Gunter Grass’s famous novel ‘Crabwalk’ explores a controversial theme: the pain and agony of Germans during the Second World War. I am going to provide two meditations upon this novel, including its significance for today.
In Chapter One, the folk-villain David Frankfurter (a Jew) travels to Davos on an assassination mission. It is 1936. It is the year of the famous (and indeed notorious) Olympic Games in 1936. It is tempting to ask how such sympathy for those already being oppressed by the Nazis.
Perhaps ‘the world at large’ (monstrous abstraction as it it!) does not care… too much. In recent years, it was rumored abroad that in the UK, we say in our hearts ‘An anti-Semite is one who hates the Jews too much!’
I perceive by now that this is not merely a question of quantity… but also of quantity. The one who hates Jews too much does not merely hate Jews in a disproportionate manner, but in a manner that is deemed distasteful to the point of utterly impolitic. In the land of the stiff upper lip, there is no unbearable crime against etiquette (which is as much as to say, against all that is good and holy, if such there be!) as… bad form.
We learn, curiously enough, that this pecular malaise anglaise is not foreign to the petit-bourgeois sympathiser of the Beer Hall Fuhrer. Our good burgher Frau Gutloff, in latter days, denies outright that the Party member Dr Habermann ever had the temerity to say ‘Foul Jews,’ as David Frankfurter was on his way to commit his assassination. “She averred that such terms were foreign to her husband, although he did consider the solution of the Jewish Question urgent.”
Thus much for the decency of the Crabwalks gentlefolks.
But how peculiar. Jews are a ‘problem’ that must be ‘solved.’ Methods may fail; methods may be rowdy, rugged, and may even, God forbid be disproportionate. But Heaven forfend one should speak in a foul and vulgar manner about these benighted creatures!
Returning my gaze to the shores of Albion, my heart is troubled.
A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.