August 22, 2006

"I kept to myself this episode from my young years that was brief."

The Nobelist Guenter Grass:
Earlier this month, Grass, 78, made the surprising confession that he served in the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of the Nazis' fanatical organization. His new memoir, "Peeling the Onion," was then released and appeared last week in German bookstores....

"I would like to keep the right to say that I have understood this painful lesson that life taught me when I was a young man. My books and my political activity are the proof," Grass wrote.

23 comments:

Seven Machos said...

So, when the Germans finallu stop guilting everybody for war and its awfulness because virtually all of one generation of Germans participated in a horrific killing machine, will they become a normal country that sometimes goes to war to protect its interests, or will all hell break loose and a diabolical crazy find his way into power again?

Jim said...

I know how Günter feels - I once supported the Amerikan regime.

Jason said...

Isn't it funny that the revelations always come out just in time for the book tour?

The Drill SGT said...

This is not big deal He's 78. let's say he joined the Army in 44. That would make him 16 then and 4 when Hitler came to power.
He was a private in the Army for God's sake.


Is it any surprise that he was enamored with the only leader he ever knew or that he fought for his country?

The Waffen SS was first of all a combat organization, not death squads or Camp guards. those were another form of SS. Soldiers in the Waffen SS tended to be very young and very fanatical. They were guilty of minor atrocities, like not taking prisoners often and several massacres. The no prisoners thing was practiced on both sides on the Eastern front. The Soviets shot any SS prisoners on the spot and the SS often did the same to Commissars and other party types.

Post war it looks much worse than it did in 44. He seems to regret it. Let it go. Tell me which division he served in and I could give you a better feel for how ugly the history was.

JDM said...

As I understand it, the Soviet Union was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention. This meant that the Germans were also not bound by the Geneva Convention on the Eastern Front, although they did adhere to it fighting the Western Allies as a rule.

Thus, any "atrocities" on the Eastern Front were subject only to whatever laws of war apply in the absence of the Convention, and if course basic human dignity.

I am not sure which of Antony Beevor's works is more chilling - Stalingrad or Berlin, each one dealing with the battle for the city of the title.

Certainly being a woman in Berlin in May 1945 was not a fate I would have wished on anyone.

Pat Patterson said...

All of the SS reported to Himmler, they were identified as a criminal organization at the Nuremburg Trials. Mr. Grass is lucky, that as a conscript, he can no longer be charged with any crimes. It was Waffen SS units that executed Canadian POW's in Normandy and executed American POW's at Malmedy. Grass is using the German version of the Doofus or rather the Sgt. Schultz defens;, he was young and he was not a very good soldier thus incapable of actually shooting at or killing any of the Allies. I seem to remember that this same defense was used by John Lindh.

Many of the new leaders of Germany after the war came from banned socialist and communist parties that resisted but with admittedly little effect. Now at least we know which side Mr. Grass was on.

Bissage said...

A better man would have been more candid sooner.

He is no hero.

He merely writes books.

Word verification: octxjzek.

A village in what is now the Czech Republic?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Whew! That's making the Pope's Hitler Youth thing look like a cake walk.

Good on ya', Benedict!

Craig Ranapia said...

The Drill SGT:

Um, it is a very big deal - and Terry Teachout put the problem more eloquently than I ever could in the WSJ on Saturday.

Günter Grass became famous -- and won a Nobel Prize -- by giving free advice to his countrymen. Now it turns out that he preferred not to take his own medicine. After spending half a lifetime insisting that the German people had an absolute moral obligation to own up to Hitler's atrocities, the 78-year-old novelist is publishing a memoir in which he admits that he lied about his wartime service. The author of the much-admired 1959 novel "The Tin Drum," a symbolic portrayal of life in Nazi Germany, Grass now acknowledges that he was a member of the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of the Nazi paramilitary force that carried out the Holocaust. "It weighed on me," he says.

Mr. Grass's confession has touched off a fire storm of angry comment in Europe. Even his biographer, Michael Jürgs, is furious. "If he had come clean earlier and said he was in the SS at 17 no one would have cared," Mr. Jürgs told the Sunday Times of London, "but now it puts in doubt from a moral point of view anything he has ever told us." So it does -- especially since Mr. Grass is not only a prominent novelist but a smugly pious moralizer who likes nothing better than to sound off on political matters. Indeed, his anti-American (and pro-Soviet) stances are widely thought to have helped win him the Nobel Prize for literature, which of late has gone far too often to literary politicians better known for their politics than their prose. Nor are there any plans to strip Mr. Grass of his award. "Prize decisions are irrevocable," Michael Sohlman, chairman of the Nobel Foundation, told Agence France-Presse.


The full column can be found at http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115592954537539601-CvhHF2IoCzx5DjT9gJfaMMhNlhk_20060827.html?mod=blogs and it's worth reading the whole thing.

Revenant said...

Is it any surprise that he was enamored with the only leader he ever knew or that he fought for his country?

It certainly isn't a surprise for anyone familiar with his writing; he's always been a willing apologist for totalitarianism.

PatCA said...

If he had not been a leftist political scold for his entire life, his youthful membership in the SS would not carry as much weight. Teachout is eloquent; Hitchens in Slate also takes him down a peg.

As I've said, I know people on the left that are utterly shocked, crushed really, by this cynical confession--their world view balances so precariously on the judgments of these self-proclaimed saints.

Grass is a bigger liar and hypocrite than Bush--oh, the irony.

tjl said...

It's not particularly shocking that Grass was in the Waffen SS -- any German male of his generation would have been drafted into some unit or other that did terrible things. What's particularly offensive is that he then built a literary career self-righteously lecturing others on their moral shortcomings. It's the ultimate in hypocrisy.

The Drill SGT said...

Mr. Grass's confession has touched off a fire storm of angry comment in Europe. Even his biographer, Michael Jürgs, is furious. "If he had come clean earlier and said he was in the SS at 17 no one would have cared," Mr. Jürgs told the Sunday Times of London, "but now it puts in doubt from a moral point of view anything he has ever told us."

ok, now that I have more facts on his particular post war coverup, I agree that it is a big deal regarding him personally, but I stand behind the general statement that being a 16 YO in the Waffen SS in 44 didn't mean you took personal direction from Himmler. You marched where they told you and fought who they told you and hoped the war would end. You can read numerous first person accounts of US frontline combat, particularly on the Pacific front, but also in Europe and read between the lines about shooting folks who wanted to be prisoners, or in fact were prisoners. War is not a pleasant event, even for the victors.

The Drill SGT said...

I am not sure which of Antony Beevor's works is more chilling - Stalingrad or Berlin, each one dealing with the battle for the city of the title.

I've read both. He should complete a trilogy and do a third book on the siege of Leningrad. IMHO it was worse in that it lasted much longer than the other 2 battles and had many more civilians in the middle of it.

P. Froward said...

How fortunate he is, that he happens to be qualified to grant himself absolution. And how gracious of him to go ahead and do it.

Is it okay to say "assclown" here?

ChrisO said...

"As I've said, I know people on the left that are utterly shocked, crushed really, by this cynical confession"

Pardon me if I'm skeptical, but I don't know anyone on the left who is that invested in Gunter Grass one way or the other. This strikes me as a pretty feeble attempt to somehow hang his confession on "the left."

And by the way, be prepared to find a huge number of Cubans raised in the Castro regime who aren't exactly waiting with bated breath for the Americans to come and save them when the old man dies. My point being that when you're raised in a certain system, no matter how corrupt, it doesn't automatically follow that you are dedicated to seeing that system fail. I think it was understandable for a generation of young Germans to admire Hitler for restoring German pride. To the extent that they supported concentration camps and the holocaust, they need to own that. But I have to believe that a sizable contingent of young Germans just accepted Naziism as the system they lived under.

And not to derail the thread, but I think the same thing applies to a lot of Iraqis, who are indeed insurgents, because their national pride is wounded by being occupied by a foreign army, no matter how bad Hussein was. If the US left, I really don't believe that most of them would be traveling to other lands to offer their services as terrorists. OK, a little off topic, but I think there's a logical thread there.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Drill Sgt,

re Leningrad: Have you read The 900 Days?

The Drill SGT said...

Yes, It was good, but Beevor is better. The first part of the book is better, the second half drags. I wanted more maps and some more perspective from the German side.

Pastor, as a human tragedy it was well documented. As military history, it was much weaker.

PatCA said...

"I don't know anyone on the left who is that invested in Gunter Grass one way or the other." So what? I do.

"This strikes me as a pretty feeble attempt to somehow hang his confession on the left." I'm not hanging his confession on the left; I'm recounting the reaction of some on the left to his confession.

37383938393839383938383 said...

Listen, cut him a break. Most of what he did, he did when he was inebriated. Everyone knows that when you're drunk you can be a lethal weapon.

Goesh said...

I once was an altar boy and recited many Latin prayers.

SWBarns said...

"I don't know anyone on the left who is that invested in Gunter Grass one way or the other."

Is anyone on the left invested in an author or philosopher anymore?

Pastor_Jeff said...

Drill Sgt,

Thanks for the recommendation. I've got Beevor's books on Stalingrad and Berlin on hold for me at the library.