- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

Author’s Nazi past

Former Polish president Lech Walesa has demanded that German Nobel laureate for literature Guenter Grass renounce his honorary citizenship of Gdansk after the shocking admission he served in the Nazis’ notorious Waffen SS elite combat force during World War II.

Mr. Walesa, himself a Nobel peace laureate and also an honorary resident of the northern Polish city, said he was dismayed by Mr. Grass’ confession, according to an advance copy of an interview to appear tomorrow in the German daily Bild.

“If it had been known he was in the SS, he would never have received the honor,” Mr. Walesa told the newspaper. “It would be best if he relinquished it himself.”

Mr. Grass, 78, long an influential leftist and pacifist, stunned Germans with the announcement in an interview that he had been drafted into the SS at the age of 17. He insisted he had not volunteered and never fired a shot during his time with the force.

The author told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he had written about this period for the first time in his memoir “Peeling Onions,” which is due to appear in September. “My silence for all these years is one of the reasons why I wrote this book. It had to come out,” he said.

Previously it had only been known that the author, best known abroad for his 1959 novel “The Tin Drum,” was conscripted into the German air defense forces.

The feared Waffen-SS was a paramilitary organization known for its extreme brutality in Nazi-occupied regions, particularly against civilians. Its members also served as concentration camp guards.

Mr. Grass was born in Gdansk, then known as Danzig, in 1927 and became an honorary citizen of the city in 1993. He won the Nobel prize six years later.

Martha’s manse

Six years after Martha Stewart said she was leaving Westport, Conn., she really is bidding farewell to this wealthy seaside town — if only someone would buy her house.

Mrs. Stewart has been trying for more than two months to sell her early 19th century federal-style farmhouse for $9 million. Real estate experts say it’s not unusual for luxury homes to take at least a few months to sell — even those with the domestic diva’s famous touch.

“It’s the most beautiful property I’ve ever seen,” said Eileen Hill, president of the Mid Fairfield County Association of Realtors. “Every blade of grass stands at attention.”

The town, which is also home to actor Paul Newman and singer Michael Bolton, is taking Mrs. Stewart’s departure with a stiff upper lip.

“There was certainly no real sense of loss,” said Cristin Marandino, editor of Westport Magazine. “I think 70 percent of the people who live in Westport have a Martha story. She just wasn’t very easy to live with.”

Mrs. Stewart occasionally ran into trouble with neighbors upset with her film crews and behavior.

The oft-photographed home, which she bought in 1972, was the inspiration for her first book, “Entertaining,” in 1982, and was the site of many television programs and garden tours.

“I am so sad to be leaving this property, which has meant so much to me and my family,” Mrs. Stewart said. “The four acres of garden have been tended with great care for more than 30 years and the circa 1805 farmhouse and outbuildings have been the location of wonderful family celebrations, legendary television specials and comfortable gatherings of friends.”

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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