Gunter Grass

Posted by Tommy Davy on Nov 11th 2023

"Perhaps we lack the very people we're afraid of, because they are foreign to us and look foreign. Those whom, out of fear, we meet with hatred, which now daily turns to violence. And perhaps those we most lack are the ones we think of as the lowest of the low, the Romanies and the Sinti, the Gypsies. They have no allies. No politician represents their case, whether in the European Parliament or the Bundestag. No state they can appeal to would support their demands for compensation - pathetic, isn't it? - for Auschwitz, or make them national priority. The Romanies and Sinti are the lowest of the low. 'Expel them!' says Herr Seiters and gets on the line to Romania. 'Smoke them out!' shout the skinheads. But in Romania, and everywhere else, Gypsies are bottom of the heap as well. Why? Because they are different. Because they steal, are restless, roam, have the evil eye and that stunning beauty that makes us ugly to ourselves. Because their mere existence puts our values into question. Because they are all very well in operas and operettas, but in reality - it sounds awful, reminds you of awfulness they are antisocial, odd and don't fit in. "Torch them!' shout the skinheads. When Heinrich Böll was laid to rest eight years ago, there was a Gypsy band leading the pallbearers - Lev Kopelev, Günter Wallraff, myself and Böll's sons - and the mourners on the way the graveyard. It was Böll's wish. It was what he wanted to play him into the grave, that deeply tragic, despairingly gay music. It has taken me until now to understand him. Let half a million and more Sinti and Romanies live among us. We need them. They could help us by irritating our rigid order a little. Something of their way of life could rub off on us. they could teach us how meaningless frontiers are: careless of boundaries. Romanies and Sinti are at home all over Europe. They are what we claim to be; born Europeans!" GUNTER GRASS