Nobel Prize-winning author Gunter Grass' admission that he was an SS member has drawn both rage and defenses of the writer.
While some say the revelation devalues his life's work, others are showing more understanding for the pressures faced by the teenager who later would write such modern German classics as "The Tin Drum."
Grass, 78, whose autobiography is due out this fall, told the Frankfurter Allegmeine Zeitung in an interview published last Friday that he was drafted into the Waffen SS in the final months of World War II.
The Waffen SS was the elite fighting force of the SS, the Nazi Party's quasi-military unit, and was declared part of a criminal organization at the Nuremberg Trials. Grass was interned briefly in a POW camp in Bavaria after the war.
Literary critic Helmuth Karasek told the radio program BDR that Grass should have revealed the truth sooner, and suggested that the Nobel Prize committee might not have honored someone "whom they knew had been a member of the Waffen SS and had long denied it." Grass won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.
Grass biographer Michael Juergs said he was "personally disappointed," and has called into question the validity of Grass' life work. But German writer Erich Loest told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that Grass' admission should be "accepted without condemnation. He was very young and there was no one to influence him in the opposite direction," he said.
Grass told the Frankfurt paper he was drafted as a 17-year-old following a stint in a support unit for the German air force, and was brought to serve in a Waffen SS tank division in Dresden. In the forthcoming autobiography, "While Skinning an Onion," he writes that the past had "oppressed him. My suppression of this through the years was among the reasons why I have written this book. It had to come out, finally."
Grass said he originally had volunteered to serve in a Nazi submarine unit, which was "just as crazy."
Until now, his biography has shown that Grass was drafted in the support unit for the air force in 1944, then served as a soldier. In the new book, he writes about how he was 15 when he tried to volunteer with the submarine corps and was rejected because of his age. He was called up in 1944, as were all boys born in 1927.
He was assigned to the Waffen SS, which "in the final year of the war took draftees, not only volunteers," he said in an interview with the German Press Agency.
Grass said he never had tried to hide the fact that as a youth he was vulnerable to Nazi propaganda. He also told the Frankfurt paper that he never actually served in the Waffen SS division to which he had been assigned. He ended up behind the Russian front on reconnaissance patrols, witnessing what he described as gruesome scenes and surviving by pure chance. During his brief internment as a POW, Grass says he met the similarly interned Joseph Ratzinger, who now is Pope Benedict XVI.
Israelis Arrested for Allegedly Running U.S. Hooker Ring
Two Israelis are under arrest for allegedly running a sophisticated, multi-million-dollar prostitution ring in four Western states, employing up to 240 women.
Boaz Benmoshe, 44, and Ofer Moses Lupovitz, 43, the alleged leaders of the ring headquartered in Palm Springs, are now in a local jail, Sheriff Bob Doyle of Riverside County announced Monday.
Also arrested were two Russian nationals, Moti M. Vintrov, 33, and Eliran Vintrov, 28, together with their spouses.
According to authorities, the two Israelis ran the sex ring under the cover of Elite Entertainment, an adult escort business, which dispatched prostitutes to clients in California, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon.
The Press-Enterprise news service in Riverside described the ring's Palm Springs headquarters as a glass-walled office in a quiet open-air business complex, which also included the district office of U.S. Republican Rep. Mary Bono. Elite Entertainment allegedly operated 80 phone lines, over which clients ordered sexual services through their credit cards. Rates varied from $200 to $2,000, "depending on what you're getting done," Doyle said.
Local authorities and U.S. Secret Service agents arrested the suspects after a two and a half year investigation and seized $5 million in assets and more than a dozen computers.
The suspects used their income to fraudulently obtain loans to buy luxury homes in the Palm Springs area, authorities alleged.
An arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 21.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
AIPAC Judge Won't Broaden Case
The judge in the classified information case against two former pro-Israel lobbyists rejected a prosecution attempt to broaden the indictment. Prosecutors had sought to redefine as classified a document described as unclassified in the original indictment.
Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected the request last Friday, saying it would unconstitutionally alter the indictment.
Keith Weissman, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's former Iran analyst, asked Larry Franklin, a Pentagon Iran analyst who since has pleaded guilty, for the document in June 2003.
It's the only document that Weissman or his former boss, Steve Rosen, actively solicited, according to their August 2005 indictment.
In pre-trial rulings, Ellis has made clear that at trial he will expect a higher bar of evidence to prove that defendants knew they were hearing classified information in conversations, as opposed to receiving documentation.
Holocaust Cartoon Exhibit Opens in Iran
Iran opened a competition for the cartoons in reaction to last year's controversy over the publication of cartoons in a Danish newspaper about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. One of more than 200 cartoons displayed shows the Statue of Liberty holding a book on the Holocaust in one hand and giving a Nazi-style salute in the other, The Associated Press reported.
Scandal Over General's Stocks
Israel's military chief drew fire following revelations that he sold an investment portfolio when the Lebanon war erupted. Within hours of a Hezbollah border raid July 12 in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two abducted, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz sold off some $25,000 worth of stocks, Ma'ariv reported Tuesday. Halutz confirmed the sale, which came shortly before markets tumbled at the prospect of major unrest in the Middle East, but said he did not know at the time that there would be a war. Ma'ariv's revelations further stoked Israeli ire at the military's handling of the offensive against Hezbollah, which ended this week in a cease-fire. Lawmakers from across Israel's political spectrum called for Halutz's resignation, and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz was asked to investigate whether the stock sale constituted a criminal breach of trust.
Jewish Greeks Advocate for Israel
Jewish fraternities and sororities are launching an Israel advocacy push on college campuses this fall. Alpha Epsilon Pi and Alpha Epsilon Phi, the two largest Jewish Greek organizations, brought 90 students to Louisville, Ky., from Sunday through Tuesday to learn about building support for Israel.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency