107. US Germanists in the Index to Joachim Walther’s Book

One day, as I was thinking about Sicherungsbereich Literatur (Security Zone Literature) and what a magnificent contribution it makes to our knowledge and understanding of one of the darkest aspects of GDR history, it occurred to me that I should look for references to other US Germanists in the index to Walther’s book, just out of curiosity. In the 1970s and 1980s, the number of US Germanists with a serious interest in GDR literature was not too large, and over the years I had become acquainted with most of them. With the help of US publications such as Studies in GDR Culture and Society, collections of papers presented at the annual New Hampshire symposia on the German Democratic Republic, GDR Bulletin, and GDR Monitor, I made a list of colleagues who had been active in the area of GDR studies in the 1970s and 1980s. When I completed that exercise, the list had more than thirty names on it. I then proceeded to look up each of those names in the index to Walther’s book, hoping to find references to some of them. To my surprise and bewilderment, only one US Germanist is cited in that index: Richard Zipser. I have done a great deal of thinking about that and have come to this conclusion: There was only one US Germanist who had engaged in what the Stasi considered to be subversive activities in the GDR, only one had been considered an enemy of the GDR state. Today, as before, I am proud of the fact that the vast majority of the GDR writers I knew and worked with on various book projects in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s viewed me and my work on GDR literature in a very different light.


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