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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Rushdie jumps to Grass's defence
Salman Rushdie
Rushdie said Grass was one of the greatest living writers
Salman Rushdie has defended fellow author and friend Guenter Grass after the German writer finally admitted he had served in the Waffen SS.

Rushdie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the news was "disappointing".

But he said the writer's work was "not undone" by the revelations and that his past was a "youthful mistake".

Grass's autobiography has gone on sale in German bookshops two weeks early following increased interest after the disclosure in a newspaper interview.

"There is great interest in the book," said a spokeswoman for bookshop Dussmann in Berlin.

Grass, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, is widely admired as a novelist whose books frequently revisit the war years and is also known as an outspoken peace activist.

Guenter Grass
Grass said he felt ashamed of his service in the Waffen SS

Rushdie denied this made Grass a hypocrite.

"We don't not read the work of Ezra Pound, a Nazi sympathiser as an adult," he told Today.

"Grass has spent his adult life opposing the ideas he espoused as a child and that in itself is an act of courage, he's a friend of mine and I don't intend to change that," he added.

He described the secret as a "partial concealment".

"His stature comes from the fact he's a giant in the world of literature and the fact he's made mistakes," he added.

Another author, John Irving, also defended Grass, calling him a "hero".

"Grass remains a hero to me, both as a writer and as a moral compass; his courage, both as a writer and as a citizen of Germany, is exemplary, a courage heightened, not lessened, by his most recent revelation," Irving told the Associated Press agency.

Pre-empting archive release

But former Polish President Lech Walesa said earlier this week that Grass should give up his honorary citizenship of Gdansk, his birthplace, in light of the revelations.

Meanwhile, a regional newspaper in Germany has claimed Grass was pre-empting the release of the information about his SS history from the secret police archive next year.

The newspaper, Kolner Stadtanzeiger, said the information was contained in Nazi era records compiled by the Stasi, the secret police of the communist government of former East Germany.

The Waffen SS was the combat arm of Adolf Hitler's notorious elite force, which expanded to nearly one million members during the war.

Grass SS role stirs indignation
15 Aug 06 |  Europe
Guenter Grass served in Waffen SS
11 Aug 06 |  Entertainment
Pope humbled by Auschwitz visit
28 May 06 |  Europe
Guenter Grass: The history man
16 Oct 02 |  Entertainment


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