Germany As Mute Victim

The worst naval disaster ever, caused by the Allies in 1945, is the setting of Gunter Grass's new novel

Americans remember World War II as "the good war," the one fought with stoic heroism by "the greatest generation." For Europeans, it is a scar that won't stop itching, a remembrance of pain and disgrace. Even for those people whose nations were on the winning side, sadness and horror intrude into memories of glory. Novelists can capture the mixed emotions that go with war better than historians. It's no accident that Ian McEwan's Atonement--perhaps the most admired British novel of the past decade--has at its center the retreat of British forces to Dunkirk, a story that mixes courage, fear and incompetence...

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