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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448

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The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, or: how violence develops and where it can lead is a novel by Heinrich Böll, published in its original German (as Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, oder: Wie Gewalt Entstehen und Wohin Sie Führen Kann) in 1974. In this book, Fraulein Blum is a housekeeper who falls in love with a young man, Ludwig Götten, who turns out to be wanted for bank robbery by the police. Police investigators and tabloid journalists hound her about the case. The story culminates in a violent encounter between Blum and a particularly intrusive journalist named Tötges.

The novel was made into a German-language film in 1975, written and directed for the screen by the husband-and-wife team of Volker Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com) lists the following quote from the movie, spoken by the character Weninger Lüding and translated into English:

The shots that killed Werner Tötges didn't hit him alone. They were aimed at freedom of the press, one of the most precious values of our young democracy. And these shots—for us who stand here in grief and horror—they strike us, just as they struck him. Who doesn't feel the wound? Who doesn't feel the sorrow above and beyond one's personal concerns? Who doesn't feel the breath of terror, the savage of anarchy, the violence which is undermining the foundations of our liberal-democratic order which we are so devoted to? Here, allegedly private motives have led to a political assassination, and we can say once more: Stop it before it grows! Look out, for freedom of the press is the core of everything: well-being, social progress, democracy, pluralism, diversity of opinions. And whoever attacks the paper attacks us all.

The irony of this self-righteous sermon is that it's both true and apathetic toward the very real damage caused by unethical journalism. Similarly, prosecutor Korten shrugs off the culpability of the press by saying,

[A] person who did not keep or did not fall into bad company could obviously never give the press cause for wild and potentially damaging reporting.

This victim-blaming is still common in America today.

Here's another telling quote from the novel:

Only now did Katharina . . . ask whether the government—as she put it—[should] do something to protect her from this filth and defend her honor.

In talking about his novel, Böll once remarked, "Words can do more damage than punches and pistols." The novel has been widely read as an attack on a German tabloid, Bild-Zeitung, though Binsisted, perhaps with tongue in cheek, said any similarities to his fictional paper and this real one were purely coincidental.

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