Gunter Grass says he was in Waffen SS

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The Independent Online

Gunter Grass, the Nobel prize-winning author, has admitted he served in the notorious Waffen SS during the Second World War.

Grass told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that, aged 17, he was called to the Waffen SS 10th Armoured Division, the combat arm of Hitler's paramilitary forces.

Grass, 78, said in the interview: "My silence over all these years is one of the reasons I wrote this book. It had to come out, finally."

He has written a book of recollections, which details his war service. The book is due out in September.

The SS operated the death camps in which millions died. The Waffen SS grew into 38 combat divisions with almost one million men. Grass said he volunteered for military service to get out of the confinement he felt in his parent's house. "It happened as it did to many of my age ... we were in the labour service, and a year later, the call-up notice lay on the table," he said. "And only when I got to Dresden did I learn it was the Waffen SS."

Grass was wounded in 1945 and sent to an American prisoner of war camp. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1999 and is best known for his first novel The Tin Drum. Published in 1959, it chronicles the life of the young boy Oskar Matzerath. He is regarded as the literary spokesman for Germans who grew up in the Nazi era.