Funder arrives at the von Schnitzler home. Frau Marta von Schnitzler, a former actress, lets her inside and introduces her to an elderly man—Herr von Schnitzler, once secretly known by his nickname, “Filthy Ed.” Funder sits down with von Schnitzler to ask him questions, and von Schnitzler is eager to cooperate, claiming that most of what’s said about him is utterly false.
Von Schnitzler claims to feel that he’s been slandered in recent years; therefore, his motive for talking to Funder is to correct the public’s misperceptions.
Von Schnitzler was born in 1918 in Berlin; his father was an important administrator for the Emperor. Under the Nazis, von Schnitzler’s family remained powerful. However, von Schnitzler became enamored with Communism. He fought with the Nazis, but was captured by the British, who forced him to make propaganda broadcasts for the Allied cause. He continued doing so even after the war. In 1947, however, he was hired to run the propaganda division of the new Communist state in Germany.
Von Schnitzler was a rarity in East Germany: a member of a prominent Nazi family who managed to make the transition from Hitler’s Reich to the Communist East German state. However, Funder has already suggested that many Nazis and Nazi supporters survived under the East German state, even if they weren’t given government positions.
Von Schnitzler’s career in East Germany revolved around his ability to provide commentary for West German television. Angrily, he tells Funder that recent German television is “trash.” He also mentions “that big television tyrant” who runs so much of Western media—Funder realizes that he’s talking about Rupert Murdoch. Funder asks von Schnitzler if he still believes—as he claimed in the 1960s—that the Berlin Wall was a humane, life-preserving thing. Furiously, von Schnitzler shouts that he still believes this, because the Wall halted the progress of Western imperialism.
As with Herr Winz in the earlier chapter, von Schnitzler criticizes the contemporary German state and the capitalist ideology that it represents. He even points out that countries with supposedly free presses, such as Australia and the U.S., have media systems that are owned by the same people (such as the Murdoch family, which still owns a huge chunk of American media, including Fox and The Wall Street Journal). While there may be some truth to these points, Funder doesn’t offer any thoughts, so it’s not clear how sympathetic she is to von Schnitzler’s argument.
Funder asks von Schnitzler if the East German state could have done anything better. Von Schnitzler admits that, early on, it was obvious to him that the state was going to be economically weak. Therefore, he made a point not to involve himself in “success propaganda,” such as exaggerating harvest results. He also insists that the size of the East German surveillance apparatus has been greatly exaggerated, perhaps by as much as ninety percent. Abruptly, he then mutters, “This … conversation … is … now … over!”
Von Schnitzler is using a coping mechanism often seen in soldiers, fascists, and criminals: he acknowledges that he did something wrong (he made propaganda), but insists that he wasn’t as bad as some other people (the people who exaggerated harvest results). At the end of their conversation, Funder seems to crack under the pressure of the cognitive dissonance in his brain: he claims he did nothing wrong, and yet he’s hated by millions.
Before she goes, Funder offers von Schnitzler a gift, a small pin showing the Australian and German flags crossed together. Von Schnitzler notices that the German flag is the Federal Republic’s, not East Germany’s. Nevertheless, he places the pin next to his bust of Karl Marx.
Even von Schnitzler exhibits a tacit acceptance for the new German order when he takes Funder’s flag pin. Von Schnitzler himself is becoming a relic of the vanished era of Communism in Germany.