The German-French writer, sociologist, and political scientist Alfred Grosser has died at the age of 99.
The appeasing language of was not his cup of tea — and yet Alfred Grosser was a great diplomat, especially when it came to Franco-German relations. Honesty and straightforwardness were among Grosser’s essential qualities.
At the beginning of interviews, he used to ask interviewees one question about their report: “How long will it end up being?” And when he was told that the interview would be cut to a three-minute TV report or to a short article, he would smile mischievously and say: “Well, then we won’t talk for more than 15 minutes. In that time, all will be said.” And indeed, Grosser had the gift of getting to the heart of things, and of coming up with ideas that were either unheard of or that nobody dared mention before him.
Grosser loved to debate
When half the world was gathering in Paris for a solidarity march after the attacks on the satirical magazine he spoke of a “parade of hypocrites.” In his view, it was ridiculous that politicians from Ankara and Moscow took part in a demonstration for press freedom.
“Please do not exaggerate the concept of ‘the Occident,’” Grosser said to Germany’s far-right movement PEGIDA and the AfD party. Referring to PEGIDA, an abbreviation for “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident” he once declared on a German TV talk show: “When people talk of the Judeo-Christian Occidental civilization, it makes me, as a Jew, feel sick.” He was also party.
His father fought for Germany in First World War
Grosser knew what he was talking about. Born on February 1, 1925, in Frankfurt am Main, he had to flee Germany with his family when he was eight years old. His father, Paul, who had fought as a German soldier in World War I and had been awarded the Iron Cross First Class for bravery, had made the decision to leave his homeland shortly after Hitler’s seizure of power. Paul Grosser and all other Jewish veterans had been expelled from the Association of Iron Cross Bearers.
Grosser reported this in 2014 in a speech at the on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. He pointed out that France, the country his father had fought against in the First World War, had nevertheless honored Paul Grosser as a war veteran. After the family fled to France, the country quickly became a new home for the young Alfred, and yet his origins did not let him go until the end.
A prolific author and political scientist
The political scientist who taught at the renowned “Sciences Po” college of politics in Paris and wrote over 30 books. In almost all publications he tried to explain either to the French what made Germans tick, or to the Germans, the mindset of the French.
He provided both an internal and external perspective at the same time. Among the books he wrote were titles such as “Wie anders sind die Deutschen” (How different are the Germans, 2002), and”Wie anders ist Frankreich” (How different is France, 2005). It is thanks to people like Grosser that thedeveloped after World War II.
A critic with many targets
Grosser received numerous awards for his commitment, both in Germany and France, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Goethe Plaque of the City of Frankfurt, the Grand Cross of Merit in Germany, and the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor (Légion d’Honneur) — one of the highest honors of the French state.
His informed opinions were not limited to the field of current politics and contemporary history of both countries.
Grosser was a critical and unconventional thinker — also when it came to Israel. When the German Nobel Prize winner was sharply attacked for his 2012 Israel poem in which he warned of a looming Israeli aggression against Iran, and even called an anti-Semite, Grosser was one of the few public figures who took Grass’s side.
In his view, the Israeli government was provoking and risking a war with Iran, and he said people should have the right to criticize Israel without immediately being branded as an anti-Semite — a label he had also been given for having criticized Israel’s policies. “Equalizing criticizing Israel with anti-Semitism directly — that is dishonest and leads to mistakes,” he said following a similar controversy in 2007.
Grosser was a connoisseur of the emotional closeness of Germany, France and Israel while always keeping the critical view of the outsider. This is what made him a great intellectual.