Germany's Grass blasts treatment of Greece
BERLIN—German Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass has criticized Greece's treatment by its fellow European nations in the debt crisis, describing it in a new poem published Saturday as a "country sentenced to poverty."
The 84-year-old's latest work, "Europe's Disgrace," was published in the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung less than two months after Grass triggered a storm of criticism with another intervention on a political issue -- a prose poem sharply criticizing Israel amid the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
Greece is struggling with austerity and reform programs demanded by creditors in exchange for rescue loans, an approach that Germany's government has championed.
Speculation is growing that Greece may end up leaving the 17-nation eurozone, with opponents of austerity polling strongly ahead of the repeat of the country's parliamentary elections next month.
Grass wrote that Greece has been "pilloried naked as a debtor."
He ended his poem with the warning: "You will waste away spiritlessly without the country whose spirit, Europe, conceived you."
The head of the German Parliament's European affairs committee, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, shrugged aside Grass' criticism.
"I think we should not take this very seriously, because his criticism completely passes by reality -- particularly the reality that Greece was helped enormously with enormous efforts, which in the end do not come from states but from citizens and their wallets," Gunther Krichbaum told Deutschlandfunk radio.
In his last poem, "What Must Be Said," published April 4, Grass criticized what he called Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its stance regarding Iran.
Israel's interior minister later announced that Grass was barred from entering Israel.
The left-leaning Grass established himself as a leading literary figure with "The Tin Drum," published in 1959, and won the Nobel Prize in 1999. He urged fellow Germans to confront their painful Nazi history in the decades after World War II.
His image, however, suffered a bruising when he admitted in his 2006 autobiography that he was drafted into the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of the Nazis' paramilitary organization, in the final months of World War II.