1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Deutschland Günter Grass Schriftsteller mit Pfeife
Image: picture alliance/dpa//Agencja Gazeta/D. Sadowski

Mourning Günter Grass

Kate Müser / Julian Tompkin
April 14, 2015

He was a writer who forced post-war Germany to rethink itself and turned heads with strong political statements. In the wake of Günter Grass' death, artists, intellectuals and politicians pay tribute to a literary giant.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has paid tribute to the life and work of Günter Grass, saying Grass had "accompanied and shaped Germany's post-war history with his artistic as well as his social and political engagement like only a few," according to her spokesperson.

Chancellor Merkel leads tributes to an author who persistently challenged German society and identity throughout his long career, making many foes as well as friends - but non-the-less earning profound global respect for his work.

German President Joachim Gauck called Grass an "opinionated political spirit" and expressed his grief at the news of his death while German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tweeted that he was "profoundly devastated" - a sentiment which has been echoed around the world.

The death of the 87 year old author of "The Tim Drum" is being mourned globally, from China to Australia, and the United States to India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently making his maiden visit to Germany, tweeted: "Günter Grass will be remembered as an intellectual powerhouse whose writing was admired all over the world. He will be missed. RIP."

At home in Europe, Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, paid tribute both professionally and personally to his "close friend."

In an official statement released by the European Parliament, Schultz added, "His death leaves a void that will be very hard to fill…With Günter Grass died a friend whose intelligence, curiosity and relentless passion in the fight against injustice were always an example for me. The conversations I had with him were always informative and provided an uncommon enrichment."

The award-winning author Salman Rushdie was quick to pay tribute to his friend Grass on Twitter, referring to the main character in Grass' breakthrough 1959 novel, "The Tin Drum."

Writing further in an obituary in "The New Yorker" magazine, Rushdie recalls drinking schnapps with Grass at their first meeting in 1982, a man he describes as "among the immortals." Rushdie also recounts celebrating Grass' 70th birthday with, amongst others, Nadine Gordimer and John Irving. "He could waltz, polka, foxtrot, tango, and gavotte…As he delightedly swung and twirled and dipped, I understood that this was who he was: the great dancer of German literature, dancing across history’s horrors toward literature’s beauty, surviving evil because of his personal grace, and his comedian's sense of the ridiculous as well."

Writing in the New York Times, US author and journalist Stephen Kinzer said Grass was a writer "who pried open Germany's past" while news organizations around the world revisited a quote from author John Irving who came out in defense of Grass in the wake of the revelations he had been a member of the Waffen SS, when Irving proclaimed: "Günter Grass is my hero, as a writer and a moral compass." His death made front page news in the UK's "Guardian Newspaper."

It was in 1999 that Günter Grass received the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature, with the jury calling him an author "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history." On Monday, the Nobel Prize committee honored Grass by posting memories of the author, including this photograph of him dancing with his wife at the 1999 awards ceremony.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was "profoundly devastated" by the death of Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass. He pointed out that Grass passed away in a hospital in Lübeck just one day before a G7 meeting would be held in the northern German city.

Grass was extraordinarily active politically during his career and actively supported the left-center Social Democratic Party (SPD), to which Steinmeier also belongs.

Andrea Nahles, the SPD's secretary-general, praised Grass via Twitter on Monday for being a polemical intellectual, adding that this trait was missing from politics today.

Though Grass was closely aligned with the SPD, in Germany condolences came Monday across the political spectrum. Christian Linder, chairman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), posted that while Grass was indeed polemical, his works remained outstanding.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also expressed himself via Twitter, writing in German that Günter Grass had departed - and that this loss had filled him with a deep sadness.

From Lübeck, where Grass lived up until his death, the head of the Günter Grass House said, "We are thankful for the many experiences we were able to share with him." Lübeck's mayor, Bernd Saxe (SPD), commented that the author's death was "a significant loss for Lübeck, but also for German and international literature."

Indeed, Günter Grass was pivotal in helping Germany work through its war-time past, not least with revelations about his own involvement in the Nazi elite unit, Waffen-SS. But his influence extended well beyond his own country.

Grass' reputation stretches even to Kosovo, where Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci praised him for his outspoken support of Kosovo.

Share your thoughts on Günter Grass with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Former US President Donald Trump

Donald Trump indicted in hush money case

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage