Tags: Gunter Grass | Pope Benedict | dice | friend

Sources: Gunter Grass 'Invented' Story Pope Benedict Was Friend

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 10:47 PM

After news Monday of the death of Nobel laureate Gunter Grass at age 87, the international press recalled the man universally considered by the post-war world as Germany's best-known novelist.

But one dramatic claim of Grass that was widely reported in obituaries and tributes was actually dismissed several years ago by knowledgeable sources as being every bit as fictional as the late author's novels: that Grass, as a young man in a de-Nazification camp after World War II, was a friend of and played dice with the young Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI.

"A nice invented story" is what Vatican sources told the German magazine "Der Stern" in 2006 in response to Grass' claim that, as Stephen Kinzer wrote in the New York Times after the author's death, "he and the future pope [Benedict XVI] were prisoners together in an Allied camp at Bad Aibling."

Grass was best known for his first novel "The Tin Drum," the first of a trilogy based on the author's own childhood in Danzig when his country began to push the events that led to World War II.

Hailed as "one of the enduring literary works of the 20th century" by the Swedish Academy when it awarded Grass the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999, "The Tin Drum" was made into a hit motion picture and established its author as the embodiment of the "good German"—one who recognized the evils of Naziism and condemned them.

Celebrated as an author, Grass also became an outspoken advocate of leftist causes. He attacked President Ronald Reagan and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl for their opposition to the anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s, hailed the Castro regime in Cuba, and viciously denounced President George W. Bush over the war in Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein.

In his later years, the Nobel laureate stunned admirers by revealing that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS. Writing in his 2006 memoir "Peeling the Onion," Grass insisted he was a member of the "Flakhelfer Generation" (young Germans made to serve Hitler against their will).

One of those he specifically recalled among the 100,000 fellow prisoners at the Allied camp after the war was the young Ratzinger. The two rolled dice together, recalled Grass, "[and] he became my friend."

Writing about how the two young prisoners talked of their future plans, Grass said that "I wanted to become an artist and he wanted to go into the church."

"Mr. Grass later remembered Mr. Ratzinger as 'extremely Catholic' and 'a little uptight' but 'a nice guy,’'" wrote the Times' Kinzer.

Der Stern reported on Sept. 6, 2006, that Vatican sources denied the claim.

"That's what you hear from the surroundings," according to Stern, which noted that there was no official declaration from the Vatican "but people who know the Pope count it out, that Grass met the pope rolling the dice together."

One source in the Vatican told Der Stern that "Pope Benedict has too good a memory not to have mentioned such an encounter somewhere before." This was an obvious reference to the Pope's own autobiography, "Aus Meinem Leben" ("From My Life"), written in 1997 when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.

In the book, the Pope-to-be writes extensively of his time as a young prisoner at Bad Ailing and of his "whole set of good-natured comrades" who were "squeezed in such a way into this criminal group."

But he makes no mention of Gunter Grass, the prisoner who claimed to be his friend.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.




























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After news Monday of the death of Nobel laureate Gunter Grass at age 87, the international press recalled the man universally considered by the post-war world as Germany's best-known novelist. But one dramatic claim of Grass . . .
Gunter Grass, Pope Benedict, dice, friend
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Monday, 13 Apr 2015 10:47 PM
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