Günter Grass’s novella Im Krebsgang has been widely received as a text that is central to the new literary and political engagement with German victimhood in 1944-45 that emerged at the turn of the century. The inherent danger in failing to address German suffering in mainstream discourse, the text appears to suggest, is that the way is left open to a neo-Nazi agenda that relativises the Holocaust and thus undermines Germany’s attempts to come to terms with the consequences of the Nazi perpetration and German guilt. This paper argues that the text goes further by implicitly criticising not just the failure to address German suffering but also the way in which German guilt has been approached in (West) Germany. Investigating a theme that has been neglected in criticism of the novella, this paper argues that Grass uses the anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism of his central young protagonists to illustrate the inadequacy of all German reactions to the Nazi period and the Holocaust. The legacy of the Holocaust, both before and after German unification, is portrayed as an internal German argument about coming to terms with the past, an argument that has always been primarily about the Germans themselves rather than their victims.
|Journal||German Life and Letters|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Apr 2010|