SPIEGEL Exclusive: Grass Admitted SS Role in 1945

By Klaus Wiegrefe

More than 60 years after the fact, Nobel Prize-winning author GŁnter Grass last week revealed his past as a member of the Nazi's notorious SS. But according to previously unknown documents obtained by SPIEGEL, the author confessed to his SS membership when arrested by the Americans in 1945.

Fingerprints from war prisoner GŁnter Grass on a US Army document.

Fingerprints from war prisoner GŁnter Grass on a US Army document.

Nobel Prize-winning German author GŁnter Grass unleashed a firestorm of criticism following his admission on Friday to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that he had a been a member of the SS. But previously unknown documents that emerged this week and were obtained by SPIEGEL show that the writer, best known for his novel "The Tin Drum," had already admitted to American military officials in 1945 that he had been a member of Hitler's elite troops.

Grass held a job as a dishwasher for the US military.

Grass held a job as a dishwasher for the US military.

One of the papers is a discharge form from the US Army's third division, which had held Grass as a prisoner of war after taking him into custody in the city of Marienbad, which is located in today's Czech Republic. The paper, which includes Grass's signature, lists the author as a marksman for the 10th SS Tank division "Frundsberg." According to the document, Grass, prisoner number 31G6078785, was released on April 24, 1946, with wages for the work he did in the prison camp of $107.20.

Grass was held in a number of prisons, including one in southern Germany that had been erected by the Americans at the former military airport at Bad Aibling. According to information on the form provided by Grass, he worked there as a member of a labor commando that was responsible for washing dishes in the US Air Force unit's canteen.

Everything was carefully documented.

Everything was carefully documented.

The second document, also an American form, includes the date Nov. 10, 1944, with the addendum: "Waffen SS." It's likely the date refers to the date on which Grass was drafted. He was 17 at the time. The recently discovered documents are currently being held in Berlin at the Wehrmachtauskunftsstelle, the agency responsible for managing original documents of the former German Wehrmacht, the country's Nazi-era military.

It is believed that there are no further documents describing Grass's role in the Waffen SS because the troops destroyed a large share of files on the force's personnel at the end of the war.

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