hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Aug, 2006 06:56 pm
grass' revelation sems to have stirred up a lot of discussion in germany .
just read some of the entries in the "spiegel' comments section .
some readers are indeed very disturbed that grass apparently did not simply state the truth about his war service much earlier - people would have understood .
the impression i get from readers' comments is that he never made any mention of his service in the waffen-SS until now .
indeed i have seen a number of entries that state he was assigned to the anti-aircraft auxiliary - which was quite a common assignment for highschool-students .
i asssume that he must (?) have known of that , but made no attempt until now to correct that .
i notice that walter states that he and his fellow-students were aware of grass having been drafted into the waffen-SS during the 1960's , while reading 'the tin drum' - if i read walter's comments correctly ?

perhaps i'm reading too much into it - but somehow i get the impression that grass is reticent to simply admit that he should have stated his war service in simple terms much earlier .
he seems to be surprised at himself (and angry at others ?) for this to come out now .
perhaps walter will enlighten us ?
hbg
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Aug, 2006 07:27 pm
hamburger wrote:
he seems to be surprised at himself (and angry at others ?) for this to come out now .
perhaps walter will enlighten us ?
hbg


I've had a discussion with Mrs. Walter and some fellow A2K'ers who are visiting us about this as well:
I'm quite sure that we heard about his engagement in the SS at school - not all of our teachers were his fans (actually just very few).
And we here agree that he could have mentioned that before ... if there had been questions about it.

But: the 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung', who reported/published the story last week first, ... quoted only from Grass' new book, where such and more is mentioned.
(2nd print within a couple of days sold out)
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Aug, 2006 05:01 pm
walter : thanks for your response !
there is a rather interesting article in time magazine dealing with gunter grass (and his predicament) .

from the article :
"If Grass had not been living with this wretched little skeleton in his closet, he might never have written a word. Like 99% of his compatriots, he might have just dusted himself off at war's end, said his 20 Hail Marys, and gone about joining the blithely ahistorical postwar boom. Instead, a haunted Grass cranked out a series of brutal novels about the war and childhood in occupied Poland, beginning with his powerful 1959 novel The Tin Drum. Those unforgettable narratives, along with a good measure of his public hectoring and politicking, helped his entire country stave off collective amnesia for decades. So while his opponents, and even a share of his friends, are piling on him about the lies he told about his past, it's worth considering that those personal lies helped keep alive important national truths."

not sure that i fully agree , but certainly an interesting point of view .
i certainly think the article is worthwhile reading .
i think most north-americans would actually have a hard time understanding what all the furor is about .
hbg (wondering what skeletons i have in the closet - i better not check)


...TIME MAGAZINE - GUNTER GRASS...
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Aug, 2006 05:15 pm
I can understand it easily, in that there (I conjecture) was never quite a right time to bring it up, except in hindsight immediately. Right away would have been good, but as a young man, I can see not doing that. And then as time passed with his not having brought it up, I can see the burden of it growing. Sure he should have been straightforward.... we say now, all of us who have benefitted from an increase in therapy groups, etc.

Plus, it's not clear to me that he lied, more a matter of not explaining.

Yes, it takes a bit of moral power out of his image. It also might put it right back in, as he didn't have to do this admitting now. I don't think book sales are his motive.

No stones from me.
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Aug, 2006 05:32 pm
ossobucco wrote :
"No stones from me. "

certainly not from me Very Happy Exclamation

btw picked up his book "my century" at the library ... but having a tough time with it Sad
luckily also picked up : guy talese - the life of a writer ... i think i'll read guy talese first , perhaps it'll make me understand gunter grass Confused
hbg
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Aug, 2006 05:41 pm
I have remembered, during the development of this thread, what happened with my copy of the Tin Drum... I tried to read it and stopped, gave it to a thrift shop. Don't remember why I found the going tough in comparison to some other books I've slogged through despite whatever difficulty.. might not have been so much content as writing style.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 12:57 am
Quote:
Comment

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The denial of true reflection

Modern moralists live in an experience vacuum; Günter Grass's idea of honour is beyond them


John Berger
Monday August 21, 2006
The Guardian


Without ethics man has no future. This is to say mankind without them cannot be itself. Ethics determine choices and actions and suggest difficult priorities. They have nothing to do, however, with judging the actions of others. Such judgments are the prerogative of (often self-proclaimed) moralists. In ethics there is a humility; moralists are usually righteous.
These thoughts come to my mind as I read the macabre denunciations being levelled today against Günter Grass. About him as a man and about his great work as a writer, they totally miss the point, and might be dismissed as laughable, but, as an index of a certain recent moral climate in Europe, they are troubling. They are an example of moral judgments made in a carefully constructed vacuum of experience. They are what is left after the emptying out of lived experience, and they are a strident denial of what we know in our bones to be real.

Günter Grass, aged 15 and dreaming of being a heroic warrior, volunteered to join the army and, when he was 17, accepted to enlist with the Waffen SS. After a few months, having participated in no atrocity - except that of wearing a uniform that rightly provoked an atrocious fear - he became a prisoner of war and started to learn, with horror, what the forces that he had enlisted with had perpetrated.
The rest of his life as a storyteller was devoted to grasping, narrating and explaining, with extensive fellow-feeling, the contradictions, cruelties, abysmal losses, wisdom, ignorance, cowardice and grace of people (person by person) under extreme historical stress. Very few other writers of our time have such a wide knowledge of articulate and inarticulate experience. Grass never shut his eyes. He became a writer of honour.

That he was naive when he was 17 means only that he was 17. Inside a story there are no mistakes, only the living through of mistakes. And he has lived through his, better than most of us would have done.

The moralists go on to condemn Grass further for waiting so long to make this short chapter of his early life public; he finally wrote and published his autobiography when he was in his 70s.

To me it is clear that he felt that it was only at this age that he could do any real justice to this incident, which was both a choice and an accident. And by "do justice" I mean to tell the story without any oversimplification, so that it could encourage true reflection in future readers. He chose the story's time with the courage of a burrowing storyteller.

For clarity's sake, I picture a triangle. One of its points is an extensive (and very painful) knowledge of human experience. Grass's writings represent such a point. The triangle's second point is ignorance, the direct opposite to the first. The bravura of Grass' decision to join the Waffen SS is represented here. The triangle's third point is neither knowledge nor ignorance, but the blank refusal of experience. And this is the moralists' point. Such refusals have a long history. Remember the Pharisees.

But what about the point of innocence, you may ask; where is that? It is sometimes there, right at the end of a story.

The righteous moralists are proposing that Grass should renounce all the honours that his life's work has received. Their proposition only shows that, by systematically refusing to acknowledge his experience, they have forgotten what honour consists of. He has not.
Source
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 12:53 pm
dlowan wrote:
Setanta wrote:
It is also interesting that the document Walter provided shows him entering the Waffen SS in November, 1944, and describes him as a "student," which suggests to me that he was a trainee. You have a seventeen-year-old boy who enters the armed forces and goes into training in what are for his nation desparate times. Actually, given the situation in November, 1944, joining the Waffen SS was probably a rather smart move. He had a better shot at getting decent equipment, and what would have passed for decent rations in those dark days.

By the spring of 1945, thirteen- and fourteen-year-old boys were being put in field gray coats, given a coal scuttle helmet and a panzerfaust, and told to go out and find and kill an American tank. Should we hunt all of those horrible "Nazis" down? My mother served with a field hospital in Normandy. They got a lot of casualties from the 12th SS Panzergrenadier Division--the Hitler Jungen Division. Boys, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years of age . . . yeah, those were the worst of the Nazis, the little perishers. German officers taught her German lullabys phonetically, so she could sing them to sleep--they were badly wounded and terrified.


Actually, he says he was called up, and discovered it was for the Waffen SS....then that he feigned illness to try to avoid it.


Seems there's conflict here, because elsewhere he claims he volunteered
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 12:57 pm
Quote:
The author of ``The Tin Drum,'' one of postwar Germany's literary masterpieces, said that he didn't kill anyone and that his subsequent life and work compensated for the mistakes of his youth. Grass said his decision to volunteer for combat was in part motivated by his eagerness to abandon his family confines in the northern coastal city of Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.


Bloomberg.com (8/21/06)
0 Replies
 
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 01:02 pm
Miller wrote:
Seems there's conflict here, because elsewhere he claims he volunteered


He volunteered indeed when he was 15, in an effort to get into the submarine force which he greatly admired. His letter remained unanswered though, and he wasn't called up until more than a year later.

When he finally got drafted, he noticed that it wasn't for service on a submarine. Instead he was sent to Dresden, and only there discovered that he had been drafted for service in the Waffen-SS.

In spite of what dlowan said, it seems that he didn't try to completely avoid service in the Waffen-SS, but rather feigned illness (or actually got himself an infection) in an effort to take a couple of weeks leave from the troops.

(Miller, if you are really interested in the topic, there's enough material in this thread alone which you could have read before posting.)
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 01:12 pm
I suppose, if some had read "Beim Häuten der Zwiebel" (or at least the exerpts in the 'Frankfurter Allgemeine') already, she/he could answer most speculations here.

Since the FAZ isn't my paper and I'm no fan of biographies ... :wink:
0 Replies
 
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 01:40 pm
Heh, Walter, what's that supposed to mean? Is that your sorry excuse for being too lazy, getting a copy and reading the whole thing?

Very Happy

Okay, here's my sorry excuse: I'm not going to fall for that pathetic kind of marketing ploy!

There!





Now, if somebody wants to get me a free copy, just PM me, and I'll provide a mailing address....
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 01:55 pm
old europe wrote:
Heh, Walter, what's that supposed to mean? Is that your sorry excuse for being too lazy, getting a copy and reading the whole thing?

Very Happy


I read nearly everything by Grass via a "Literaturgeschichte" Laughing
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Aug, 2006 06:37 pm
i've openend AND closed guenter grass' "my century" several times over the weekend ...
instead i've now started reading "the stuart age - a history of england 1603-1714" . it's much more to my taste ; actually some rather funny stuff about lawyers and preachers in the book - a little easier for my old brain Laughing .
hbg
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Aug, 2006 09:47 am
Obviously Grass' memory was weaker than he confessed himself:

documents from his hospital stay [he allowed them to be published after the data protection office at first blocked that] show that he had joined the "Panzerjäger-Ausbildungs- und Ersatzabteilung 3" (which was as known until today no SS-unit) as a "Schütze" (and not a "SS-Mann") and on November 10, 1944 (and not earlier as he remembered in his book).

More (until now only in German) at spiegel-online.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Sep, 2006 02:17 am
Quote:
Gunter Grass: I needed time to reveal my Waffen-SS past

Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Wednesday September 13, 2006
The Guardian


Gunter Grass, the Nobel laureate whose confessions of SS membership during the second world war have shocked his native Germany, has denied lying about his past and claimed he simply needed time to tell his own story.
In an interview in Spain's El País newspaper, Grass replied to his critics while admitting he would probably have been involved in war crimes had he been a bit older and joined the notorious Waffen-SS earlier. "I was young, and I wanted to leave home. In my heart, it was something I agreed with," he said, explaining how he joined up as a 17-year-old in the dying stages of the war. "I considered the Waffen-SS to be an elite unit," he added. "If I had been born three or four years earlier I would, surely, have seen myself caught up in those crimes."

He kept this episode of his life, which he has now included in an autobiography, to himself for more than six decades because of a growing sense of shame.
"What was published later about the Waffen-SS, about all its crimes, was something I was not aware of until much later," he explained. "My sense of shame grew over time ... which is largely why this unique episode in my life was something that I kept to myself." He denied, however, actively hiding his past. "I've always admitted my involvement as a young man in the [Nazi] system," he said. "That has never been a secret."

Grass explained that, over time, he became more able to cope with his former self. "That made it possible to do something that was not at all easy - to take that child of 1939, who seemed like such a distant person to me, and converse with him," he said. "Little by little I managed to get through the layers to the person who grew up locked inside the ideological system of National Socialist era.

"People can criticise and that is something I have to accept. But I also reserve for myself the right to keep certain questions to myself until I find a way to express them," he said.

"I have not said anything false."

Grass only spent a short time at the front, at a time when the German army, and the Waffen-SS itself, was falling apart.

He was more ashamed, he said, that he had failed to react to his uncle's execution by the Nazi authorities or the imprisonment of one of his schoolteachers.

His mother was later repeatedly raped by Russian soldiers in their home city of Danzig.

Grass attacked his new critics, including the Hitler biographer Joachim Fest, who died yesterday. "He is the last person who can say anything about this after publishing a book which gives credit to all that Albert Speer said," he said. "Some people have tried to use this to wipe me out as a political citizen and say I must now keep my mouth shut. That is stupid."
Source
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 10:39 am
Don't Be Stupid, Be a Smarty
Come and join the Nazi party.
by P.J. O'Rourke
09/25/2006, Volume 012, Issue 02



LEFT-WING LOUDMOUTH and strident anti-American Günter Grass has admitted that he was a member of the Waffen SS. This came as a shock to the socialist admirers of the German novelist, who had no idea just how National Grass's Socialism was. The New York Times sighed at the revelation: "For many on the left since the 1960s he has come to represent the conscience of a country with much to lament." One more thing now being Günter himself.

Never mind that we knew it already. In an interview in 2000 he'd told that same newspaper, "I belonged to the Hitler Youth, and I believed in its aims up to the end of the war."

Anyway, the Nazism of Günter Grass is out in the open. Given this, perhaps his most strident and mouthy public pronouncements should be reas sessed. For example, in 1990, Grass opposed German reunification, characterizing West Germany's treatment of East Germany as "colonization." Of course he was angry. Colonization is for the Ukraine. What was needed in East Germany was Anschluss.

Herewith some statements by Günter Grass. What Herr Grass left unsaid has been added in italics.

On the 9/11 attacks (quoted in National Review, 12/31/01)
. . . aimed at expressing an explosion of hatred towards the rich north of the world, towards a world rich, cold, and indifferent to the problems of the poor part of the globe. The same way we had V-2s aimed at London.

On bombing civilian targets
(from an interview in the New York Times, 4/8/03)
We started the first air raids of this kind, killing a city, with Guernica in the Spanish Civil War. Rotterdam, Coventry, Liverpool and London followed. Then it was done to us. What we started came back to us. But both are war crimes. If you don't win the war.

On the Bible
(from an interview in the Paris Review, Summer 1991)
The Bible teaches a bad lesson when it says that man, rather than Ger-man, has dominion over the fish, the fowl, the cattle, and every creeping thing. We have tried to conquer the earth, with poor results. But there's always next time.

On skinhead violence in Germany
(from an interview in the New York Times, 12/29/92)
In many ways it is an expression of their own self-hate, which was bound to happen with reunification. It is expensive. It is unsettling. And so the weakest of East and West Germany got thrown to the bottom, and they are fighting to be above somebody or really anybody. And who is beneath them? The foreigners. Preferably the Poles.

"Nursery Rhyme"
(from a collection of Grass's poems, 1960)
Who speaks here or keeps mum?
Here we denounce the dumb.
To speak here is to hide
Deep reasons kept inside.
Eva Braun, be my bride.

On capitalism, Part I
(from a statement at the PEN International Congress, 1/16/86)
Is capitalism better than gulag communism? I don't think so. Capitalism doesn't have enough gulags.

On capitalism, Part II
(from a 1990 statement on the occasion of German reunification)
Capitalism has never been more barbaric, beast-like than after the victory over the communist system. I was really impressed. I almost joined Rotary. It reminded me of 1941. If the Russian winter hadn't forced us back into our wolf-dens, we would have torn every man, woman, and child in Moscow limb from limb.

On George W. Bush
(from an interview in the New York Times, 4/8/03)
In language he is close to Osama bin Laden. Both are always speaking about God. Both are sure that God is on their side. Well, Odin isn't! This has been amply demonstrated in pagan ceremonies handsomely staged for the Volk.

On American foreign policy
(from a 1980 letter signed by Grass and other German writers, urging the West German government not to allow its foreign policy to be led by . . . )
an American Government that since Vietnam has lost all right to moralize, into a policy that could lead to the destruction of all life on this planet. Because the Americans might not have the guts to go through with it.

On America
(quoted in the New Republic, 8/12/85)
. . . a country that was founded on the stolen land and genocide of Indians. Who weren't even Jewish!

On being a liar
(from an interview in the Paris Review, Summer 1991)
As a child I was a great liar. Fortunately my mother liked my lies. To which nothing more need be added.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 11:13 am
Thanks for that update.

I could add a couple more quotations from my school books - if I re-find them.

Oh, and since Finn forgot that: the online source for above quottation is The Weekly Standard - Sep 15, 2006
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Sep, 2006 06:53 pm
A review of Grass' book at The Telegraph (UK)

"Many layers but no heart
(Filed: 24/09/2006)

Daniel Johnson reviews Beim Häuten der Zwiebel (Peeling the Onion) by Günter Grass."
0 Replies
 
Pamela Rosa
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Oct, 2012 03:49 am
Germany's Gunter Grass defends Vanunu in new poem
http://www.jpost.com/Features/InThespotlight/Article.aspx?id=286070
0 Replies
 
 

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