Grass 'should give up Nobel Prize over SS past'

Germany's most celebrated living author, Günter Grass faces growing public outrage and demands that he should hand back his Nobel Prize for Literature after his admission he once served in Adolf Hitler's notorious Waffen SS force.

But the 78-year-old writer, who has been hailed as a moral authority and an outspoken anti-Nazi for decades, responded angrily to the criticism last night insisting: "This is definitely an attempt by some to turn me into a persona non grata."

Grass shocked Germany at the weekend by disclosing for the first time he had been recruited to the infamous Nazi unit at the age of 17 during the closing stages of the Second World War.

"It had to come out finally," Grass said in an attempt to explain why he had kept silent for more than 60 years about his membership of an organisation that played a central role in the Holocaust. "It will stain me forever," he added.

The author of the internationally acclaimed work The Tin Drum which won him the Nobel Prize in 2000, had previously insisted that his wartime activities had been limited to service as an anti-aircraft auxiliary.

Last night, Grass sought to explain his reasons for remaining silent. He said that his autobiography, Peeling the Onion, due to be published next month, had finally given him an opportunity to face up to his Nazi past.

"Only after I had decided to write about my early years, did I find the literary form in which to express myself. I had to ask myself how I was able to follow this ideology in such a naive way and why I asked no questions," the author said. But Lech Walesa, the former Polish president, as well as senior figures in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, joined a growing chorus of criticism aimed at the writer yesterday, some demanding he renounce his many awards.

Wolfgang Boernsen, a cultural spokesman for Mrs Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats said: "Günter Grass has spent his whole life setting high moral standards for politicians. It's about time he applied those standards to himself and renounced all his awards - including the Nobel Prize."

Mr Walesa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, demanded Grass renounce his honorary citizenship of the Polish seaport Gdansk, (formerly Danzig) where the author grew up and where his award winning Tin Drum is set. Mr Walesa, who is himself an honorary Gdansk citizen, said: " I don't feel good in this kind of company. If it had been known that he was in the SS, he would never have been given the award. The best thing would be for him to hand it back himself."

In Gdansk, the city authorities said they would decide over the coming days whether to withdraw the author's honorary citizenship. Jacek Kurski, a conservative Polish MP said it was "not acceptable" to have a former Waffen SS member as an honorary citizen of a city in which the first shots of the war were fired by Nazi aggressors .

Franz Muentefering, Germany's Social Democrat Vice-Chancellor and a long time admirer of Grass, also criticised the writer for remaining silent for so long: "It would have been better if he had come clean earlier," he said.

But the author's most savage critics were his German contemporaries: Joachim Fest, a renowned Hitler biographer, described Grass's sudden disclosure as "completely incomprehensible".

He added: "I simply don't understand how someone can elevate himself to the position of moral conscience of the nation on Nazi issues and then admit that he was himself deeply involved. I wouldn't even buy a secondhand car from this man now."

The playwright Rolf Hochhuth said that he found it "disgusting" that Grass had once bitterly criticised the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl for visiting a French cemetery where 49 SS soldiers lay buried beside hundreds of American and regular German wartime troops.

"He has morally discredited himself," he said. However, some German authors rallied to Grass's defence. The writer Walter Jens said: "I think it is very noble and worthy to say that I have not faced up to this issue during my life - I will now do so. It is very impressive and moving to see an old man finally coming to terms with his past."

Grass said at the weekend that he had volunteered for service in German submarines but had been rejected and found himself recruited into the SS in the winter of 1944-45.

He insisted that he had never fired a shot. The author claimed that his failure to reveal his former SS membership had weighed heavily on his conscience. "My silence over all these years is one of the reasons why I decided to write this book. I forced myself to do it," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

"I can only hope that these commentators read my book closely," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick