*Danzig (DAN-zik). Polish city (now known as Gdansk) on the Baltic that was occupied by Nazi Germany during the time in which this novella is set. Grass re-creates the city of his youth by using such specific place names as Osterzeile and Westerzeile, streets in a working-class neighborhood. Here, look-alike, one-family homes with copycat yards illustrate the sterile, conformist society easily conquered by National Socialism.
*Neufahrwasser Harbor (noy-FAHR-wahser). Danzig harbor near which the Rybitwa, a partially submerged Polish minesweeper, provides the major setting for the story’s action. The ship’s bridge, which rises above the surface of the water, covered by rust and gull droppings, illustrates the long-lasting destructiveness of war. Joachim Mahlke, a Danzig schoolboy, and his schoolmates spend their summers playing on and swimming around the ship’s bridge. Mahlke brings his prized possessions, an assortment of religious items and cultural artifacts, from his dry attic room to the ship’s radio room. The narrator sees this transfer of possessions as an act of absurd and “deliberate destructiveness.” The minesweeper becomes the last refuge for Mahlke after his rejection by his school’s principal.
*Conradinum (kohn-rahd-EEN-um). Mahlke’s school, whose neogothic windows infuse its gymnasium and dressing room, dubbed the “Sacristy,” with a “mystical light.” The new martial religion as preached by the returning war heroes stands in contrast to the school’s humanistic foundation. The appearances of the returning heroes foster Mahlke’s desire to win the Knight’s Cross.
St. Mary’s Chapel
St. Mary’s Chapel. Converted gymnasium, which, in contrast to the school, has bright lights and lacks the “mystical light” and is rendered impotent by wartime Danzig.