German Author Günter Grass Passes Away at 87

Photo courtesy of Blaues Sofa, Wikimedia

German author and Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass, who was best known for his book “The Tin Drum,” died in his home in Lubeck, Germany at age 87.

Grass was hospitalized on April 12 and was becoming very sick due to a lung infection, Grass’ long-time publisher, Gerhard Steidl, told The New York Times.

In addition to working as a playwright, novelist, poet, sculptor and a printmaker, Grass was also a social activist. His novels focused on Germany in World War II and he was one of the first postwar authors to shed light on the country’s actions in the war and help the German people come to terms with the atrocities committed by the Nazi Party.

His work analyzed the effects of World War II on the German people and critiqued the sociopolitical reasoning of the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. 

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1999 and the Swedish Academy credited him with confronting “the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them,” according to The New York Times.

His most famous works, “The Tin Drum,” “Cat and Mouse” and “Dog Years,” make up the Danzig Trilogy, a story about Grass’ birthplace, the Free City of Danzig, now Gdansk, Poland, between World War I and during World War II.

The trilogy of fictional but the stories about the effects on Nazism all come from Grass’ own experiences.

Grass was born in the Free City of Danzig on Oct. 16, 1927 and witnessed Danzig under Nazi rule during his youth.

In 2006, before the release of his book “Peeling the Onion,” Grass shocked the world when he revealed that he was a member of the Waffen-SS, the elite police and military force of the Nazi Party during World War II.

The Waffen-SS was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis and were deemed a criminal organization at the Nuremberg Trials. Considering that Grass’ work took such a critical stance against the Nazi regime, many were stunned that he was part of the infamous organization.

Prior to 2006, Grass had only revealed that he was once a member of the Luftwaffenhelfer, a military group under Hitler Youth and Luftwaffe authority as a Flakhelfer, helping perform maintenance for the German air force.

Grass is survived by his wife, Ute Grunert, his two stepchildren and his six children from other marriages.