Guenter Grass admits he was in the Waffen SS

12th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

12 August 2006, FRANKFURT - Guenter Grass, the German novelist who won the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature, disclosed in an interview published Saturday that he had been a member of the Nazi Party fighting force Waffen SS during the Second World War. The leftist, anti-war writer, 78, said his past silence about this had "weighed" on him, leading him to come out with the admission. His disclosure shocked Germans, who had regarded the leftist, anti-war writer as one of the few of his generation free of any N

12 August 2006

FRANKFURT - Guenter Grass, the German novelist who won the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature, disclosed in an interview published Saturday that he had been a member of the Nazi Party fighting force Waffen SS during the Second World War.

The leftist, anti-war writer, 78, said his past silence about this had "weighed" on him, leading him to come out with the admission.

His disclosure shocked Germans, who had regarded the leftist, anti-war writer as one of the few of his generation free of any Nazi taint. The Waffen SS was a self-contained army, loyal to the party and linked with many atrocities in battle.

The interview appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in the build-up to the September publication of Grass's memoirs. Grass is best known for his 1959 magical realist novel, The Tin Drum, dealing with the grotesque post-war period.

He told the newspaper he had felt no guilt at the time about joining the Waffen SS at the start of 1945 when he was 17. He had not fired a shot before he was wounded on April 20, 1945. The war ended in May.

"To me initially, the Waffen SS was not something appalling, but an elite unit that was always sent in where it was dangerous and that had a reputation of suffering the most casualties," he recalled.

Only later had he felt guilty.

"This was always associated with the question, 'Could you have realized at the time what was going on?'" he said.

Asked by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa why he had waited so long to reveal this, he said, "Looking back, I always saw it as a blot that weighed on me and that I could not speak about."

Michael Juergs, who has written a biography of Grass, was among those to voice his disappointment in Grass.

"That is the end of a moral authority," he said of Grass, who has spent his life denouncing holdovers from the Nazi past in Germany.

Another German writer, Walter Kempowski, questioned how Grass could have claimed the standing to attack others of his generation, saying the biblical motto, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," should have applied to Grass too.

Grass, born October 16, 1927, had previously portrayed his military career as service in the regular army, preceded by a spell from 1944 onwards in one of the many home-guard anti-aircraft units, similar to that in which Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, served.

In his biography, Grass is to describe meeting Ratzinger in a post-war camp at Bad Aibling for captured German military personnel.

Grass said he had volunteered at age 15 to become a submariner but was not accepted on age grounds. His call-up to the Waffen SS came in the winter of 1944/1945. He was allocated to a tank division and took part in two reconnaissance missions behind Russian lines.

The SS began as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's private guard and grew later to nearly 1 million in size. It not only ran the Nazi death camps, but also operated a separate infantry and armour section, the Waffen SS. It was declared a criminal organization after the war.

DPA

Subject: German news

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