Nobel Prize-winning novelist Günter Grass recently revealed that he served in the Waffen Schutzstaffel (SS), the elite military combat wing of the Nazi party. The SS, or “Protective Echelon,” began as a personal bodyguard service for Hitler and later grew to include almost one million members. The group was instrumental in the operation of the concentration camps where Jews, political opponents, Gypsies, Polish leaders, Communists, and Soviet prisoners of war were executed.
Grass, now seventy-eight, is most famous for his novel The Tin Drum (Pantheon, 1963). He won the Nobel Prize in 1999, and is a vocal left-wing peace activist and supporter of Germany’s Social Democratic Party. He previously indicated that he served in the regular German army, the Wehrmacht, from 1944 to 1945.
The recent revelation comes in advance of Grass’s forthcoming memoir, Beim Häuten der Zwiebel, or Peeling the Onion, which will be published in September in Germany.