Guenter Grass, German Nobel literature prize winner and author of The Tin Drum, has died aged 87.
His publisher said he passed away at a clinic in Luebeck on Monday morning.
Born in what was then Danzig, Grass served in the German military in World War Two and published his breakthrough anti-Nazi novel, The Tin Drum, in 1959.
Later in life he became a vocal opponent of German reunification in 1990, and argued afterwards that it had been carried out too hastily.
The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was “deeply dismayed” to hear of the author’s death, the foreign ministry tweeted.
Writer Salman Rushdie described Grass as “a true giant, inspiration, and friend.”
Grass’s home town became the Polish city of Gdansk after the war; he spent much of his later life living near Luebeck.
Many of his writings focused on the Nazi era, the horrors of the war, and the destruction and guilt that remained after Germany’s defeat.
Germans were shocked when he revealed in his 2006 memoir Skinning the Onion that as a teenager he had volunteered to join the army and had served in the Waffen-SS – the combat arm of Hitler’s dreaded SS paramilitary force, which was responsible for atrocities throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
Previous accounts of his life had suggested he had been an anti-aircraft gunner and had been conscripted into the military.
After the war he spent months in an American prisoner of war camp.
Grass went on to train as a stonemason and then studied sculpture, and he remained active in the visual arts. His first book of poetry was published in 1956.
The author was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1999, for portraying “the forgotten face of history”.
Praising The Tin Drum, the Nobel committee said that it was “as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction”.
The magical realist novel’s narrator decides to stop growing at the age of three, and watches the adult world around him as events overtake his family and Danzig. He communicates through his tin drum and is able to “drum up the past”, reporting on events he has not witnessed.
Grass was politically engaged – campaigning for the Social Democratic Party – and was a major figure in German public life and discourse.
A poem published in 2012, What Must Be Said, sparked controversy for its strong criticism of Israel, which barred the writer from the country.