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Gunter Grass opens up about his past

The acclaimed, prizewinning author of THE TIN DRUM who is regarded as the literary spokesman for the generation of Germans that grew up in the Nazi era and survived the war, discussed his new memoir about the war years, (slated for publication in September) with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, dropping quite the bombshell: he served in the Waffen SS, he combat arm of Adolf Hitler’s dreaded paramilitary forces. As the AP reports, the paper ran excerpts of the interview with the Nobel Prize winner on its Web Site, ahead of a fuller version in Saturday’s print edition.

Why come clean now? “It weighed on me,” Gunter Grass said. “My silence over all these years is one of the reasons I wrote this book. It had to come out, finally.” Grass said he only felt shame after the war ended at having been in the Waffen SS. “At the time, no,” he said. “Later this feeling of shame burdened me.” He added that it was difficult to explain to people today the pull of Nazi indoctrination on teenagers.

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