Guenter Grass, the Nobel-winning German writer who gave voice to the generation that came of age during the horrors of the Nazi era but later ran into controversy over his own World War II past and stance toward Israel, has died. He was 87. Grass was lauded by Germans for helping to revive their culture in the aftermath of World War II and helping to give voice and support to democratic discourse in the postwar nation. Yet he provoked the ire of many in 2006 when he revealed in his memoir that, as a teenager, he had served in the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of Adolf Hitler's notorious paramilitary organization.
A trained sculptor, Grass made his literary reputation with The Tin Drum, published in 1959. Combining naturalistic detail with fantastical images, his work captured the German reaction to the rise of Nazism, the horrors of the war, and the guilt that lingered after Adolf Hitler's defeat. Three decades after its release, in 1999, the Swedish Academy honored Grass with the Nobel Prize for literature, praising him for setting out to revive German literature after the Nazi era. With The Tin Drum, the Nobel Academy said, "it was as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction." (Read more Nobel Prize stories.)