All of us have done or said something in the past that we are ashamed of. Things we would not want shouted from the rooftops.
That especially seems to be the case for Gunter Grass!
On one hand, this anti Nazi author has been villified for admitting to having been in the Waffen SS during the War and for not mentioning it sooner. On the other hand, he states that he was a reluctant member, that he wasn't in the SS per se and therefore not involved with their worst crimes, that he was young at the time.
Thing is, imagine being born in Germany in the late 1920s. What would you do as you were growing up? And then after the War (assuming you were conscripted into the SS). Would you willingly admit to it?
I would like to think that I would have been in the German resistance, that I would have been prepared to die for my disgust and hatred of Nazism, but it is easy for me to state that, comfortable in front of my computer, shortly to retire to a comfortable bed.
But I tell you this. Assuming Grass is being totally forward and honest with us now, I don't think there is hypocricy in what he said and did after the War. Yes he should have immediately come clean, but would you? Plus his anti Nazism in his writings may, in part, have been to try and deal with his own guilt and make up for his actions in the closing months of the War.
I think Grass should perhaps be stripped of his Nobel Prize, but for symbolic reasons. The man has admitted, and seems to be contrite. Plus it's hardly as if he is Klaus Barbie, or Himmler, or Heydrich, or Eichmann, or Mengele. Men who deserved to be hunted down for what they did. They and their crimes must stand as a testament to show what happens when good men do nothing!
But is it right to lump Grass with these men?