Gunter Grass, Nobel Prize-winning author who served in Nazis’ Waffen-SS, dies

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Gunter Grass, the Nobel Prize-winning German author who admitted in 2006 that he had served in the Nazis’ notorious Waffen-SS, has died.

Grass died Monday in a hospital in the northern German city of Leubeck. He was 87.

Grass wrote more than 30 plays and novels, as well as books of poems, essays and memoirs. He is best known for his debut novel, “The Tin Drum,” dealing with the rise of Nazism in Danzig, Poland.

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He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

In 2012, Grass was declared a persona non grata in Israel a week after publishing the poem “What Must Be Said,” which claimed that Israel was endangering world peace by threatening Iran with a nuclear attack. In interviews after the poem was published, Grass reiterated the claim about Israel and criticized the German government for its support of the Jewish state.

In a 2006 interview ahead of the publication of his autobiography, “While Skinning and Onion,” Grass admitted that he served in the Waffen-SS, a paramilitary force he was drafted into at 16. He said in the book that he tried to volunteer for the submarine corps at 15. Grass had previously and openly talked about his membership in the Hitler Youth at age 10.

“It weighed on me. My silence during all these years is one reason that led me to write this book. It had to come out,” he said in an interview with a German newspaper.

Grass criticized the role of average Germans in the rise of the Nazis and condemned the reunification of East and West Germany, saying it would lead again to the rise of a kind of Nazism.