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I fully recognize that this sentiment has a certain lack of charity to it, but I sometimes wish that we had convened a War Crimes Tribunal after we won the Cold War.  And I'm not talking about trying the aparatchiks of the Soviet Union; I mean that it would have had a salutary effect to put intellectual traitors like Jane Fonda and Carl Sagan and John Le Carre into the dock and make them answer for the aid and comfort that they provided to the moist brutal system of government that the world has ever seen, as was done to Ezra Pound in 1946 for supporting Fascism.  Ideas and beliefs, if they are to mean anything, should have consequences.  And the fundamental idea that motivated these people was hatred; just as surely as Pound hated Jews, the folk of this ilk on the Left hated democrats and capitalists and all of the bourgeois Western values that ultimately enabled us to defeat Communism.

But enough wool gathering, sadly we'll never see those trials.  But it is against this setting that we must approach Heinrich Boll.  Because, while, taken at face value, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum contains a timeless and universal lesson about the dangers of a security state and an irresponsible press and their capacity to destroy innocent individuals, the subtext here is Boll's opposition to the Cold War West in general, the West German government in particular and specifically the police measures taken to combat domestic terrorism.  I don't know enough about him to verify it, but there is even a web site that lists him as a sympathizer of the notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang.  And I do know that he was one of the European anti-nuke activists in the early 1980's.  Now, I know, I know, we won.  It's over.  Let bygones be bygones. Yadda, yadda, yadda...  I say, bunk!  We can't just dismiss the pernicious attacks that these folks launched against their own countries, attacks which had they been successful would have resulted in the continued existence of the Soviet Union.  There is a natural tendency to say that their intentions were basically good, however misguided, and to let them wriggle off of the hook.  But we must never forget that had they prevailed, scores of countries would still be burdened by the yoke of Marxism, the Berlin Wall would still stand, the gulags would still be full, hundreds of thousands of Jews who fled to Israel in a new Diaspora would still be suffering behind the Iron Curtain, there would be no peace in Ireland or the Middle East, supremacist thugs would still rule a white South Africa and the world economy would be mired in the malaise of the 1970's.  Ideas do indeed have consequences.

So, I'm willing to recommend this book if only for the always pertinent warning that it conveys about the danger to individuals and to personal liberties and civil rights whenever institutions of the State and the Press become too powerful.  But I also think that it is important to place these things in a proper context and to remember that the real Katharina Blums of West Germany, like the real Alger Hiss or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were not innocent victims; they were, in fact, criminals.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C+)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -Heinrich Boll Page
    -Heinrich Boll Winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Literature (Nobel Internet Archive)
    -The Heinrich Boll Foundation
    -Nobel Prize for Literature: 1972 (official site)
    -REVIEW: of THE SILENT ANGEL By Heinrich Boll (Peter Filkins, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Silent Angel LITERATURE FROM THE RUBBLE AN EARLY WORK BY HEINRICH BOLL GIVES FRESH INSIGHT INTO POSTWAR GERMANY'S IDIOSYNCRATIC SEER (David Mehegan, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of THE STORIES OF HEINRICH BOLL By Heinrich Boll (D. J. Enright, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE CASUALTY By Heinrich Boll  (Russell A. Berman, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of WOMEN IN A RIVER LANDSCAPE A Novel in Dialogues and Soliloquies By Heinrich Boll (Vivian Gornick, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Farewells To Justice, God, Politics And The European Way (David Cook)
    -REVIEW: GROUP PORTRAIT WITH LADY  by Heinrich Boll (BOMC)
    -REVIEWS: of Heinrich Boll Books from the New York Review of Books
    -REVIEW:  D.J. Enright: Lone Wolf, New York Review of Books
        The Mad Dog by Heinrich Böll and translated by Breon Mitchell
    -REVIEW: D.J. Enright: Cracking Leni's Case, New York Review of Books
        Group Portrait with Lady by Heinrich Böll and translated by Leila Vennewitz
    -REVIEW: Conor Cruise O'Brien: In Quest of Uncle Tom, New York Review of Books
        Dublin: A Portrait by V.S. Pritchett and Photographs by Evelyn Hofer
        Irish Journal by Heinrich Böll
    -REVIEW: D.J. Enright: Kindly Shoot Above the Trees, New York Review of Books
        The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising by Günter Grass and translated by Ralph Manheim
        Selected Poems by Günter Grass
        Two Views by Uwe Johnson, translated by Richard Winston, and translated by Clara Winston
        Attendance List for a Funeral by Alexander Kluge and translated by Leila Vennewitz
        18 Stories by Heinrich Böll and translated by Leila Vennewitz
    -REVIEW: D.J. Enright: Artist Into Beggar, New York Review of Books
        The Clown by Heinrich Böll and translated by Leila Vennewitz
    -ESSAY: The conscience of a nation: Heinrich Boll (Michael Butler)

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