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PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

GDANSK, Poland (Reuters) - Officials of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party in Gdansk will boycott the birthday celebrations of German writer Guenter Grass, who admitted last year that he had fought for the Nazi Waffen SS in World War Two.

Grass, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, will celebrate his 80th birthday on Oct. 4 in Gdansk, on Poland's Baltic coast, the city where he was born and where his most famous novel "The Tin Drum" is set.

City councillors of the conservative Law and Justice party said they had sent back invitations to the celebrations, which will last two days and include a conference on Polish-German relations.

"None of us will participate in this event," said councillor Kazimierz Kowalewski. "We are still waiting for Grass to apologize and we don't see any reason for such a huge celebration for him. I am sure the money could be spent elsewhere."

Grass, for decades a leading German moral voice, caused consternation in Poland and Germany when he revealed that he had joined the SS at the end of World War Two, though he insisted he never fired a shot.

Law and Justice officials tried to strip Grass of his honorary citizenship of Gdansk, known in German as Danzig, but failed to find the majority of votes on the city council needed.

The Waffen SS was a highly trained Nazi combat unit, initially of volunteers, which took part in the Holocaust and committed war crimes. By the end of the war, however, most SS members were drafted and many were under 18.

Grass made his confession shortly before publication of his autobiography, and many critics said he had timed the revelation to get publicity for the book.


Re: PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

A prerequisite to forgiveness is an apology.

Re: PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

What is it he should apologise for? Fighting for his country?

Re: PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

Quite! My country right or wrong. The same concept exists in Poland.

Not that Gunter Grass actually fought. He was a teenage conscript (and conscienscious objectors were killed in Germany) who was caught by the Americans pretty well as soon as he tried his uniform on. And his writings show that he's anti-war, anti-fascist & pro-Polish.

This is more about the election than about Grass. PiS's core electorate are in the age group who's lives were blighted by the war & its aftermath.

And PiS have nothing else to get indignant about right now.

Re: PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

It is not a matter of service but of hypocrisy. In 1985 he sharply criticized Reagan and Kohl for laying a wreath at Bitburg cemetery where among the many German dead were several members of the Waffen SS. Perhaps that would have been the appropriate time for him to come clean with his past.

It is not unreasonable to hold Grass to the same standard he demanded of others.

Re: PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

Difficult to call it hypocrisy when he was forced to join up whether he liked it or not. We could call every former GI who later became a peace campaigner a hypocrite in that case.

President Kaczyński doesn't care much about the details - he's just sabre-rattling in order to appear strong during his twin brother's election campaign.

Re: PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

The hypocrisy was not being conscripted. The hypocrisy was criticizing Reagan and Kohl for laying a wreath at the graves of others who were conscripted into the waffen ss.

Apparently his own conscripted service slipped his mind.

Re: PiS Boycott Birthday Party in Gdansk

The latest on the story.

Guenter Grass calls for huge turn out in Polish elections

GDANSK, Poland (AFP) — Nobel Laureate Guenter Grass Thursday called for a huge turn out in Poland's October 21 elections, saying it would be the "most beautiful gift" he could get for his 80th birthday.

Grass, who turns 80 on October 16, is one of Germany's best-known authors and has returned to Gdansk, the Baltic Sea port of his birth, for a three-day celebration of his work.

"I am happy to be able to come here and meet my friends on the eve of my birthday," he said.

"A huge turn out in the elections would be the most beautiful gift for me," he added.

In 1927, when Grass was born, Gdansk was known as the Free City of Danzig, after having been carved out of the defeated German Empire following World War I.

The city was awarded to Poland after World War II, when its mainly German-speaking inhabitants -- including the young Grass -- fled or were expelled.

Grass's visit has became a campaign issue in Poland's snap elections, which were called two years ahead of schedule after the collapse of the country's conservative-led coalition government.

He was invited by Gdansk municipality, which is controlled by Poland's liberal opposition.

But the conservative Law and Justice party is boycotting the visit because of Grass' admission last year that he served in the notorious Nazi elite force, the Waffen SS, after he was called up towards the end of World War II.

Grass also riled the conservatives earlier this year when he described their coalition government with a far-right and populist party as a "misfortune" and hoped Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski would not be re-elected.

Grass' best known novel "The Tin Drum" (1959), which is set in Danzig and Cologne in the 1920s through to the 1950s, is considered one of the finest examples of German post-War literature.