August 11, 2006


I was in Hitler's SS, admits Günter Grass (Kate Connolly, 12/08/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Germany was rocked by the revelations last night that Günter Grass, its greatest living author and doyen of the Left, was a member of Hitler's elite Waffen-SS.

The Nobel laureate, who has been the country's moral guide for decades, admitted in an interview published today that he became a member of the infamous Nazi corps at the age of 17.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2006 11:36 PM

It's curious that he's kept it a secret for so long. After all, Waffen-SS was a regular fighting force. It's not like he was in the Einsatzgruppen.

Posted by: Mörkö at August 12, 2006 6:04 AM

Several Germans and one Romanian I had met over there had insisted to me that the SS was "just like being in the Marine Corps."

Here is the lesson: fighting with great military virtue does not exculpate participation in a criminal organization. Neither does mere peer pressure excuse assent to the criminal purpose of the larger group.

When we reflect on achievements of the Waffen SS, such as the stand of the 12th SS Panzer at Falaise, we must come back to reality that the whole rotten thing was based on sin and crime. It was all about renewing the push to the East, thwarted of old by Poland, and pushing asside the Untermenschen for a place in the sun. Hitler had been promising the German people a future as gentlemen farmers on land stolen from the Slavs, and they were eating it up.

The lesson here is for the present difficulty. We are now facing yet one more vast criminal organization. By their logic, the jihadis are heroic fighters. All that matters not: the central purpose of their criminal organization is what it always had been, to extend the dominion of their spiritual jailhouse by terror and force. It is only the soft bigotry of lowered expectations which holds us back sweeping this enemy from the face of the earth as we did the other.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 12, 2006 6:25 AM

Curious? Not at all. It's an article of faith on the Left, one he helped create, that the Nazis were distinctly and uniquely evil. It's a necessary myth given that an identical regime was left in place in Russia.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 7:41 AM


Note that your call sounds the same as theirs? You just substitute Muslim for Jew, Slav, Romany, and Communist.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 8:02 AM

Grass has been writing op-eds and making speeches the last few years decrying the evils of multinational capitalism and the Bush regime's neocon foreign policy and Patriot Act. It appears that he, like all good Nobel prize winners, also opposes the Zionist entity's continuing occupation of Palestine.

In other words, he's still a good little SS-Man at heart.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 12, 2006 8:26 AM

"Inevitably, September 11 came up. [Nadine] Gordimer identified terrorism's root cause as poverty; Grass concurred, portraying 9/11 as a case of the victimized justifiably striking back at the powerful."

--Bruce Bawer, "Civilization and V.S. Naipaul," Hudson Review (Summer 2002).

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 12, 2006 8:36 AM

Scratch a communist, find a Nazi.

Posted by: Bob at August 12, 2006 9:47 AM

Yes, Grass is hoist on the pretense that there was a difference.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 10:08 AM

There was a difference. The Nazis didn't have a base of articulate supporters. Communists did.

Posted by: Brandon at August 12, 2006 10:26 AM

"Here is the lesson: fighting with great military virtue does not exculpate participation in a criminal organization. Neither does mere peer pressure excuse assent to the criminal purpose of the larger group."

To my knowledge, neither Grass nor his SS unit has ever been implicated in any war crimes. Grass had no choice in joining the organisation (although he could have chosen desertion and almost certain execution).

It'd be nice if all citizens always actively opposed rotten totalitarian regimes, but clearly such heroism is not in the human nature, so it's pretty outrageous for someone who has never lived in such circumstances to condemn someone like Grass who was just doing what everyone else did, trying to save his neck.

You people's gloating over Grass's SS past does not seem to be based on what he actually did back then but on his later politics. In that it closely resembles the way some others attack the current pope over his Hitler Jugend and Wehrmacht past. The only thing Grass can be criticised for is that he didn't come clean earlier.

Posted by: Mörkö at August 12, 2006 11:10 AM

"Throughout his career he has famously criticised those unwilling to deal with Germany's Nazi past."

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 11:14 AM

What he did in the war is neither remarkable nor necessarily censurable, but what is particularly offensive is his deft appeal for sympathy based upon his angst all these years. "I've been living a lie and became a well-paid cult figure based entirely upon that lie, but my pain was too much to bear. My new-found sincerity cleanses me. Can anyone spare a hug for a tortured old man?"

The guy has clearly become addicted to Oprah in his dotage.

Posted by: Peter B at August 12, 2006 11:56 AM

Oj: you are very close to understanding it. There is only to ask how these things are similar and how are they different.

The Nazis attempted to mobilize the power and spirit and song of a people to the service of a criminal plan to murder and dispoil other peoples. To some extent, this was to make up for deficiencies in material power, as though German Geist, like Japanese Damashii or Confederate valor woud stand for battleship and strategic bombers.

What I am reading today is the peace-creep notion that power, spirit and song* themselves are wrong, without regard to their ends.

Sometimes, often, it has turned out, the only way to peace is to be ready to fight and to win*. The victory* has to be thinkable. Without the will to win, mere weapons are in vain, as the enemy will be enables to imaging that the weapons will be unused.

As to Grass and all the others who partook of that great crime, there is guilt there, in greater or lesser degrees. One cannot read what they wrote and what they said, publically, without recognizing that the Nazi criminal intent was known and accepted by the mass of the German people.

*Code-words, all code-words.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 12, 2006 1:47 PM

Their crime was in accepting the Darwinian notion that Jews (with a centuries-old Abrahamic faith), Slavs, etc. were lesser races that could contaminate the Germans and so had to be exterminated.

The notion that Muslims are to be swept from the Earth is of a piece.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 2:01 PM

oj. This is silly. There's no comparison.

Jews & Slavs were and are small minorities who didn't issue manifestoes declaring their intention to kill all of those they felt inferior ... and destroy their nation as Moslems have. Moslems who number in the billions and who have control of a commodity the west thinks it can't do without, have killed wantonly in order to terrorize world opinion into condoning their stated objective of killing all Jews and destroying Israel.

Posted by: erp at August 12, 2006 3:49 PM

That's a hallucination.

However, if we pare it down to the modicum of truth that resides within--just as a few extremist groups made up of Muslims have threatened the West so too did Communist parties (heavily Jewish) threaten the West. Hitler was no more justified in killing all Jews because of the few Communist ones than would we be in killing all Muslims because of a few whackos.

By all means, kill Communists and Islamicists and you're doing God's work.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 3:54 PM

Somehow our host has gotten the notion that "kill the infidel, whereever you find him" is just the quaint Islamic way of expressing a willingness to peacefully coexist, and all their talk of death, destruction and slaughter is strickly for domestic consumption and they will never have to follow through.

But what's especially delicious is how the person so willing to label as racits anyone who disagrees with his anti-anti-illegal immigrationist hard line policies is at the same time unwilling to hold his beloved "Abrahamic" Muslims to the same standard.

If the so-called Minutemen should convert to Islam, his head would explode from the contradictions he'd be forced to confront.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 12, 2006 4:28 PM

Another head-exploding thought:

This is the same guy who says witches and heretics should be persecuted and "burned at the stake", yet tolerates the heresy and perversion of the "Abrahamic faiths" that calls itself "Islam". I guess when your heresy reaches a certain age (and after killing enough non-believers), it gets grandfathered into respectiability.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 12, 2006 4:33 PM

Muslims don't deny the God of Abraham. Witches do.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 5:07 PM

If the Minute Men were decent Christians, Jews, or Muslims they wouldn't be such racists.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 5:09 PM

I don't want to kill anybody. I only want to prevent killers from killing me and mine and if the only way to do that, is to kill them first, so be it.

I've lived with Jews all my life and never once was afraid their ambition was to do me violence, likewise with Slavs. Ditto with the Moslems with whom I grew up. Unfortunately, they changed, not me and now support their co-religionists who want to destroy Israel by means fair and foul and are under the delusion that killing our fellow Americans will cause us to turn into craven cowards and away from Israel leaving them to realize their ambition

If God forbid, the Ned Lamont's get in power here, they will be proven right.

Posted by: erp at August 12, 2006 6:30 PM

Of course, you're forced to kill them.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 6:35 PM

"If the so-called Minutemen should convert to Islam, his head would explode from the contradictions he'd be forced to confront."

Now that's funny!

Posted by: jefferson park at August 12, 2006 8:50 PM

Funny? Their conversion is devoutly to be wished.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 9:10 PM

Mörkö: My father tells me that when his unit liberated the concentration camp, the SS guards surrendered, but his unit took one look at the place and didn't take any prisoners. You do the math.

Far as I'm concerned, it's a scandal that there were any SS veterans left breathing in 1946, much less today. (Just as the Stasi should have been strung up in 1990.)

As for Grass, you'd think he'd be a little more grateful for American magnanimity. Instead, he's spouting the same irrational nonsense about the evils of capitalism that Hitler and Mussolini did back in 1935. His later politics are all part of the same seamless garment as his old SS uniform.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 12, 2006 10:43 PM

As late as it is, the unfairness of your moral equivalence of resisting the spirirual jailhouse with Nazi genocide cannot go unanswered.

I have certainly never advocated or even compassed genocide against muslims or anyone else, nor does a fair reading or any other comments here suggest that anyone else has done so.

What we denizens of this dimension are saying is that the reformation of that RICO must be accomplished, as the reformation of Shinto had had to be accomplished, if its inmates are to avoid destruction. Not one single human being must necessarily be harmed to achieve this.

We have no designs on their lands, unless one holds the continued existence of Israel to be such. We have no particular racial animus toward them, as the Germans had against the Slavs and Jews. On the contrary, we wish them all the best.

And there is the rub. For those who have lost confidence, the greatest disloyalty,* the fear that the truth may be bad, has them quivering before the possibility that this barbaric atavism might have to be fought to the end, as the other criminal conspiracies before it. This thought has unmanned old Europe, and, manifestly, more than old Europe.

It would be most unfortunate if this outcome were made necessary: it would be their idea, not ours.

*More code words


Posted by: Lou Gots at August 13, 2006 1:30 AM


Grass was in a tank division. Unless you consider operating a tank a war crime, you have nothing on him.

Grass was grateful to the communists and not the Americans, because the communists, not the Americans, defeated the Nazis. Nazism was crushed in places like Stalingrad and Kursk, not in the skirmishes of the Western Front.

Posted by: Mörkö at August 13, 2006 4:01 AM

Sure, Morko. Too bad the poor guy was trapped behind Ango-American lines and couldn't get east to show his gratitude.

Posted by: Peter B at August 13, 2006 7:19 AM

Mörkö: so what you're saying is that Grasss operated a tank in the SS, a fanatical pagan anti-Semitic organization dedicated to nationalistic socialism (what do you think "Nazi" stands for?) which, among other things, committed atrocities on an industrial scale. After the war, he transferred his allegiance to communism, a fanatical atheistic, anti-Semitic ideology which, among other things, committed atrocities on an industrial scale (and still does in China and North Korea and Cuba). Now, he's openly supportive of al-Qaida, a fanatical anti-Semitic organization which, among other things, seeks to commit atrocities on an industrial scale.

But you're cool with all that.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 13, 2006 8:47 AM


To the contrary, your continual references to Islam as a criminal conspiuracy and to sweeping the earth of its members is only different from Nazism because you aren't basing your genocide on race.

Posted by: oj at August 13, 2006 9:51 AM

Oj: You are very close to understanding how these things are alike and how they are different, but you seem to be still just missing it.

It is not people, human beings, are which are to be swept from the earth, but certain ways of thinking and acting. You persist in confusing these different things because you lack confidence in the possibility of reformation. You fear that Islam will present us with none other than the choice Shinto had presented.

I, on the other hand, have great hope for peaceful reformation. Information technology makes it more than possible. The danger is that squeamishness may enable them to imagine that we shall not grind them to powder, if they demand it. This is what produces war.

Thus we see the mystery of deterrence, and the danger brought about by the greatest of disloyalties.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 13, 2006 1:13 PM

No, I just disagree that Islam should be swept from the Earth. It isn't a threat. It's not like Nazism, but like Judaism and Christianity. Oddly, that which you think makes it different--the history of jihad--is exactly what you're saying we should pursue against it--though we call them crusades. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are just different iterations of the samne truth and are perfectly compatible.

Posted by: oj at August 13, 2006 1:20 PM


It's easy for you to demonize Grass when you portray his choices in a way that bears little resemblance to what he actually did.

Perhaps if you consider the following facts you might be able form a more nuanced view of what Grass and many others did (though I don't hold my breath for you to do so, as you seem to be more interested in ideological pronouncements than reality):

1. Grass was drafted into the SS at the age of seventeen; he did not volunteer and he did not have any other option. What would you have done in Grass's position?

2. The Nazis had enjoyed widespread popularity among the Germans. Conservative Christians and big business had supported Hitler enthusiastically. The only group to systematically oppose the Nazis were the communists.

3. The West was eager to criticize the Nazis for their territorial ambitions and racism, while at the same time the West retained much of the earth as its supposedly legitimate Lebensraum and followed racist policies that were no different from those that the Nazis had had in the 30s.

4. The Soviets defeated the Nazis, and liberated Auschwitz and other extermination camps. They promised to create a new society where the old prejudices had no place, and this vision appealed to the likes of Grass who had seen good church-going folks chant "Heil Hitler!" in ecstasy and carry out Hitler's sordid orders. He knew of the fat profits that the leading Germans companies had collected by using slave labor in concentration camps. He also knew that Nazi anti-Semitism had its roots in Christianity, and that the position of the Jews was relatively good in the Soviet Union, and that communism and the Soviet Union enjoyed wide support among the Jews.

The traditional Western society was permanently tainted in Grass's eyes, and he wished for a complete overhaul of the society in favor of a new, just world. The communists promised just that, and Grass and others bought it. We now know that the West has been able to correct many of its flaws, and that communism turned out to be not much or any better than Nazism, but this was not obvious from the vantage point of Grass.

Posted by: Mörkö at August 14, 2006 5:40 AM

There's no difference between the two--he chose evil both times.

Posted by: oj at August 14, 2006 8:24 AM

That's only because all options were evil.

Posted by: Mörkö at August 14, 2006 9:55 AM


Posted by: oj at August 14, 2006 9:58 AM


Even allowing for your facts, your argument completely falls apart in about 1947. It's amazing how many 'progresive" people reject out of hand German claims that they really didn't understand what the Nazis were doing, but accept without pause that nobody knew a thing about Stalin's crimes, etc.

Posted by: Peter B at August 14, 2006 4:20 PM

By his own admission, Grass did volunteer for the Waffen SS.

He said that his first choice was to join a "U-boat" (a submarine) crew but since the subs weren't accepting new recruits he decided on the Waffen SS instead. Among other alternatives he could have joined the "Wehrmacht" (regular army), become a paramedic, or gone underground to join the Edelweiss Pirates.

Obviously since he was only 17 at the time we cannot hold him to the same standard as an adult who should have known better.

His choice to keep quiet about it for so long is nonetheless puzzling.

It makes more sense if you know how long Grass complained and whined that he still hadn't been awarded a Nobel prize. Wouldn't have looked so good on his resume back then.

Posted by: Eugene S. at August 15, 2006 12:55 PM