Till now, it had only been known that the writer had been conscripted into Germany's air defense corps during the war. But in the forthcoming autobiography, Grass recalls that at age 15, he tried to enlist in the Navy of the Third Reich because he wanted to be a submarinist, but he was turned down for being too young. The following year, he was enrolled into the Waffen-SS.
Grass, who would become an active pacifist, was wounded in combat in 1945, then captured by the Americans and kept in a POW camp.
"Together with other 17-year-olds," he remembers, "I was in the lager of Bad Aibling, where some 100,000 POWs were interned without a roof, and when it rained, some of us crouched together in a hole we had dug in the ground over which we stretched a tarp to protect us from the rain."
"One of my fellow POWs was named Joseph, he was very Catholic, and often spouted quotations in Latin. We became friends and we played dice together, because I managed to get a dice jar in the lager. To pass the time, we chatted and speculated about the future, as boys often love to do. I wanted to become an artist, while he wanted to enter into the service of the Church. He gave me the impression of being a bit awkward, but he was a most likeable type. This is a beautiful story, don't you think?"