April 21, 2015
Right after I hit “send” on my second last column “ the one about being short “ I kicked myself (as best I could with these damn stubby legs) for forgetting to mention The Tin Drum, whose anti-hero, Oskar, is the Marjorie Morningstar of midgets.
Then right after that, GÃ¼nter Grass, the guy who wrote the novel, died.
(Note to self: Forget to mention Al Sharpton, Green Day and Liz Jones in upcoming columns…)
Last week’s Los Angeles Times piece looking back at Grass and his best known work began:
In his long and varied career GÃ¼nter Grass worked as a novelist, poet, essayist, playwright, graphic artist, sculptor, public intellectual and social critic.
The “Nazi” part was tastefully prorogued until the penultimate paragraph, just above the double row of glossy advertorial clickbait promising “46 Cute Snowball Pups Guaranteed to Brighten Your Day” and “4 Reasons Why Going to a Car Wash is Worth Your Money.”
For indeed, GÃ¼nter Grass “ Nobel Prize winner and mouthy Man of the Left “ had, during the war, donned not just any German uniform, but the Hugo Boss designed (and “ come on, we can all agree on this, right? “ dead sexy) regalia of the Waffen-SS.
And then, well, conveniently neglected to tell everybody for the next 60 years.
On that single, solitary topic, Mr. Voice of a Generation “ petulant pacifist, crusading scold “ was uncharacteristically mum.
To his discredit, however, Ben Shapiro at Bretibart.com commits a sinful omission of his own while castigating the liberal media “ specifically, the New York Times “ for “mourning an ex-SS member.”
That is, Shapiro neglects to mention that Grass, then 17 years old, had apparently been drafted.
“Apparently” because despite the Third Reich’s reputation for compulsively conscientious record keeping, we seem obligated to rely upon an affidavit to that effect Grass swore out in 2007, and “ call me finicky “ I”m not inclined to take an old Nazi at his word.
That no one thought to peek into Grass’s past before hailing him (eventually) as the redeemer of German literature “ then handing him the most prestigious literary award on the planet “ is, though, frankly unsurprising. As another laureate observed, “…human kind/cannot bear too much reality.” Late twentieth-century Krauts in particular. Denial may not be a river in Egypt, but it courses through the Rhineland.
(And by the way: how meta is it, even now, to watch a Jewish refugee in a fake German uniform sputter his catchphrase “ “I know nothing! Nothing!“ “ whenever he stumbles upon more wacky shenanigans in a make believe prison camp?)
What with everyone else’s spectacular lack of curiosity about what the man “who had pushed Germans to confront the ugly aspects of their history” might have been up to while that very history was being made, it was left to the author to finally out himself in 2006, seven years after Stockholm, at the age of 80. The fearless truth teller had told a Big Lie.
So what should Grass have done otherwise?
Even I”m not so smug as to mean “join the Edelweiss Pirates or the White Rose instead.”
But I am naÃ¯ve (and non-German) enough to ask: wouldn”t candor have made Grass’s critiques of his nation and era even more powerful and authoritative? Or would those have been published at all?
In the here and now, the same liberal types who mock Pope Benedict’s Hitler Youth and later Luftwaffenhelfer membership (look how thrilled he is here, before he went AWOL) shoo away those uncouth enough to mention Grass’s stint in the Schutzstaffel.
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