First Advisor

Steven N. Fuller

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in German


World Languages and Literatures




Human rights, Heinrich Böll -- 1917-1985 -- Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, German literature -- History and criticism, Sensationalism in journalism



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 107 p.)


In his 1974 novella The lost Honor of Katharina Blum Heinrich Böll argues for the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence. He states that this principle is violated when defamatory media headlines make unwarranted accusations against a private citizen destroying their reputation as part of a targeted smear campaign. The novella characterizes such intentional campaigns as both criminalizing and dehumanizing. Böll argues that the government should influence the press to conform to the limits implied in the institution of freedom of press. He shows the helplessness of a private citizen under attack from a smear campaign when the government takes a laissez-faire attitude toward sensationalized media. This thesis, "Neither citizen nor human: Prisoner of the media and the state: systematically linked dehumanization and radicalization: Two Interpretations of Heinrich Böll's: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum," evaluates the sympathetic role that media and government play in the radicalization of the private citizen. This thesis establishes a direct relation between smear campaigns and radical or extremist behavior. This thesis shows that the victim of the media acts out erratically in a state of panic and terror brought on by feelings of helplessness. This thesis supports Boell's position that this erratic behavior leads to suicide or violence against perceived oppressors or others. This thesis argues for the habitualization of violence as a precise definition of the radicalization of the individual to violence. This thesis utilizes Böll's fictionalized account of Katharina Blum. This thesis makes comparisons between targeted smear campaigns in the BRD in the period 1967-1974, roughly the period of the Brandt Administration, and the case of Katharina Blum. This thesis demonstrates the systematically linked oppression of oppositional voices by the West German government with media-driven smear campaigns. Böll's essays on topics including human rights and the potential benefits of political radicals help inform this study. Böll's novella demonstrates the vulnerability of all citizens to victimization of the press. Boell shows that violent radical behavior results from smear campaigns against private citizens. Boell argues that this radicalization is clearly rooted in a sales-driven media sympathetic to the state's abuses of power.


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Portland State University. Dept. of World Languages and Literatures

Persistent Identifier