Günter Grass Files Lawsuit Against Publisher of Biography

by Staff

Günter Grass recently filed a lawsuit against Random House, whose German imprint Goldmann Verlag released in October an updated version of Michael Juerg’s 2002 biography of the Nobel Prize winner, Guenter Grass. The new edition contains a statement that during World War II, Grass had willingly joined the Waffen-Schutzstaffel (SS), the military combat wing of the Nazi SS forces.

According to the German news Web site Spiegel Online, the sentence, not contained in the first edition of the book, was added after Grass revealed in his 2006 memoir Beim Häuten der Zwiebel, or Peeling the Onion (Harcourt), that he had fought as a teenager in the Waffen-SS.

In his statement to the court, Grass says that he was "enlisted without my active cooperation" into the Waffen-SS after receiving a draft notice in 1944. He volunteered at age fifteen for the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces during the Third Reich era, an act that he says "has nothing to do, directly or indirectly, with volunteering for the Waffen-SS."

Grass, who works as a peace activist and has urged Germans to confront their crimes during World War II, earlier said that he admitted to his affiliation because a "feeling of shame burdened me."

A legal advisor for Goldmann Verlag said that the publisher will not stop sales of the book until the court has made a decision on the case, the Associated Press reported.