Monday, 31 October 2016

The Scholl Case - Interview with journalist Anja Reich-Osang

The Scholl Case:
The Deadly End of a Marriage

Anja Reich-Osang

On a cold December morning in 2011, a woman's body is found in a forest near Berlin, hidden between tall trees under dry leaves and moss. She has been strangled in cold blood. The victim's husband, Heinrich Scholl, is devastated. He is well respected in the community, a former mayor, and had been happily married-or so it seemed-for almost fifty years. Three weeks later he is arrested, and after an eighteen-month trial is sentenced to life. To this day he pleads not guilty.

Can this charming, courteous man possibly be a killer? Journalist Anja Reich-Osang followed the case from its beginning and talked to family, friends and Heinrich Scholl himself. She tells an utterly gripping story of marriage, sex and politics, in which nothing is as it seems.

ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— The fascinating thing about this book is how it draws you into the lives of the couple at the centre, the Scholls. Well structured, it begins with the last day of Brigitte Scholl’s life in 2011 and the subsequent arrest of her husband Heinrich Scholl, before rewinding 50 years to when they first met in the East German town of Ludwigsfelde. Reich-Osang, herself originally from East Germany, sets out the less than desirable manner in which Heinrich and Brigitte came to be married. From there the pattern of their lives unfolds.

The ‘can do’ abilities of ‘Heiner’ inspire admiration as he achieves in his various jobs (at one time he was a circus manager) and eventually becomes Mayor of Ludwigsfelde, a position he held for 18 years. Likewise, the strength and certainties of 'Gitti' who was the proprietor of a beautician boutique with a loyal customer base. As the book proceeds, however, we begin to see the flip-sides of these character traits. Yet despite the grim end to Brigitte’s life, this is not especially dark or depressing to read. The prose and tone that Reich-Osang strikes makes this much more a revealing examination around the foibles of lives and the hidden side to an otherwise success story.

The other aspect that is so interesting in this story is the setting, straddling the creation of East Germany and then the fall, with glimpses into life behind the Wall and after. The case caused a sensation in Germany at the time. The prologue reveals the tug-of-war mind games that the journalist/author has with the character of Heinrich Scholl, who is still serving time for the murder and steadfastly sticking to his claim of innocence. Did he do it? Over to you…

Craig Kirchner
More reviews from Craig

I spoke with journalist Anja Reich-Osang about the married couple at the centre of this tragedy and about the writing of her book.

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