Poles ask Grass to give up Gdansk citizenship

14th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

14 August 2006, WARSAW/HAMBURG - Poland's governing Law and Justice party (PiS) has called on Nobel Prize-winning German writer Guenter Grass to give up his honorary citizenship of the Polish Baltic port city of Gdansk after he recently admitted to being a member of the Nazi Waffen SS during the Second World War. "No member of the Waffen SS can be an honorary citizen of any Polish city, especially not Gdansk where the Second World War erupted," PiS Member of Parliament Jacek Kurski told reporters Monday in

14 August 2006

WARSAW/HAMBURG - Poland's governing Law and Justice party (PiS) has called on Nobel Prize-winning German writer Guenter Grass to give up his honorary citizenship of the Polish Baltic port city of Gdansk after he recently admitted to being a member of the Nazi Waffen SS during the Second World War.

"No member of the Waffen SS can be an honorary citizen of any Polish city, especially not Gdansk where the Second World War erupted," PiS Member of Parliament Jacek Kurski told reporters Monday in Gdansk.

The first shots of the Second World War were fired by Nazi Germany in an attack on Gdansk on September 1, 1939

Grass was born in the Free City of Danzig, now Gdansk, on October 16, 1927. His most famous novel, The Tin Drum, is set in the city.

Kurski expressed "deep respect" for Grass's literary works and his great role in promoting Polish-German reconciliation after the Second World War.

The PiS, however, would insist the Nobel laureate voluntarily gave up his honorary citizenship of Gdansk granted in the early 1990s, Kurski said.

"If he doesn't do it himself, our PiS city councillors in Gdansk will feel obliged to formally request him to do so," Kurski said.

"We don't want an argument. We want this matter to be dealt with calmly," he said.

Kurski said that for hiding his SS past for so many years, Grass had "played a game with both his conscience and public opinion."

The Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War ruled the Waffen SS, a much-feared elite combat formation, a criminal organization responsible for war crimes against partisans and civilians in Nazi- occupied Europe.

Solidarity legend and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa expressed doubt over whether Grass would have received the Nobel Prize for Literature had he admitted to his SS past earlier.

"It's bad that he has admitted to this so late, but it's good he did it at all," Walesa told Poland's Dziennik newspaper Monday.

Walesa, perhaps the most famous citizen of the city of Gdansk, said he would refuse to shake Grass's hand from now on.

"I was lucky that as Nobel winners from Gdansk we never met: this saved me from shaking his hand. Today I would not shake his hand," Walesa told Dziennik.

Grass said Monday he had been hurt at criticism of his concealment of his Waffen SS past.

In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, Grass refused to comment on demands that he return his honours such as the 1999 Nobel Prize and honorary citizenship of Gdansk, saying "If I started, I'd never be able to stop commenting."

Eastern Europeans were shocked at Grass's association with the atrocity-scarred Waffen SS.

In Germany, where most men over the age of 75 served the Nazis in some way, the criticism focussed on why Grass inspired a generation to expose closet Nazis while concealing his own teenage misdeed.

Newspaper editorialists Monday applied German's rich vocabulary to describe moralizing, sanctimonious goody-goodies.

Grass said his memoirs up to 1959, to be published next month, would explore in detail how the shameful secret had tortured him.

He reiterated that he had never fired a shot while in the Waffen SS, an army that was originally only open to the most fanatical Nazis, but by 1945, as defeat loomed, accepted anyone it could get.

Describing his hurt, Grass said, "Some people are trying to blackball me. I'm so glad that other voices do not agree with them. I can only hope that all the commentators read my book."

The book, Peeling the Onion, expected to be published September 1, would describe his youthful enthusiasm for the Nazis with total honesty.

Grass said Monday that the period he served in the Waffen SS in the Dresden area had been from the end of February 1945, when he swore its oath, until April 20, 1945, when he was stood down with a wound. He denied taking part in any war crimes.

Asked the reason for his silence, he said, "I did not discover the literary form to do so until I had decided to write down what happened to me as a young man." The theme of the book was his own naivety.

DPA with Expatica

Subject: German news, Guenther Grass

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