Walesa drops demand Grass give up Gdansk title
23 August 2006, WARSAW - Poland's Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa on Tuesday backed out of his demand that German author and Nobel Literature award winner Guenter Grass give up his honorary citizenship of Gdansk.
23 August 2006
WARSAW - Poland's Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa on Tuesday backed out of his demand that German author and Nobel Literature award winner Guenter Grass give up his honorary citizenship of Gdansk.
Walesa originally made the demand last week after Grass admitted to concealing his Nazi past in the Waffen SS for 60 years.
But on Tuesday Walesa, the legendary leader of Poland's anti- communist Solidarity trade union, relented after reading a letter sent by Grass to Gdansk city officials.
"The letter convinces me and from this moment on I will not be in conflict with Mr. Grass," Walesa said, quoted by Poland's PAP news agency.
"I hope that we will jointly build friendship between Poland and Germany and that we will also build Europe together," Walesa said.
The content of Grass's letter to Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz was made public later Tuesday. In it, Grass admits "youthful blindness" led him to volunteer to serve on submarines in Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's navy. His application was rejected and he was subsequently drafted into the notorious Waffen SS nearly two years later.
The Nobel author admits his 60 years of silence on the matter of what he calls in the letter "two weeks" of service in the Waffen SS was a "mistake".
Gdansk Mayor Adamowicz said Tuesday he expected Grass to visit Gdansk next fall to mark his 80th birthday.
Grass raised a storm of controversy both at home and abroad earlier this month when he revealed in a German newspaper interview that he served in the reviled Nazi Waffen SS, a fact he had kept secret up to now.
The writer tells the story in his autobiography, Peeling the Onion, which sold out upon its release last week.
The fact that he concealed several weeks' service as a teenager in the Waffen SS provoked calls in Poland for him to give up his honorary citizenship of the Polish Baltic coast city of Gdansk granted to him in 1993.
Author of the famous novel The Tin Drum, which is set in the city, Grass was born in the Free City of Danzig, now Gdansk, on October 16, 1927. He refused to give up the honour.
A survey of Gdansk residents showed that a majority also thought he should keep it.
Grass has long been held in high esteem in Poland as a shining example of a German who worked for post-war Polish-German reconciliation, but his recent revelations have shaken this reputation.
And his belated revelation is particularly sensitive for Poles given the tragic symbolism and history of Gdansk.
The first shots of the Second World War were fired there on September 1, 1939 when Nazi Germany attacked Poland. Sixty-one years later, the memory of the massive human and material devastation it brought still strikes a raw nerve for Poles.
The Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War ruled the Waffen SS, a much-feared elite combat formation, was a criminal organization responsible for grisly war crimes against partisans and civilians in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Subject: German news