Ultra-non-grata? Grass compares Israel to Stasi

German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass poses with his poem for a photo at his house in the northern German town of Behlendorf on April 5, 2012 (AFP Photo / Marcus Brandt Germany Out)
German poet and Nobel laureate Gunter Grass, who last week was banned from entering Israel after writing a poem critical of the Israeli government, has publicly compared Israeli policies to those of the Stasi.

­"Now the interior minister of a democracy, the state of Israel, has punished me with a travel ban and the tone of his justification reminds me of the verdict of Minister Mielke," Grass wrote in a piece that appeared on the Süddeutsche Zeitung's website on Wednesday.

Erich Mielke was the head of East Germany's secret police from 1957 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

"The GDR does not exist anymore," Grass wrote, "But as a nuclear power of unchecked extent, the Israeli government is arbitrary and until now no warning is available."

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai rejected Grass' comparison in a public statement. "There is no doubt that Gunter, as one who came out of a tyrannical regime, usually knows how to identify one. However, this time he's wrong," he said, hinting at Grass's youth in Nazi Germany.

On April 4, Grass published the controversial poem “What must be said” in several European newspapers. The poem expressed concern over the Israeli nuclear program – “Israel's atomic power [which] endangers an already fragile world peace.”

Israel reacted by announcing that Grass would be persona non grata in Israel going forward. In addition, Yishai said that Grass' Nobel Prize should be withdrawn.

The minister also did not forget to remind that Grass was a member of the Waffen SS forces.

In 2006 Grass, author of more than a dozen novels and plays and a Nobel Prize winner, confessed that he served in Waffen SS in 1945 which stirred up controversy in German society.