April 16: Perspectives on Grass

Pvt. Grass, on the one hand, and war criminal Abs, on the other. What, one wonders, might be the conclusion?

Perspectives on Grass Sir, – Sarah Honig (“The German robbed Cossack,” Another Tack, April 12) states that Günter Grass “actually volunteered for the barbarous Waffen-SS (branded a ‘criminal organization’ at the Nuremberg Trials).”
Indeed, this sound ominous, but let us look at the facts.
Grass was born on October 16, 1927. He was called up in the late summer of 1944 when he was barely 17. He found himself in the 10th Tank Division “Frundsberg” of the Waffen-SS. The following autumn and winter he was trained as a member of a tank crew, and in March and April 1945 was involved in a rearguard action of the German army in Lausitz until he was wounded on April 20. He ended up in an American prisoner of war camp soon after.
That, then, is the story of Pvt. Grass during WWII. Now let us examine how we dealt with the case of Dr. Hermann Abs, who during the war served as director of the notorious Deutsche Bank.
In 1946 Abs was convicted as a war criminal by the US military government. Some 20 years later, in 1969, the same Dr. Abs was received with full honors here in Israel.
His pilgrimage to members of Jerusalem’s high society, from the state comptroller to the president himself, was daily reported in the columns of your newspaper. The facts about Abs were confirmed by your respected journalist, Wim van Leer in 1986: “Hermann Abs’s record was well-known to one and all here. But since we hoped to use his influence to obtain loans and grants... this was conveniently ignored and the red carpet rolled out.”
Pvt. Grass, on the one hand, and war criminal Abs, on the other. What, one wonders, might be the conclusion? ZEEV RAPHAEL
Sir, – Günter Grass is right insofar as almost nobody talks about the nuclear bombs Israel has, and almost everybody talks about the nuclear bombs Iran does not yet have. But he is wrong, as he ignores the different statements from Israel and Iran. Iran has threatened several times to extinguish Israel whereas no Israeli citizen has ever threatened the people of Iran.
KARL OTTO BECKER Hannover, Germany
Sir, – My parents were rare people. Practically the sole Shoah survivors from large families, they taught us, their children, the following: “That we hate the Germans, we can’t help. But you have no permission to hate them.” And I don’t, thanks to them.
So when you write in your otherwise well-appreciated editorial “Shame on Grass” (April 9) that “Jews cannot and will not bring themselves to forgive Germany for the Holocaust,” you were not speaking for me.
The late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach had a message: If I had two hearts I would use one for hating and one for loving; since I only have one heart I’d rather use it for loving. He explained that after the Holocaust it was so easy to be angry, but we had to love the world, bring hope and never give up on any human being.
When Carlebach went to Poland to give a concert someone asked him: Shlomo, how could you? His reply: Someone had to bring the light there.
Although he was exceptional, my hunch is that I’m not the only average Jew who does not and will not harbor resentment.
Sir, – I was offended that Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai demeaned the State of Israel by providing an official response to a senile, attention-seeking idiot like Günter Grass (“Grass likens Israeli travel ban to Stasi,” April 12).
Now I see that there is a much better way to respond: We should fix him up with Helen Thomas (“Congressmen threaten PA aid over Thomas award,” April 12). This would be returning good for evil since they are suited to each other in every way.
Cogent, irrefutable Sir, – I fully concur with the cogent and irrefutable recriminations made by Isi Leibler (“Claims Conference self-aggrandizement,” Candidly Speaking, April 8).
As Holocaust survivors we lived through horrific experiences, lost countless family and friends, and worked hard to rebuild our lives and contribute to our communities. Yet regrettably, many of our fellow survivors are sick and destitute.
The Claims Conference, which is charged with the holy task of helping survivors live out their final years in a semblance of dignity, is spending hundreds of millions on projects favored by its non-survivor board members (including concerts and subsidies for entertainment) instead of devoting available funds to essential, lifesaving activities. The emergency committees for the poor in most cases give out no more than $2,500 annually per survivor, which does not even cover a full set of dentures or up-to-date hearing aid.
It is also deplorable that precious restitution and/or compensation funds are spent on irrelevant, costly lawsuits to impede journalists in their search for a balanced view of underlying, painful actualities.
My organization counts over 900 registered members in 16 US states. We hold monthly meetings and issue a monthly newspaper. We are a constituent of the national alliance HSF-USA, the Holocaust Survivors Foundation, with over 20,000 members nationwide.
Yet we have no control over the restitution and compensation funds obtained in our names.
Leibler ought to be commended publicly for his courageous and exposing revelations.
LEO RECHTER New York The writer is president of NAHOS (National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors)
Whatever the facts Sir, – Regarding “Jordan to strip PA and PLO officials of citizenship” (April 12), will there be a media campaign against “apartheid Jordan?” “Experts say the new law would reduce Palestinian representation in parliament to less than 8 percent,” you report.
Will the Western media extensively report this concrete effort to deny civil rights to Palestinian- Jordanians? It’s unlikely, since Israel is their favored target, regardless of the facts.
STEVE KRAMER Alfei Menashe
Pro-choice Sir, – Regarding “Serving together” (Editorial, April 11), whoa! This is not a question of throwing out good kosher food paid for by the taxpayers, nor is it of the families being deprived of their children’s presence at the Seder table. There are bases where soldiers do not get enough food (yes!) and are supplemented by parcels from home whenever possible.
This is not about bringing secular and religious soldiers together, either. Nor did they starve. But they were not given a choice.
These young people, who put their lives on the line to defend us, should have been asked, individually, whether they would eat the food or not.
They are entitled to be treated as the adults they are.
I am appalled!
Wrong name Sir, – I would like to point out an error in the insert by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about Mike Wallace, the TV journalist who died last week (“Did CBS journalist, born to Russian Jewish parents, have an Israel problem?,” Arts & Entertainment, April 10).
It was erroneously stated that Wallace’s parents’ original surname was Wallechinsky, whereas in fact it was Wallik. Apparently, there was a confusion with the novelist Irving Wallace, whose parents’ name was Wallechinsky.
Whatever his original name, Mike Wallace was known to have a well-documented anti-Israel bias.