Tomorrow is remembrance day in the Netherlands, as the dead and victims of World War II and beyond are honoured. Each year at the national memorial service at the Dam square in Amsterdam a poem is read by the winner of the school competition organised by the remembrance committee. This year there was controversy as the winning poem was about a Dutch volunteer for the Waffen SS, which was not appreciated by the Auschwitz survivors organisation, which threated to boycott the procedings. In the end therefore the poem was scrapped, but it had already laid bare a sore spot in Dutch history. [more inside]
Winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature, a peace activist who opposed reunification for fear Germany might once again war against its neighbors, ghost-writer of Willy Brandt's speeches, author of the great fabulist history of World War II and postwar Germany, The Tin Drum, and of My Century, a novel of one hundred chapters, one for each year of the last century, a man considered part of the artistic movement known in German as "Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung" or "coming to terms with the past", Günter Grass belatedly admits the history he expunged from his personal narrative: his service as a member of the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg of the Waffen-SS. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Grass explained his service would stain him forever, but that only after the war did he feel ashamed of having been in the Waffen-SS:
for me, because I am sure of my recollection, 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.