Feature

A confession 60 years overdue.

The week's news at a glance.

Germany

Stephan SpeicherBerliner Zeitung

So now we know: Günter Grass served in the Waffen-SS, said Stephan Speicher in the Berliner Zeitung. The Nobel Prize–winning novelist, now 78, confessed last week that his wartime service was as a member of the military branch that was allied most closely with Nazi ideology and committed the worst atrocities. That in itself is no crime: Grass didn’t volunteer for Waffen-SS duty, he was drafted into it at age 16, just a year before the war ended. So why didn’t he tell us? Grass built a career as the conscience of the nation by forcing Germans to face their past honestly, “yet he lied to us for 60 years.” A perfect opportunity to reveal this information would have been back in 1968. Grass wrote a tract urging people not to vote for the extreme-right party, a work all the more compelling because it told of his time in the Hitler Youth and of how he came to realize it was evil. “How much more effective it would have been had he been writing as a former SS soldier.” Or how about in 1985, during President Ronald Reagan’s controversial visit to the German military cemetery at Bitburg? “It would have calmed the discussion considerably had Grass said, ‘I, too, could have been buried there.’” Evidently there was a part of his past so shameful that he could not admit it. Too bad he never showed any sympathy for others in the same predicament.

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