prison in Connecticut, he was held in a prison in New York City which he later wrote about in the poem “Memories of West Street and Lepke” from his book Life Studies.”

    But describing Nasser as “Mussolini” shows Lowell as politically misinformed/uninformed. The sad and beautiful Egyptians he’s empathizing with would take great and deep offense at his description, considering they affectionately regarded Nasser, as they still do, as a revolutionary and national hero – and for good reason.

    • seafoid
      April 16, 2012, 5:02 pm

      Israel and the Yanks destroyed Nasser but now they would love a secularist…

      I was outside Nasser metro station in Cairo a few years ago and on an electricity box directly under the sign saying Nasser someone had sprayed Allahu Akbar. And that sort of summed up recent Egyptian history.

  4. Antidote
    April 16, 2012, 2:10 pm

    The latest news on the Grass affair: the writer has been hospitalized. Heart problems. Those who have slandered him as Hitler, Nazi, anti-semite, lunatic or senile old fool may want to pray that this is not serious, or it will reflect very poorly on them

    • lysias
      April 16, 2012, 2:27 pm

      Fortunately, Grass does not appear to be in danger. Günter Grass in Hamburger Klinik eingeliefert [Günter Grass Transported to Hamburg Clinic]:

      Hamburg . Schriftsteller Günter Grass ist am Montag in der Hamburger Asklepios-Klinik St. Georg aufgenommen worden. Nach Informationen von hat Grass Herzprobleme, er muss stationär behandelt werden. Der Schriftsteller ist nicht als Notfall eingeliefert worden. Er war bereits früher zu Routine-Untersuchungen in der Klinik. Wie lange er im Krankenhaus bleiben muss, war am Montag abend noch unklar. Die Klinik will voraussichtlich am Dienstag Näheres mitteilen, nach Rücksprache mit dem prominenten Patienten, heißt es.

      The sentence I bolded translates: “The author was not transported as an emergency case.”

      • Antidote
        April 16, 2012, 9:48 pm

        thanks, lysias. I wish him well

      • lysias
        April 17, 2012, 11:39 am

        Grass due to leave German hospital by week’s end: doctor:

        German Nobel prize-winning author Gunter Grass is expected to leave hospital by the end of the week after a long-planned medical examination, his doctor said Tuesday.

        Grass, 84, who recently provoked a heated international debate after lambasting Israel in a poem, was admitted to the Asklepios Klinik St. Georg hospital in the port city of Hamburg following heart problems, a hospital spokesman said Monday confirming a report by the mass-circulation Bild.

        “Mr Grass is having an examination which has long been planned and, if need be, treatment in the hospital,” his doctor Karl-Heinz Kuck said in a written statement without giving details.

        “He doesn’t have to lie in bed, is working and enjoying the view of the Alster (lake) from his room,” he said.

        “There’s no danger to his life,” he added, saying he expected Grass to be able to leave by “at the latest the end of this week”.

    • OlegR
      April 17, 2012, 7:36 am

      He is an old anti-semite and a former SS and a a former Nazi .
      And i personally don’t give a rats ass how he his condition will reflect on anything.

      I do appreciate the irony that rises from “with my last bit of ink” remark.

      • eGuard
        April 17, 2012, 2:34 pm

        OlegR: He is an old anti-semite — Still unproven.

        i personally don’t give a rats ass –He did not ask for it either.

    • Mayhem
      April 17, 2012, 8:57 am

      Everybody around here is so precious about Grass who has become the latest pinup boy of the anti-Zionists. “like many Europeans, Grass has lost all shame and the disappearance of shame is the new bon ton among like-minded genteel Jew-haters”.
      Great article at which exposes Grass as the echoer of “his fervent Nazi past, deeply rooted in his psyche”.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        April 17, 2012, 10:03 am

        “Great article at link to”

        Great? It’s nothing less than a libel, a slander, on a good man, all in the service of advancing a pathetic, paranoid, victim-mentality pathology and excusing the offensive-minded sabre rattling of Israel as it threatens Iran.

      • eljay
        April 17, 2012, 10:09 am

        >> Great article at link to

        The title of this “great article” is “Another Tack”. Not only is the article not great, the tack is the standard use of [“Remember the] Holocaust[!”] victimhood in an attempt to absolve the religion-supremacist Jewish state of Israel of all its crimes – terrorism, ethnic cleansing and a 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

        Why stop raping your victim when you can just say, “Leave me alone – I was abused as a child!” and keep raping away?

      • Sumud
        April 17, 2012, 10:14 am

        It doesn’t expose, it only accuses.

        No actual evidence is employed by the author.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        April 17, 2012, 10:50 am

        your ‘great article’ doesn’t ‘expose’ anything about grass, but it does offer a bit of insight into the author’s mental state. grass was an ‘enthusiastic accomplice’ in the murder of six million jews? insane.

      • eGuard
        April 17, 2012, 11:01 am

        Someone who cannot differentiate between “Jews” and “Israel” cannot be a good writer.

      • LeaNder
        April 17, 2012, 11:26 am

        Yes, I’ve read that in multiple variations by now, and was close to comment on Sarah’s blog. But would it be of any use?

        I have to admit that I was shocked by his use of the word annihilation, I am also slightly tired that we always have to state it.

        Problem is, we do not have a level playing field in this context. Israel can constantly claim, for (how many exactly?) many years now, that Iran tries to annihilate it. Israel, of course, can always claim that, but obviously Iran never could, it happens to be bigger. What was the exact way Sarah put it? So there is a certain amount of rhetorical unfairness involved.

        I’d suggest that you start to ponder Israeli and it’s hawkish supporter’s psychology.

        Concentrate on the term war games, Grass uses. Here is a summary post on the Iranian threat issue by Pat Lang, from 7 November 2011, but you can back and read the whole collection about Iran over the years Several Points

        I have made a number of arguments and observations over the years and months that it seems I must repeat:

        – Israel is not necessarily a “rational actor.” Fear drives them and they may well do something foolish and wildly destructive to all including themselves.

        – Using non-nuclear munitions Israel is incapable of inflicting anything like conclusive damage on the Iranian nuclear program, whether or not that program is specifically and purposively intended to produce deliverable nuclear weapons.

        – In that knowledge Israel and its 5th Column all over the world are engaged in “perception management” designed to bring the US into war with Iran. Thus far they have not succeeded in spite of their influence in the US Congress.

        “Germans” & “Israeli’s, or pro-Israel hawks generally”, may share the idea of never-again. But let’s concentrate on the difference. For us Germans that means never again to be perpetrators, to you–or the above group–it means never again victim. That may well contain the possibility to perpetrate something one could regret after. The submarines, by the way, are the latest development that can be equipped with nuclear warheads.

      • Antidote
        April 22, 2012, 8:45 pm

        “I have to admit that I was shocked by his use of the word annihilation, I am also slightly tired that we always have to state it.”

        It’s a common complaint that Grass insinuated an Israeli death wish against Iran, as if they were planning to attack Iran with nukes. Even Grass defenders like Jakob Augstein and Gideon Levy saw unwarranted exaggeration here. True, I’m not aware of any official Israeli plans to attack Iran (destroy their suspected nuclear weapons program) with nuclear weapons. However, I haven’t seen anything to indicate that Iran wants to develop nukes only to drop them immediately onto Israel. And yet, this is the scenario which Israel has cited repeatedly, practically on a daily basis. How is that not “exaggerated”? And why should it be horribly offensive if Grass turns this around? Besides, what does “all options are on the table” mean, on Israel or the US? See various contributions that speak for Grass on this site:

        Besides, “exaggeration” is the stuff of poetry. I can’t believe literary critic, even so-called ‘literary popes’ like Reich-Ranicki are idiotic enough to deny that Grass wrote a POEM on the grounds that there are no RHYMES. Reich Ranicki included Celan’s Death Fugue in his anthology of 100 poems of the 20th century. It contains only one single rhyme:

        der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland sein Auge ist blau
        er trifft dich mit bleierner Kugel er trifft dich genau

        Death is a German-born master his eye is so blue
        He shoots with lead bullets he shoots you his aim is so true

        Do you think it’s an “exaggeration” to say that there is something exclusively German about death and blue eyes? Would anybody be idiotic enough to call Celan’s poem “disgusting” because it doesn’t mention that a great many non-Germans with or without blue eyes participated in the so-called Nazi killing machine, including Auschwitz? Poets, historians, politicians and pundits do not speak the same language. It’s Reich-Ranicki, not Grass, who has disgraced himself

      • lysias
        April 17, 2012, 11:29 am

        I happen to be reading at the moment Cornelius Ryan’s A Bridge Too Far, about Operation Market Garden in September 1944. One of the German units that successfully resisted the Allied advance was the unit that Grass was to be conscripted into a month later, the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg. I am only a little over halfway through the book, but so far the unit has fought heroically and been guilty of no atrocities.

      • LanceThruster
        April 17, 2012, 12:37 pm

        But surely the Hasbarats will point out that not ascribing every manner of atrocity and barbarism carte blanche to those who fought on the German side, regardless of context, details, or truth are de facto Holocaust deniers and worse than Hitler.

        Tread lightly, my friend.

      • lysias
        April 18, 2012, 1:17 pm

        On the other hand, Ryan’s book, on pages 465-66 of the edition I am reading, does mention some war crimes committed by members of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division against the German defenders of Nijmegen, most of whom belonged to the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg:

        On reaching the crest he [Corporal Jack Bommer of the 82nd Airborne] saw “dead bodies everywhere, and Germans — some no more than fifteen years old, others in their sixties — who a few minutes before had been slaughtering us in the boats were now begging for mercy, trying to surrender.” Men were too shocked by their ordeal and too angry at the death of friends to take many prisoners. Bommer recalls tht some Germans “were shot out of hand at point-blank range.”

        A few pages later, Ryan describes how humanely members of the British 1st Airborne Division captured at Arnhem were treated by their German captors, who belonged to the II SS Panzer Corps, made up of the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg and the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen.

      • Antidote
        April 19, 2012, 10:59 pm

        From 2010, 65 yrs after the Nuremberg trials:,1518,692037,00.html

      • Citizen
        June 9, 2012, 1:03 pm

        lysias, records and all historical narratives show the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg committed no atrocities.

  5. PeaceThroughJustice
    April 16, 2012, 11:16 pm

    “all the doves turning into hawks …”

    Reminds me of the 2006 attack on Lebanon. (“We will turn Lebanon’s clock back twenty years.”) I remember the Jewish community organizations out demonstrating from Manhattan to Seattle, screaming for more Arab blood. Whenever I hear the claim that the Jewish community has been hijacked by an old-school leadership, that it doesn’t reflect their true values, I think of that and worry that the problem goes much deeper.

    • Mooser
      April 17, 2012, 3:28 pm

      ” I think of that and worry that the problem goes much deeper.”

      I agree. It transcends anything having to do with religion, and goes straight into the dark, dark forest of the human heart and mind. The actions of the Zionists are (and this in no way excuses them, rather the opposite, in fact) in a long, sad tradition of similar movements both in its leaders and its followers. That they hide this behind the suffering of the “Jewish people” (such as it is) is just an extra bit of shame for them, but that they have attached their megalomania and bigotry and amorality to a religion, since that allows them access to and to form a politically disciplined (or rather disciplinable) group, is nothing unique.

      • Citizen
        April 18, 2012, 7:43 am

        As Kirk & Spock said often in their day, “You’re dealing with human beings–keep that in mind.”

  6. lysias
    April 17, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Interesting article from last Friday’s NYT on the German reaction to Grass’s poem: Once Taboo, Germans’ Anti-Israel Whispers Grow Louder:

    BERLIN — To judge by the outpouring of comments from politicians and writers and from the newspaper and magazine articles in response to the Nobel laureate Günter Grass’s poem criticizing Israel’s aggressive posture toward Iran, it would appear that the public had resoundingly rejected his work.

    But even a quick dip into the comments left by readers on various Web sites reveals quite another reality.

    Mr. Grass has struck a nerve with the broader public, articulating frustrations with Israel here in Germany that are frequently expressed in private but rarely in public, where the discourse is checked by the lingering presence of the past. What might have remained at the family dinner table or the local bar a generation ago is today on full display, not only in Mr. Grass’s poem, but on Web forums and in Facebook groups.

    • lysias
      April 17, 2012, 2:51 pm

      If you do a google search in German-language on “Grass hat recht” [“Grass is right”], you will find an awful lot of pro-Grass postings.

  7. lysias
    April 17, 2012, 3:04 pm

    Martin Gak, the Radical Secularist, has written quite a powerful defense of Grass: Defending Gunter Grass:

    So simply put, Grass is right. He is right about many things but most of all about the fact that our voices should find each other’s voice so as to be willing to say what everybody already knows but has been cowered from saying by rumors and allegations of anti-Semitism. Not in the guise of novelty or sudden political illumination–as Tom Segev stupidly seems to believe–but rather to give each other courage to speak when the Israeli machine is determined to dismiss us as criminals and monsters, all of us inheritors of Auschwitz. In calling for Israel to be accountable and demanding justice, Grass speaks with my voice, the voice of a Jew and, indeed, if the words of Grass manage to do anything to stop the Likud’s march to war in Iran, then he will have saved more than a life, which according to the Jewish tradition, is to save the entire world.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      April 17, 2012, 7:38 pm

      Semitism. Not in the guise of novelty or sudden political illumination–as Tom Segev stupidly seems to believe . . .

      perfect. enough of the false civility and moral relativism. stupid. yes.

  8. Citizen
    April 18, 2012, 7:50 am

    Amazing: I think I know what Hannah Arndt would say about Grass’s courage and moral/ethical integrity. Obama won a Noble Prize too; I’d guess he won’t mention Grass’s poem anywhere in public. Ron Paul might.

    • Theo
      April 18, 2012, 8:16 am

      To win something means to do something to deserve the title.

      Obama was given the medal even before he did anything regarding peace, so he sure did not win/deserve it. As matter of fact, he had so many innocent civilians killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that he should give that medal back and should be charged with war crimes in Den Haag.
      I would gladly take over his defense to make sure he gets jailed for a long time.

      • Citizen
        April 18, 2012, 12:23 pm

        According to CBS News, “The nomination deadline is eight months before the announcement, with a strictly enforced deadline of Feb. 1.” That means Obama was president for about two weeks.

        So what did he actually do to be nominated, and who were his competitors?
        I just read that according to the committee they gave it to him because of the “hope he inspires to everyone” and not for anything he had actually done. He peddled Hope (with such dirth of it after 8 yrs of Shrub); now he peddles fear (of what the GOP will take away from you if they gain POTUS)

  9. Stogumber
    June 9, 2012, 9:39 am

    Grass was a youthful Nazi supporter, but deeply disillusioned at the end of the war. He may not have been open as an autobiographer, but he was quite open in his work: Some of his most renowned books (like “Hundejahre” or “Katz und Maus”) are written just from the perspective of a youthful, but then disilliusoned Nazi supporter.

    Yet – his generation which grew up within the cocoon of the Third Reich, may have learned about a “jewish danger” in school, but was not much personally obsessed with the fear from it – not at all in the way like people who had grown up before or after WW I.
    So, there’s no need to explain Grass as an antisemite. There’s a much more simple explanation. The Grass generation was more than their elders or youngers obsessed by their war experiences; those were the men who had survived “at the skin of their teeth” and who felt that a third world war had to be prevented at all costs – the men who determined Germany to peacemindedness just till the nineties but who realize that they are losing control and feel a doom coming.

    • Citizen
      June 9, 2012, 11:56 am

      In his 2006 memoir, Peeling The Onion, Grass is very direct, more than in his other works, in recapturing who he was, and was not, in his formative years. He also tells the reader who some of the original models were for characters in his earlier works. I’m not finished with the book yet. It’s a very valuable work imo.

      • Citizen
        June 9, 2012, 1:39 pm

        As mentioned upstream here, there’s not a shred of evidence that the SS panzer tank unit Grass was in committed atrocities. In fact that unit fought gallantly on both fronts. As a POW, Grass found himself working with young Jewish DPs his own age in a US Air Force company kitchen at Furstenbruck where they constantly heard white GIs dissing a nearby black GI company as “niggers.” He says, at p. 195 of Peeling The Onion, “We and the young Jews passed over this in silence because we had other fish to fry.” He then goes on:
        “…the American ‘education officer’ with his spectacles and soft voice and freshly ironed shirts, did not get very far with us, the black -and-white pictures of Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbruck… I saw the piles of corpses, the ovens; I saw the starving and the starved, the skeletal bodies of the survivors from another world. I couldn’t believe it.

        ‘ You mean Germans did that?’ we kept asking.
        ‘Germans could never have done that.’
        And among ourselves we said, ‘ Propaganda. Pure propaganda.’
        A mason who went with us on a brief reeducation tour of Dachu–we were classified as young Nazis–said after we had been led through the camp from one station of the cross to the next, ‘Remember the shower rooms? And the shower heads? For gas supposedly: Well, they were freshly plastered, the Amis installed them afterward…’

        It was some time before I came gradually to understand and hesitantly to admit that I had unknowingly–or, more precisely, unwilling to know–taken part in a crime that did not diminish over the years and for which no statute of limitations would every apply, a crime that grieves me still.
        It was neither the education officer’s arguments nor the overly graphic photographs he showed us that broke through by obstinacy; no, I did not get over my block until a year later, when I heard the voice of my former Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach, I don’t remember where, coming from the radio. Those accused by the Nuremberg tribunal of being war criminals were entitled to take the floor one last time before the verdict was read out. In an attempt to exonerate the Hitler Youth, Schirach asserted its ignorance, claiming that he and only he was aware of mass extermination as the final solution of the Jewish question.

        I had to believe him. I continued to believe him. But as long as I served as dishwasher and interpreter, I was obstinate. We had lost the war all right: the victors had more soldiers, tanks, and planes, never mind calories, than we had. But what about the pictures?

        When we argued with our Jewish coevals, they shouted ‘Nazis! You Nazis!’
        We responded, ‘Get out of here! Go to your Palestine!’

        But then we would laugh together over the crazy Americans, especially the education officer, whom we embarrassed with questions about his country’s contemptible treatment of the ‘niggers.'”

      • Citizen
        June 9, 2012, 2:13 pm

        PS, nobody today disputes that 4 of the 5 gas chambers at Dachu were used solely for killing lice, etc. Futher, re the 5th one:
        Sign exhibited in the Dachau “gas chamber” by museum authorities read until the mid-eighties as follows: “GAS CHAMBER disguised as a ‘shower room’ – never used”. The sign was changed in the mid-eighties to read: “GAS CHAMBER disguised as a ‘shower room’ – never used as a gas chamber.”

        Dachu commenced as a concentration for political prisoners of every stripe. Many people died there, including many Russian POWs, but apparently not from gassing. The camp should not be confused with death camps outside Germany, e.g., Auschwitz.

  10. Citizen
    June 9, 2012, 3:24 pm

    80 something Israeli Holocaust survivor living in Germany defends Gunter Grass:

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