Western journalists and politicians have long enforced that silence by unspoken and unwritten common agreement. The silence was successfully imposed for two reasons: The Holocaust and the fear of being called anti-Semitic.
Gunter Grass (pictured above) has broken that silence with his poem, Was gesagt werden muss (What must be said).
A German writer, Grass is a major figure in German literature. He speaks with considerable authority through his extensive and innovative writing. He is considered one of Germany's major novelists.
The press release announcing his 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature begins:
"When Gunter Grass published The Tin Drum in 1959 it was as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction.
"Within the pages of this, his first novel, Grass recreated the lost world from which his creativity sprang, Danzig, his home town, as he remembered it from the years of his infancy before the catastrophe of war.- Advertisement -
"Here he comes to grips with the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them."
In 1979, The Tin Drum reached a world audience through a film of the same title by German Director Volker Schlondorff. The novel, brilliantly reproduced in the film, was praised by the Nobel Committee because of the way in which it:
"Breaks the bounds of realism by having as its protagonist and narrator an infernal intelligence in the body of a three-year-old, a monster who overpowers the fellow human beings he approaches with the help of a toy drum.
"The unforgettable Oskar Matzerath is an intellectual whose critical approach is childishness, a one-man carnival, dadaism in action in everyday German provincial life just when this small world becomes involved in the insanity of the great world surrounding it.
"It is not too audacious to assume that The Tin Drum will become one of the enduring literary works of the 20th century."
Now, over a decade into the 21st century, Gunter Grass decides that Israel, must be stopped from self-destruction before it is too late.
Through this deep concern, Grass wrote his poem, This Must Be Said, breaking decades of silence. Grass, now 84, says in the poem that he wrote with his "last ink."
The entire poem may be read, and should be read, in its entirety. Here is An English translation by Michael Keefer and Nica Mintz...
Why have I kept silent, silent for too long
over what is openly played out
in war games at the end of which we
the survivors are at best footnotes.