61 years after the end of the war, the today nearly 80 year old Nobel Prize winner Guenter Grass, literary monument of post war Germany, the doyen of the anti-American German left, admits he joined the Frundsberg division of the Waffen-SS in 1944 – voluntarily. You can inform yourself about the niggling details of the enlistment in the FAZ cultural section's interview conducted on the occasion of the appearance of his autobiography “Vom Häuten der Zwiebel”.
Grass on his admission: „It had to come out, finally.“
Finally indeed. For decades Grass nursed the lie that he had been called up as an anti-aircraft support troop. So now Grass is a member of the Waffen-SS – that Waffen-SS, the one that drove Jews into the
gas chambers. To be precise, it must be pointed out that the Frundsberg division was deployed in the west from 1944 until February 1945 and only thereafter moved to the east. Grass himself keeps mostly mum about the details of his Waffen-SS stint during the interview.
Günther Grass: He answered the call of the Waffen-SS
Grass certainly never kept quiet when it came to damaging others who were caught in an SS net. When Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl honored fallen soldiers at the Bitburg cemetery in 1985 as an expression of reconciliation between Germans and Americans, Grass jeered: "... an historical misrepresentation, the deliberately calculated media effect of which harmed Jews, Americans and Germans in equal measure.”
Grass bases his caustic critique of Kohl and Reagan on the fact that among the 2000 fallen were 49 Waffen-SS members, all of them 17 and 18 year olds. Frank Schirrmacher’s allusion in the FAZ, that it’s a matter here “if anything, of members of his own Division”, circumscribes the whole perfidy of the Grassian critique. Reagan, by the way, characterized the fallen young members of the Waffen-SS as “victims of Nazism also . . . drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis”.
And naturally the membership of a 17 year old in the Waffen-SS is explicable and forgivable, as Schirrmacher points out (as does Grass, excusing himself).
What is unforgivable though, is the hypocrisy of the “Praeceptor Germaniae”, who kept quiet about his own fateful enganglement in the structures of the SS state, while exercising the sharpest and most polemical critique on the behavior of others – on German conservatives, on America’s government, on Israel. You could classify this character-split as downright sleazy.
A few quotes from Grass:
The words of the current American president -- "Those not with us are against us" -- weighs on current events with the resonance of barbaric times. It is hardly surprising that the rhetoric of the aggressor increasingly resembles that of his enemy. ... Religious fundamentalism leads both sides to abuse what belongs to all religions, taking the notion of "God" hostage in accordance with their own fanatical understanding. (Source)
"This was a conscious and planned provocation by a right-wing Danish newspaper," said German Guenter Grass, who took the Nobel Prize in 1999. Grass described the Danish publishers of the caricatures as "xenophobic right-wing radicals" and the subsequent violent Muslim protests as "a fundamentalist response to a fundamentalist act." (Source)
WamS: Mr Grass, what is your impression of George W Bush?
Grass: I regard this man as dangerous, a threat to world peace. He reminds me of one of those figures in Shakespeare's historical dramas, whose only ambition is to come before his father--the old, dying king--to step up and say, "Look, I finished your project!" He is determined to bring the Gulf War to a higher level of completion by instigating a second one, Bush jr is guided by private, familial motives: he is driven by what he inherited by his father. Also Bush's economic interests play a role. The family is deeply involved in the business of oil. Above all, what's behind the push for a war with Iraq are political and economic interests.
The third reason, of course, is the status of the USA as the only all-powerful superpower in the world. The US administration wants to control and direct the rest of the world but knows too little about the world outside its borders. It knows almost nothing. The dangerous combination of familial, economic and political interests along with such ignorance leads a politician to become a real danger.
WamS: Does this obvious alliance of economic and political interests mean that there is a connection between neoliberalism and terrorism, which are now fighting each other?
Grass: Certainly. Immediately after the terrible attack of September 11, I pointed out that the reason for this attack lies in the anger and hate of the socalled third world toward the abundance of the first world. So long as we do not root out the causes of this righteous anger, the terror will continue. (Source) (WamS = Welt am Sonntag, the Sunday edition of the German daily WELT)
The phenomenon Grass is probably only comprehensible in psychological terms. My layman’s explanation is that, through his polemics, Grass repeatedly seeks to work off, and expiate, his own sense of guilt about membership in the Waffen-SS.