Fritz Tolm (tohlm), a wealthy newspaper owner in his mid-sixties who has just been elected president of the Association. As president of this organization, which represents the conservative interests of the West German business establishment, Tolm is catapulted into public prominence and is more vulnerable than ever as a symbolic target for the terrorists wishing to strike a blow at the West German system. Tolm, who experienced poverty in his youth, inherited a newspaper from his godfather toward the end of World War II. Although Tolm had a Ph.D. in art history and had no interest in newspapers, his paper, under the direction of its financial manager, Amplanger, consumed competing papers and became an empire. Reluctantly maneuvered into accepting the presidency of the Association because of his positive public image as a cultured and kindly gentleman, Tolm is mentally and physically weary. He lacks true independence and does not even control his own paper. He is surrounded by elaborate police protection and has no privacy. With the support of his wife, Käthe, he repudiates his public position to bury the dead terrorist, Heinrich Beverloh, whom he loved as a son. He and Käthe decide to leave their mansion, Tolmshoven, and to move into an empty vicarage to be accessible to their children.
Käthe Tolm (KAY-teh), Fritz Tolm’s attractive, warmhearted, and generous wife. She, like Fritz, comes from a humble background, and she has little tolerance for self-important or stupid members of the economic elite; she much prefers common people. Her life centers on her family, and she longs to regain privacy and family intimacy.
Rolf Tolm, a son of the Tolms, a brilliant and talented economist whose promising career as a banker was aborted when he was jailed for throwing stones and setting cars on fire during a violent political protest. Still a radical, he has repudiated violence and lives on the grounds of a Catholic parish with his common-law wife, Katharina Schroter, an intelligent and sensitive communist, and their son, Holger II.
Herbert Tolm, the Tolms’ other son. Opposed to violence, he, too, rejected the artificiality and mindless development of West German society. He has refused to go to Tolmshoven, where his family has moved after selling their...
(The entire section is 994 words.)