Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Tenth SS Panzer Division "Frundsberg"

Guenter Grass says that he was just following orders. Guenter Grass says: "For me... the Waffen-SS [in which I served] was nothing frightful but rather an elite unit that they sent where things were hot and which, as people said about it, had the heaviest losses."

While it is certainly true that most members of the Waffen-SS did not directly commit war crimes, it is also true that members of the Waffen-SS who were asked to do so appear to have done so enthusiastically.

You know, I got considerable flack for writing that there was something sinister and fascist-smelling about Guenter Grass's declaration that the elected representatives of the people in the Bundestag did not, even though they had been elected by the people to represent them, represent the people--but were instead servants of "the banks and multinational corporations." But there is something sinister and fascist-smelling about repeating today this classic fascist talking point about the cretinism of parliaments.

And there is something more than sinister and more than fascist-smelling about the ability of an ex-member of Heinrich Himmler's Waffen-SS to write 2,191 words about the Nazi Third Reich without using the word "Jew."

As Dr. Phil says: if you have nothing to hide, you hide nothing.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Guenter Grass was in Waffen-SS: Nobel Prize-winning German writer Guenter Grass, author of the great anti-Nazi novel The Tin Drum, has admitted serving in the Waffen-SS. He told a German newspaper he had been recruited at the age of 17 into an SS tank division and served in Dresden. Previously it was only known he had served as a soldier and was wounded and taken prisoner by US forces.

Speaking before the publication of his war memoirs, he said his silence over the years had "weighed" upon him. "My silence over all these years is one of the reasons I wrote this book [Peeling Onions]," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview. "It had to come out, finally."

Grass, who was born in 1927, is widely admired as a novelist whose books frequently revisit the war years and is also known as an outspoken peace activist.

Few details of the author's service were given other than that he had served in the Waffen SS Frundsberg Panzer Division after failing to get a posting in the submarine service. The SS, which began as a private bodyguard for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, grew into a force nearly one million strong and both acted as an elite fighting force and ran death camps in which millions of people were murdered. The Waffen-SS was the combat section of the organization and extended to 38 divisions. It was declared part of a criminal organisation at the Nuremberg Nazi trials after the war.

"At the time" he had not felt ashamed to be a member, he said but he added: "Later this feeling of shame burdened me."

"For me... the Waffen-SS was nothing frightful but rather an elite unit that they sent where things were hot and which, as people said about it, had the heaviest losses," he said. "It happened as it did to many of my age. We were in the labour service and all at once, a year later, the call-up notice lay on the table. And only when I got to Dresden did I learn it was the Waffen-SS."

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