Skip to comments.Guenter Grass was in Waffen-SS
Posted on 08/13/2006 8:36:33 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Nobel Prize-winning German writer Guenter Grass, author of the great anti-Nazi novel The Tin Drum, has admitted serving in the Waffen-SS.
He told a German newspaper he had been recruited at the age of 17 into an SS tank division and served in Dresden.
Previously it was only known he had served as a soldier and was wounded and taken prisoner by US forces.
Speaking before the publication of his war memoirs, he said his silence over the years had "weighed" upon him.
"My silence over all these years is one of the reasons I wrote this book [Peeling Onions]," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview.
"It had to come out, finally."
Grass, who was born in 1927, is widely admired as a novelist whose books frequently revisit the war years and is also known as an outspoken peace activist.
Few details of the author's service were given other than that he had served in the Waffen SS Frundsberg Panzer Division after failing to get a posting in the submarine service.
The SS, which began as a private bodyguard for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, grew into a force nearly one million strong and both acted as an elite fighting force and ran death camps in which millions of people were murdered.
The Waffen-SS was the combat section of the organization and extended to 38 divisions. It was declared part of a criminal organisation at the Nuremberg Nazi trials after the war.
"At the time" he had not felt ashamed to be a member, he said but he added: "Later this feeling of shame burdened me."
"For me... the Waffen-SS was nothing frightful but rather an elite unit that they sent where things were hot and which, as people said about it, had the heaviest losses," he said.
"It happened as it did to many of my age. We were in the labour service and all at once, a year later, the call-up notice lay on the table. And only when I got to Dresden did I learn it was the Waffen-SS."
Grass' memoir of his wartime youth is due to be released in September.
Has he said what will be done with all payments received for this book?
As Grass has for many decades been an outspoken left-leaning critic of Germany's treatment of its Nazi past, his statement caused a great stir in the press. Grass's biographer Michael Jürgs spoke of "the end of a moral institution" . Lech Walesa has severly criticized Grass  for keeping silent about his membership for 60 years. Also, Joachim Fest, a German journalist and biographer of Adolf Hitler, told Der Spiegel:
After 60 years, this confession comes a bit too late. I can't understand how someone who for decades set himself up as a moral authority, a rather smug one, could pull this off. Joachim Fest, 'Der Spiegel'
Rolf Hochhuth said it was "disgusting" that this same Grass, "politically correctly", had publicly criticized Helmut Kohl and Ronald Reagan's visit to a military cemetery at Bitburg in 1985, because it also contained graves of Waffen-SS soldiers.
I read the book in 1968. Story about a midget that played a drum. Pretty weird book.
It's time to put this crap away. Unless some old-timer can be proven to be an incontrovertible monster, it is not enough condemn a man for having served in the armed services of one's country.
Read number 4 (Wikipedia already has some quotes in response to the Aug 11 announcement).
He was a smug outspoken critic. His ivory tower is tainted.
The movie wasn't one you'd want..., well, actually it sucked.
I popped off without reading all the comments;I shouldn't have done so. I'll stand by my point generically but a hypocritical windbag deserves his just desserts.
Well, there's a difference between the Waffen SS and the "armed forces." The SS was "the elite," and required extra dedication. The Waffen SS was the battle group of the SS, and they were especially nasty to civilians they conquored, and didn't bother with POWs. The Waffen SS regularly executed any soldiers who surrendered. IIRC, I don't believe that people were "assigned" to the Waffen SS. They had to request it.
I have to admit that I was thinking of the Waffen as being Goering's air force but being in the SS does not make Grass anything more than a bigger hypocrite. No one has called him a war criminal.
I had forgotten about this one, thanks for posting it. I do remember though, that at the time, Grass really ticked me off, not because I was a Reaganite, or anything of the sort, but more out of his contempt for fallen soldiers. Was it a German soldier's fault that Hitler was what he was? A great many of them were caught up, swept in in the maelstrom, whom would have much preferred to do anything else other than fight, kill, or die. Could they have refused their orders, in the then, Nazi Germany??? I don't think so. Should they be blamed? If so, for what? The mistakes of others? No, they should not be blamed (generally) for many of them, millions of them, were forced to pay for the great errors, with their lives... Isn't that enough?
Now we find out he was a soldier too? He should have never opened his mouth against Kohl and Reagan...he didn't understand what they were doing, or why, or he would have kept his mouth shut. I guess making part of one's living out of peddling 'tweaked' versions of guilt trips, makes one oblivious to the deeper things (sounds like I'm talking about the current American Left wing, here, I know)...
Can't say as I've ever read The Tin Drum , but I did begin, and get part way through The Flounder before hucking it out of the wheelhouse door, into the sea. Of the thousands of books devoured in past years, that one of his was one of only three or four to get that treatment. Many lesser books survived, most of them unread, since they were not up to standards of holding interest, or having value as literary work, yet they didn't pretend to, so I'd let them be, for someone else to perhaps someday read...
Grass's work is pretentious, at least the Flounder was, so that one copy of it, got the 'ol "float test".
Most other flounders sink when thrown overboard. For a paperback, it takes a little while...
And hey, I paid good money for it, too! I think I paid a buck fifty, in a used book store for it! hehheh...
And spent a lot of time under some lady's skirts--very weird!!!
I went to Wikipedia because I thought he made headlines in the past year for some criticism of the WOT or Iraq War or Bush or some new "outrage".
I supposed I could search through old FR threads...
LOL!!! I guess his thinking was: "The tsunami wave of the victors is sweeping all before it. I cannot escape it, so I must [i]ride[/i] it!!!
I suck at HTML...
--- I don't believe that people were "assigned" to the Waffen SS. They had to request it.---
Many of the Waffen SS were draftees, and a lot of them were not even Germans, as the war went on.
We can understand why Grass didn't want to be associated with the dreaded SS. Just look at the comments on this thread...
More towards the truth, but diffucult to explain (it would have been even more difficult for Grass, after he started writing, no?) was this; Not all who were drafted into SS units were bloodthrirsty murderering fascists, bent on world domination. There were plenty who just happened to be Germans of fighting age --- at a bad time to be so!
As losses mounted (at or near Stalingrad alone some 270,000 Germans died) replacements had to come from somewhere.
I rarely think of those from other countries whom ended up in German armies...that too, did happen. Thanks to claudistg for mentioning this. Truth can always help. Without it, all hope of understanding is lost.
Those Nazis running things, however, really knew how to "make an offer, that could not be refused", didn't they?
Whew! I'm glad they lost! (if you fellows are krauts, no offense, eh?)
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