Study Guide

The Tin Drum Memory and Guilt

By Günter Grass

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Memory and Guilt

In the 1950s, Germany was on its way to recovery from the War. There was an official policy of "de-Nazification" but many former Nazis still held positions in the new government. The Tin Drum was the first of several novels Grass wrote about the Nazi era, in hopes of awakening memories and holding people to account. He felt that it was ordinary Germans who allowed the atrocities to happen. They weren't mysteriously hypnotized by some dark and evil force—they made conscious decisions to go along with the policies that resulted in WWII and the Holocaust. Grass felt very guilty about the role he played in the War but thought that German society as a whole was avoiding its own guilt by distorting their memories of what really happened then.

Questions About Memory and Guilt

  1. Do you think Oskar's memories are real or fabricated?
  2. What's the relationship between Oskar's drumming and remembering?
  3. Does Oskar feel real guilt?
  4. What are the people in The Onion Cellar crying about?

Chew on This

George Santayana was right.

Thinking about past mistakes is pointless. The Holocaust happened and nothing can change that.

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