Is Netflix’s Kleo Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Julia Terjung/Netflix

Created by Hanno Hackfort, Bob Konrad, and Richard Kropf, Netflix’s thriller series ‘Kleo’ revolves around German Democratic Republic AKA East Germany’s Stasi assassin Kleo Straub, who gets imprisoned even after completing a pivotal mission for her country. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kleo gets released from prison, only for her to set out to exact vengeance on everyone who has played a part in her imprisonment, along with finding the reason behind the same.

Set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the enthralling 2022 German series opens a window to the turbulent German political climate of the period through the titular assassin Kleo’s eyes, making one curious about the real-life connections of the show. On that note, here’s everything you need to know about the same!

Is Kleo a True Story?

‘Kleo’ is partially based on a true story. Before our readers start to wonder about the real-life counterpart of the charming-yet-brutal Kleo Straub, let us make it clear that the titular character, or seemingly any character for that matter, is fictional. The origin of the character lies in the legendary Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’ Creators Hanno Hackfort, Bob Konrad, and Richard Kropf were inspired by the famed tale of Edmond Dantès/the Count of Monte Cristo, who gets wrongfully imprisoned, only to exact revenge on people who were responsible for the same upon escaping from prison.

Hanno, Bob, and Richard placed the premise of the novel in German history and changed the gender of the protagonist to create Kleo. Like the Count of Monte Cristo, Kleo also gets imprisoned for a crime she does not commit, which infuriates her enough to kill the people who are responsible for the same, one after the other. The elements of the “true story” are present in the fictional protagonist’s background. When the show begins, Kleo is part of the real East Germany intelligence agency and secret police State Security Service AKA Stasi. As per reports, Minister’s “special issues” task force, which trains Kleo to be a competent assassin did exist in real life.

Hanno, Bob, and Richard had access to original manuals to conceive the show’s narrative. The manuals gave them enough clarity concerning the “making” of an assassin, which is an integral part of Kleo’s characterization. Even though the creators hadn’t based the character on a particular Stasi assassin, the manuals enabled them to conceive a fictional East German agent authentically. To conceive Kleo’s astounding methods of annihilating her enemies, the creators depended on the manuals as well. In an interview, Hanno revealed that the creators had an instruction manual to design explosive clothing to conceive a particular murder Kleo commits in the show. The show’s fiction connects to the history of Germany through these details.

Another way ‘Kleo’ connects with reality is through its exploration of the fall of the German Democratic Republic and the socialist values it had propagated as a nation. In reality, the dissolution of the country was considered a setback and failure of communism. Sven Petzold’s critique of communism, which infuriates Kleo, depicts the general sentiments of the time. The ideological warfare between East and West Germany, which paved the way for several pivotal events in German history, including German reunification, is part of the show’s narrative. However, the creators had made it clear that they had taken enough creative liberties to conceive the historical series.

‘Kleo’ isn’t a show that relies on historical accuracy. Kleo’s noteworthy Adidas tracksuits are a homage to the bride in ‘Kill Bill’ rather than a depiction of Berlin’s fashion in the 1990s. As per co-creator Richard, the creators had intentionally avoided the “grey” appeal of the real German Democratic Republic to portray a colorful and appealing version of the same. They didn’t refrain from creating “caricature” characters to occupy high-ranking positions in GDR to maintain the comic tone of the show as well.

‘Kleo’ begins with a faux disclaimer – “This is a true story. None of this really happened” – to make it clear that the historical narrative is closer to fiction than to reality. Having said that, the show is based on the true story of German reunification although none of Kleo’s actions the show depicts really happened since the assassin never existed in real life to commit a killing spree.

Read More: Where is Netflix’s Kleo Filmed?