The Simon Wiesenthal Center has welcomed Günter Grass' decision to make his Nazi service documents available for historical research, but the papers have led some to doubt the soundness of his recently published memoir.
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The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, welcomed Nobel Prize laureate Günter Grass' decision to release official documents in Berlin concerning his service in the Nazi Waffen SS. The center said it hoped the documents would give insight into the activities of the Waffen SS, which was closely involved in the systematic killing of Jews.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center, demanded in an open letter to Grass that the 78-year-old writer provide further details concerning the documents in addition to what he wrote in his latest autobiographical book "Beim Häuten der Zwiebel" ("Peeling Onions").
Wiesenthal Center requests Grass' help
"While access to the archives will certainly help facilitate historical research, documents alone cannot give a complete picture of a person's war service," Zuroff told reporters.
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In his letter, Zuroff specifically requested that Grass elaborate on any officers and enlisted men he could remember from his unit and exactly where and when he served.
He called Grass' description in his recently published book of the events in 1945 "very thin," according to reports.
Employees of the Berlin archive holding Grass' military service documents released them to the press last Thursday prior to obtaining the author's permission, according to a netzeitung.de report. On Friday, Grass formally gave the archive permission to make the files public.
Alexander Dix, data protection commissioner for the state of Berlin, called the premature disclosure illegal and unacceptable.
Doubts over the validity of Grass' book
Several German media organizations have suggested there were discrepancies between Grass' latest book "Peeling Onions," currently No. 1 on the bestseller list in Germany, and the contents of the newly released Nazi documents.
In particular, the date of his recruitment and the precise division he served in came under question. Light was shed on the circumstances surrounding his injury, however, which the writer himself had said he could only vaguely remember.
According to the archived documents, Grass was injured on April 20, 1945. Five days after the German army surrendered on May 8, 1945, he was taken to a prisoner-of-war camp in Auerbach, one of the largest such camps for SS soldiers.
In mid-August, Grass sparked controversy by publicly admitting his membership in the elite Nazi corps toward the end of World War II.