Born on October 16, 1927 in Gdansk, Poland, Gï¿½nter Wilhelm Grass was a member of the Hitler Youth in the 1930s. At the age of 16, he was drafted into the German military, was wounded, and became a prisoner of war in 1945. His first novel, The Tin Drum (1959), selected by the French as the best foreign language book of 1962, is the story of Oscar Matzerath, a boy who refuses to grow up as a protest to the cruelty of German society during the war. It is the first part of his Danzig trilogy, followed by Cat and Mouse (1961) and Dog Years (1963), and was made into a movie by director Volker Schlondorff, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1979. His other works include Local Anaesthetic, The Flounder, Crabwalk, and Peeling the Onion. He has been honored many times, including a distinguished service medal from the Federal Republic of Germany in 1980 which he refused to accept. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.
CHRISTIAN WIESE is Director of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies and Professor in the History Department at Sussex University, U.K.