Sunday, December 21, 2008

Erich Fried - A Courageous and Upright Jew and Great Poet


Erich Fried - the most famous German-speaking poet in the modern world - was one of the first sponsors of the RETURN statement. He was a refugee from his native Austria, from where he fled after the Anschluss in 1938, his father having been beaten and tortured to death by the Gestapo. It was because of his experience of Nazism and anti-Semitism that Erich Fried became a mentor to the anti-Vietnam war movement in West Germany. He was particularly close to Rudi Dutschcke and spoke up for those who, like Ulrike Meinhoff, sought quick solutions to the problems of modern-day German capitalism. During the war he became a broadcaster for the BBC External Services. He remained a committed socialist and a trenchant critic of Stalinism in Eastern Europe.

It was because of his experience of racism and fascism that he was to take up the cudgels against Zionism and in support of the Palestinians, who, like himself, had been driven from their native land to exile. During the controversy over the PERDITION, Jim Allen's play which documented the collaboration of the Zionist movement with Nazism, Erich Fried came out staunchly in defence of the play. In the book of the play he wrote that he wished that he could have written such a play, such was his modesty.

Erich Fried was an is an inspiration to anti-fascists and anti-Zionists everywhere, especially in the growing numbers of young anti-Zionist Jews for whom he was a living link with an earlier generation of socialist Jews.

In the last years of his life, the BBC featured him in their series EXILES, which drew a predictably hostile response from the Zionist Jewish Chronicle, but which was a long overdue tribute to this most courageous of fighters.

Erich Fried's poem 'A Jew to Zionist Fighters, 1988' was included in his last collection 'Unverwundenes - Liebe, Trauer, Widersprüche - Gedichte' (Uninjured - Love, Grief, Contradictions - Poems), published by Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin, 1988. The translation, by Frank Monahan, was published in RETURN magazine, March 1990, with permission of the publishers and of Katherine Fried.

A Jew to Zionist Fighters, 1988

What do you actually want?

Do you really want to outdo

those who trod you down

a generation ago

into your own blood

and into your own excrement

Do you want to pass on the old torture

to others now

in all its bloody and dirty detail

with all the brutal delight of torturers

as suffered by your fathers?

Do you really want to be the new Gestapo

the new Wehrmacht

the new SA and SS

and turn the Palestinians

into the new Jews?

Well then I too want,

having fifty years ago

myself been tormented for being a Jewboy

by your tormentors,

to be a new Jew with these new Jews

you are making of the Palestinians

And I want to help lead them as a free people

into their own land of Palestine

from whence you have driven them or in which you plague them

you apprentices of the Swastika

you fools and changelings of history

whose Star of David on your flags

turns every quicker

into that damned symbol with its four feet

that you just do not want to see

but whose path you are following today

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