Aug 14, 2006

Günter Grass: Stormtrooper

Nobel prize winner confesses to once being a member of the SS.
Now the great advocate of facing unpalatable truths has lived up to his own standards, but a little late. The revelation came in an interview with Germany’s respected conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), and while it is certain to boost interest in his forthcoming autobiography it has done immeasurable harm to the writer’s squeaky-clean reputation.

Grass now says that, although he had told the truth to his wife, those he deceived included his own children and his biographer Michael Jürgs, with whom he spent countless hours apparently going over the minutiae of his life in the latter years of the Third Reich. Jürgs told The Sunday Times yesterday: “I’m deeply disappointed. If he had come clean earlier and said he was in the SS at 17 no one would have cared, but now it puts in doubt from a moral point of view anything he has ever told us.”

It had long been known that Grass, who was only 18 when the war ended, had served in the armed forces and been wounded. But until now he had gone along with the story that he had been drafted into an anti-aircraft unit in his native Danzig. The truth, he now admits, is that he volunteered to join the U-boat fleet, “which was every bit as crazy”, but was turned down and drafted instead into the 10th SS Panzer Division “Frundsberg”, part of the Waffen SS.

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