Nobel Laureate Grass Sues Publisher Over Nazi SS Claim | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 24.11.2007
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Culture

Nobel Laureate Grass Sues Publisher Over Nazi SS Claim

According to German media reports, Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass is suing Random House publishers over a claim that he willingly joined the Nazis' SS Waffen unit at the end of the Second World War.

Günter Grass at the Leipzig Book Fair

Günter Grass insists that he did not join the Waffen SS unit voluntarily

German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported in its online edition on Friday, Nov. 23, that Grass was seeking an injunction against the publishing house over the wording of a sentence that appears in the revised edition of a biography by Michael Jürgs.

Jürgs wrote: "Günter Grass admitted… that as a 17-year-old he willingly joined the Waffen SS."

The author of "The Tin Drum" -- who, as a prominent leftist and pacifist, rose to be a moral authority after the war -- shocked his fellow Germans and the international literary establishment last year by revealing in his autobiography "Peeling the Onion" that he had been drafted into Nazi Germany's notorious Waffen SS elite force during World War II.

Grass, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999, previously said he had been drafted in 1944 to help anti-aircraft gun teams and that he was held as a prisoner of war until 1946.

He said he never fired a shot in his service with the corps but was widely criticized for keeping the Waffen SS episode secret for more than 60 years while constantly reminding Germans that they needed to come to terms with their Nazi past by being open about it.

Not a slip of the tongue

cover of the German edition of Peeling the Onion

Grass' autobiography "Peeling the Onion" contained a shocking revelation

Grass told the Berlin district court that Jürgs had knowingly erred in writing that he had joined the Waffen SS willingly, his lawyer Paul Hertin told Der Spiegel.

Hertin said Grass had handed the court an affidavit asserting: "The conscription into the Waffen SS happened without my active participation."

The legal proceedings are not expected to take place before the spring of next year.

Jürg's book -- entitled "Bürger Grass" (Citizen Grass) -- has been published by the German company Goldmann, which belongs to international publishing giant Random House.

A legal representative for Goldmann said copies of the book would remain on sale pending the court's ruling.

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