Monday, August 14, 2006

Gunter Grass, Nazi Superman

Maybe the famous left-wing writer thought the time was ripe to reveal that he’d served with the Waffen SS; maybe he intended it as a boast. Genocidal maniacs have always been popular on the left, but until lately those who were explicitly Nazi or anti-Semitic were an exception. But these days Hitler is more popular than any time since Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (lately honored by the witless and depraved Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and his intellectual descendents in Iran and Venezuela and Gaza are the new heroes of modern youth. Maoism looks kind of shabby and old-fartish in comparison. Soviet communism is dead beyond hope of resurrection, the Sandinistas are on the ash heap of history, Che Guevara is Bolivian fertilizer, and Castro barely has enough strength to piss in his olive drabs.

So maybe Grass thought the black suit and red piping would dress up his image a bit. If so, I’m glad to see he was somewhat mistaken.

Grass had previously claimed to be a member of the Reich Labor Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst or RAD), which was almost too perfect a job for him. The RAD was a fine example of Nazi Socialism. They even had a red Proletarian banner featuring a shovel and a garland of wheat, a total rip-off of Soviet iconography. It was like getting paid by Hitler to be a communist.

Now he claims to have been drafted into the 10th SS Panzer Division in 1944. This could be the case; most Waffen SS units were all-volunteer, but they began conscription after the Reich’s fortunes went south (all the way to Stalingrad, in fact). But why was this not revealed before? Veterans of the SS are not eligible for benefits unless they served involuntarily, and any past service in the SS would have to be acknowledged to determine his status as a veteran. No doubt records are confidential, but if Grass was forced to serve, why keep it a secret? He has capitalized on his war experience before, why would he have passed up a chance to describe the very belly of the beast?

Many of his erstwhile comrades on the left are reacting with shock to what Grass did 60 years ago. They ought to reacting with shock to just about everything he’s done since. They ought to admit that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Nazism and Communism, especially not in Germany.