Renown German author Gunter Grass had thought his past had not caught up with him. That was until he was nominated to receive a special honorary Doctorate by Israel’s Netanya Academic College, an institution known for hosting an annual international forum dealing with human rights. Grass, who will celebrate his 80th birthday next year, is already a Nobel Prize laureate for literature (1999) and is author of several international best sellers. His books have been translated into several languages, and his nearly life-long crusade for international justice and human rights often resulted his being invited to speak at numerous international forums. Grass was honored to receive the Doctorate, and though making the trip to Israel would have been difficult, due to his frail health, he was very pleased that the college planned to honor him in this manner.
Until, however, Gunter Grass disclosed a secret he had kept hidden for more than 60 years; and that secret was that he had briefly been a member of the elite Nazi Waffen SS Corps.
Like many Germans, now reaching there 80’s, Gunter’s past had finally caught up with him. Or, due to he himself revealing this fact, Gunter Grass had finally caught up with own past. In disclosing the fact, which he afterwards digressed in more detail in a letter to Dr. Yitzhak Mayer, an academic fellow of the College, Grass noted that he had only been 17 at the time, which was in the closing months of the war, and virtually all German youth his age, and even younger, were called up for duty ‘to the Fatherland’. He admitted that he had considered it an honor to have been assigned to the SS, which most Germans still considered to be their country’s most elite military unit. His actual ‘service’ in the SS lasted less than a month, when he was wounded during a battle east of Berlin; and he wound up in a military hospital, which was soon captured by American forces.
Perhaps due to his short tour of duty in the SS, and due to his learning afterwards of all the atrocities that both his native country, and designated army unit, had committed, he decided to push this incident far back into his past; and mad up his mind to dedicate his life to overcoming human prejudice and intolerance, particularly towards the Jewish People. He first visited in 1966, when many Israelis and Jews living outside of Israel still had very strong feelings against Germany and concerning the Holocaust. This visit resulted in his being boycotted by Israeli writers; and due to similar reactions on another visit in 1971, the author has not been back.
As is customary policy, the College suspended its plans to grant Grass the honorary title, which prompted him to write the letter to the academic heads, in which he asked for understanding in regards to his short term in the SS, when due to his young age he was “very young and stupid”.
Many German former SS members have tried to atone for their past, including joining and serving in various foreign armies. And like Gunter Grass, many of them probably became SS soldiers under similar circumstances. These examples point out to efforts by many to keep reminding Germany of its obligations to prevent this dark period in the country’s history from ever re-surfacing.
November 15, 2006 at 5:57 am
Just returning from “A Night To Honor Israel” where thousands of Christians and Jews united in one house, singing and praising God; Tears of full JOY!!! It was Awesome!!! We sang in English and we sang in Hebrew, we sang America’s National Anthem and we sang Israel’s National Anthem. And in the midst of all of this, a Latino man came forward in repentance, seeking forgiveness for the “Jewish blood” that had been spilled in their lands, vowing to teach their children to Love the Jewish people, “they are the apple of God’s eye”. Then came a German woman, who was a young child at the time of the Holocaust, repenting, seeking and vowing the same. After that came an Egyptian man who had been raised to hate and trained to kill, until he met Jesus, now he stands before the throng repenting, seeking forgiveness and vowing to Love and teach his children the same! Hallelu Yah!!! God is Good, He is moving His mighty hand and answering prayers long prayed. Praise God!!!
November 15, 2006 at 9:39 am
It’s all right to forgive the Spanish (for starting the
Inquisition) and the Germans for the Holocaust; but in our new
world reality, both entities have been replaced with new menaces, including radical (and not-so-radical) Islam as well as Kim Jong Il’s
In other words, it’s different folks, but the same old ideas.,
BTW, European and even American anti-Semitism is alive and well.
November 15, 2006 at 1:14 pm
Not for long, the story has already been written. And while we can not take our eyes off it for a moment, we must not allow it to blind us the winning Glory of God.