Grass Bites Grass

And I bet he’s greener on the other side now, too.

Grass

No, but seriously folks… He was very outspoken. And he spoke out a lot. And he was a humble social critic.

Too bad he couldn’t just stick to what he was really good at. Writing The Tin Drum, for instance.

During the rise of Nazi Germany and the Second World War, Grass was in the Jungvolk (Hitler Youth) before, aged 17, being drafted into the Waffen-SS, the elite armed wing of the Nazi Party. He only revealed this fact about himself in 2006.

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4 responses

  1. I read that this morning with some regret. I knew a lot of old Germans. And of course, many, like Grass claimed to have been the “good Germans”. Some, when I got to know them better, told more true stories. How everyone thought it would be ‘better’ the Nazi way, thought the world owed them for “Versailles” and so forth. I knew old German soldiers, I even met an SS trooper who spent from 1944 till 1962 in a Russian prison camp.

    I think Grass was ashamed, like many Germans. I did not detect in him what I did in some I met face to face, though — a simmering anger that they should “need” to be ashamed.

    I think the bigger lesson is that nobody should settle for their pasts being the only determinant of their present or their future. I miss the writing like The Tin Drum….but I do not think that book really reflected what Germany was at all. I think it was a snapshot of the psyche of certain types of Germans, at best.

  2. Honestly, as a 17-year-old who grew up under nothing else but the influence of the Nazi Germany and was bred to believe that serving Vaterland was his inherent duty, one can hardly be surprised at what he did. He admitted it late in the day, true, but at least he did. Which most of the others, who were older and knew so much better what they were doing, did not.

    I, for once, am glad he was as outspoken as he was and sometimes controversial, too. Didn´t always support his point of view but I respected him immensely: he was a partner for discussion, you could question his ideas and he was happy to explain. Unlike, again, so many other “prophets” who believe to be infallible and shove their truths down your throat whether you like it or not.

    Members of my family were enslaved and killed by the Nazis but I still do not consider Grass or any other very young man or woman who became part of the murderous system to be blamed for what happened.

    And his death really really shook me – you see, since I remember, he was always there. And now he isn´t. Part of that difficult but also great past is gone.

  3. It doesn’t shock me that he did what he did as young man at that time, nor do I care that he never made any sense (to me) when being outspoken. What bugged me about the guy was the way he did it. Von oben herab (condescendingly), as the great German Intellectual Snoot. I mean, he wore a uniform, for crying out loud. That pipe and that smirk and the whole bit, becoming a parody of himself in the end. He writes one great book and then the vanity takes over and he spends the rest of his life celebrating himself – or did he REALLY write anything worth reading after The Tin Drum? I can’t tell you. Not that The Tin Drum wasn’t enough. It was. But I guess he just couldn’t leave it at that.

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