Q&A with Bernhard Schlink
Q: Was Hanna's illiteracy meant to exonerate her in any way of her actions? And was her admission that she was visited by the ghosts of the dead meant to convey she'd come to terms with what her complicity meant?
A: I think this one of the scenes in particular that is beautifully done in the movie. Hanna never fully understands what she's done. After she's convicted, she gets a notion, but she never fully understands. In the book and the movie, she says the dead are dead, which indicates pretty clearly that she understands something. But it doesn't exonerate her. Her illiteracy is just what made her become a guard. If you look at the times of the Holocaust, and the biographies that have resulted from those times, you learn there are all kinds of reasons people like Hanna got into what they did.