17. Eberhard Scheibner’s Report: June 18, 1976

GDR Writers’ Union functionary Eberhard Scheibner submitted a written report to the Stasi entitled “Memorandum on a Conversation with Dr. Richard A. Zipser (USA) on June 11 in Berlin.” The report has three sections, as follows:

I. Re Background:

This section provides information about me, my project, and my contacts with the GDR Writers’ Union from the beginning of 1975 to this point in time.

II. Course of the Conversation:

The June 11, 1976 discussion in Berlin, which came about as a result of our initiative, was supposed to produce more detailed information about the views and intentions of Dr. Zipser in connection with the project that has been described. It yielded essentially the following information:

1. Dr. Zipser promised—just like he did in our earlier examination of his work—to give us a list of the authors he has visited along with information on the envisaged literary texts.

2. When asked about his impressions of our literature, Dr. Zipser commented that, despite the complexity and diversity in the literary output and in the aims of our GDR authors, he can perceive at the same time a continuity in the literary design and development. He concurred with my view that the years after the 8th Party Congress in particular have led to a further enrichment of the literary scene in the GDR, the originality of which thereby distinguishes it noticeably from, for example, the literature of the FRG.

3. Without being asked, Dr. Zipser expressed the thought that there was also another way he wanted to act in the future on behalf of GDR authors, so as to make them known in the USA. He considered it quite possible that in the future additional writers could join the ranks of those GDR authors previously invited to universities in the USA (Christa and Gerhard Wolf, Günter Kunert, Ulrich Plenzdorf, Heiner Müller). He would like to try approaching eight American universities, in order to explore their interest in hosting and financing a reading tour of GDR writers; in doing so in that way, he thought that after the first successful attempt up to four GDR writers could be introduced annually in the USA. Dr. Zipser promised to inform us, should the implementation of this project become a possibility.

4. Dr. Zipser commented that he probably would return to Berlin for a while in January 1977, in order to resolve the legal issues related to the texts he had selected.

III. Conclusions

From Dr. Zipser’s statements (he also asked about the possibility of spending some time teaching at a university in the GDR), one can conclude that he is interested in long-term contacts with the GDR, especially in the area of literature and cultural policy. But as long as an end product of his work (like, for example, the publication he has announced) is not publicly available, it is very difficult for us to assess the nature of his activity. We therefore proceeded initially on the assumption that the book project he described, the purpose of which is to popularize GDR literature, could be beneficial. And we have done everything within the confines of the previous consultation sessions to prevent a distortion both of the views of our writers and the portrayal of our literature through the submitted texts (e.g., via instructions to use texts that are already published; to gather authorizable written responses to the questions instead of uncontrollable tape recordings, among other things). In connection with the suggestion Zipser made in II/3 above and to avoid leaving  the initiative for possible additional projects up to the USA representative, the question arises whether—as long as there is no evidence on hand of negative activity on the part of Dr. Zipser—we should maintain a loose advisory contact as we have done up to now or whether an attempt ought to be made to reshape the present noncommittal contact into a stronger influential contact that is in our interest and have the Writers’ Union play a more active official role with proposals and demands from our side. (Irrespective of that, we have already submitted proposals to the GDR Embassy in Washington for initiatives of our own concerning the stimulation of invitations to GDR authors.)

We request, as a matter of principle, clarification of this question: What position is the Writers’ Union to take vis-à-vis “private” USA contacts who show up, in the interest of preserving optimally our ability to exert influence in the future.

Eberhard Scheibner