The Agony of War
(Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
Once upon a time there was a seventeen
year old boy
Who lived in the Polish city of Danzig.
He was ordered to join the Waffen-SS,
Hitler’s elite division.
Oh, what an honour for a seventeen year old,
Almost a privilege to join the Waffen-SS.
The boy said:
„Wir wurden von früh bis spät
Geschliffen und sollten
Zur Sau gemacht werden.”
A Russian grenade shrapnel brought his
In the war to an abrupt end.
That was on April 20, 1945.
In the same evening,
He was brought to Meissen,
Where he came to know about his Vaterland’s defeat.
The war was lost long ago.
He realised how an ordinary soldier
Became helpless after being used as a tool in the war,
Following orders that didn’t demand heroism
In the brutal reality of war.
It was a streak of luck,
And his inability to ride a bicycle,
That saved his skin
At the Russian-held village of Niederlausitz.
His comrades rode the bicycle,
And he was obliged to give them fire-support
With a maschine-gun.
His seven comrades and the officer
Were slain by the Russians.
The only survivor was a boy
Of seventeen named Grass.
He abandoned his light maschine-gun,
And left the house of the bicycle-seller,
Through the backyard garden
With its creaky gate.
What were the chances in the days of the
For a 17 year old boy to understand the world?
The BBC was a feindliche radio,
And Goebbels’ propaganda maschinery
Was in full swing.
There was no time to reflect in those days.
Fürcht und Elend im Dritten Reich,
Wrote Bertold Brecht later.
Why did he wait till he was almost eighty?
Why did he torment his soul all these years?
Why didn’t he tell the bitter truth,
About his tragi-comical role in the war
With the Waffen-SS?
He was a Hitlerjunge,
A young Nazi.
Faithful till the end.
A boy who was seduced by the Waffen-SS.
„Ich habe mich verführen lassen.“
The reality of the war brought
Endless death and suffering.
He felt the fear in his bones,
His eyes were opened at last.
Grass is a figure,
You think you know well.
Yet he’s aloof
And you hardly know him,
This literary titan.
He breathes literature
And political engagement.
In his new book:
Beim Häuten der Zwiebeln
He confides he has lived from page to page,
And from book to book.
Is he a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
Dr. Freud and Mephistopheles
In the same breast?
Grass belongs to us,
For he has spent the time with us.
It was his personal weakness
Not to tell earlier.
He’s a playwright, director and actor
Of his own creativeness.
His characters Oskar and Mahlke weren’t holy Joes.
It was his way of indirectly showing
What went inside him.
Ach, his true confession took time.
It was like peeling an onion with tears,
One layer after the other.
Better late than never.
Since 1974 I have been
living on and off in Nepal, writing articles and publishing
books about Nepal-- this beautiful Himalayan country.
Even before I knew Satis Shroff personally (later) I was
deeply impressed by his articles, which helped me very
much to deepen my knowledge about Nepal. Satis Shroff
is one of the very few Nepalese writers being able to
compare ecology, development and modernisation in the
‘Third’ and ‘First’ World. He
is doing this with great enthusiasm, competence and intelligence,
showing his great concern for the development of his own
country. (Ludmilla Tüting, journalist and
Due to his very pleasant personality and
in-depth experience in both South Asian, as well as Western
work-styles and living, Satis Shroff brings with him a
cultural sensitivity that is refined. His writings have
always reflected the positive attributes of optimism,
tolerance, and a need to explain and to describe without
looking down on either his subject or his reader. (Kanak
Mani Dixit, Himal Southasia, Kathmandu)
Satis Shroff writes with intelligence,
wit and grace. (Bruce Dobler, Senior Fulbright
Professor in Creative Writing, University of Pittsburgh).
Works by Günter Grass: Surrealist
poems Die Vorzüge der Windhühner 1956, grotesque
plays Hochwasser 1956, Onkel-Onkel, Noch zehn Minuten
bis Buffalo, Die bösen Köche 1957, original
novel Die Blechtrommel 1959 (The Tin Drum), poems and
drawings Gleisdreieck 1960, Hundejahre 1963, Die Plebjer
proben den Aufstand 1966, Büchner Prize 1965, illustrated
poems Ausgefragt 1967, third novel örtlich betäubt,
play Davor, 1969 gesammelte Gedichte1971, Maria zuehren
1973, Liebe geprüft 1974, wie ich mich sehe 1980,
,fourth novel Aus dem Tagebuch einer Schnecke 1972,a study
of melancholy Melancholia I, lengthy novel Der Butt1977,
Das Treffen in Telgte 1979, Kopfgeburten oder Die Deutschen
sterben aus1980, Widerstand lernen, Politische Gegenreden
1980-1983, Aufsätze zur Literatur 1957-79 in 1980.Beim
Häuten der Zwiebeln 2006.