The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum Characters

Heinrich Boll

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Katharina Blum

Katharina Blum (ka-tah-REE-nah blewm), a twenty-seven-year-old certified housekeeper who has been in charge of the Blorna household for four years. Katharina is a very private and proper person and an almost compulsive worker bent on improving herself. When she meets a fugitive, Ludwig Götten, at a party, she immediately falls in love with him. After he spends the night with her in her condominium apartment, Katharina tells him how to avoid the police by crawling through the heating ducts, which, along with the whole complex, had been designed by her employer, Trude Blorna. She subsequently expresses no regret over her murder of the sensationalist reporter Werner Tötges and looks forward to life with Götten at the end of their eight-year prison terms.

Erwin Beizmenne

Erwin Beizmenne (EHR-veen BITS-mehn-neh), the chief crime commissioner. After Götten’s escape, Beizmenne, through a series of insensitive interrogations, attempts to establish a connection between Katharina and Götten’s crimes.

Werner Tötges

Werner Tötges (VEHR-nehr TEHT-gehs), a reporter for the sensationalist News. Tötges, disgracefully attacking Katharina’s character and honor, accuses her of involvement in Götten’s crimes. Katharina, distraught by the viciousness and lack of integrity of this man who has destroyed her privacy and reputation, invites him to her once-beloved apartment, purportedly for an interview, and shoots him.

Ludwig Götten

Ludwig Götten (LEWT-vihg GEH-tehn), a twenty-six-year-old army deserter who absconds with army funds. Götten, who is accused of being a radical bank robber and murderer, is under police surveillance when he meets Katharina. He is later wounded when apprehended by the police. He affirms Katharina’s innocence.

Hubert Blorna

Hubert Blorna (BLOHR-nah), a forty-two-year-old corporate attorney. Katharina works for Blorna and his wife, Trude. Blorna and his wife depend on Katharina to bring order to their household and...

(The entire section is 955 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In order to elicit the sympathies of his readers, Heinrich Böll presents Katharina Blum, his protagonist, as an innocent victim of press and police collaboration. She is the “nun,” linked through her name and superficial similarities to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, but she is a saint in a post-Christian world marked by secularism and materialism. The exemplar of her capitalistic society, she is the independent career woman whose industry, thrift, and independence are rewarded by the condominium that is the symbol of her economic success. She gains sympathy as a victim, but she also forfeits sympathy because she is an uncritical participant in the society that destroys her. Despite her incarceration, for example, she has plans for investing her accumulating capital in a restaurant; she seems to have learned little about the society that persecuted her because of her loyalty, independence, and political vulnerability (neither the “Christian”’ businessman Straubleder nor the former Nazi Konrad Beiters is attacked).

Although she seems—until she kills Totges—passive in the face of the relentless persecution, her passivity is, Böll suggests, caused by her faith in justice and in the system. Appropriately enough, her only “resistance” is semantic, for she shares the narrator’s emphasis on linguistic precision and what he calls “reportorial obligations.” Katharina insists that “gracious” rather than “nice” be used to describe...

(The entire section is 502 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Conrad, Robert C. Heinrich Böll, 1981.

Heinrich Böll: On His Death, 1985. Translated by Patricia Crampton.

Magretta, William R., and Joan Magretta. “Story and Discourse: Schlondorff and von Trotta’s The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1975),” in Modern European Filmmakers and the Art of Adaptation, 1981.

Williams, Rhys W. “Heinrich Böll and the Katharina Blum Debate,” in Critical Quarterly. XXI (1979), pp. 49-58.

Zipes, Jack. “The Political Dimensions of The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum,” in New German Critique. XII (1977), pp. 75-84.