The next report bears the title “Information on the second stage of interview activity in the GDR by USA citizen Dr. Richard ZIPSER,” and “Main Department XX/7” appears in the upper left corner. The report is a five-page summary and analysis of my project-related activities in the GDR during the month of June 1976, based on information the Stasi had gathered from various unnamed (with one exception) sources. Without calling me an enemy of the GDR state, the report asserts that I was using the interviews to encourage GDR writers, particularly those who did not have strong political and ideological views, to take positions that were critical of socialism and the SED Party. At this point in time, the Stasi had clearly concluded that I was a provocateur and possibly an operative.
Through unofficial sources it became known that Dr. Zipser, the American professor for contemporary German literature, carried out the second phase of his interview activity with GDR writers in the first two weeks of June after receiving official permission to do so from the leadership of the Writers’ Union.
During this time period Zipser interviewed these writers: Volker Braun, Stefan Heym, Christa Wolf, Günter Kunert, Martin Stade, Uwe Berger.
Worthy of note is the systematic, uniform way Dr. Zipser proceeds by asking his interview partners questions that are similar with regard to content. Moreover, this process involves the same 15 questions he sent to the writers he had selected for his project, to be answered in writing, and also submitted prior to that to the Writers’ Union. In each individual instance, Zipser pays very close attention to the writer’s state of mind; in questions on details he concentrates on the weak points he knows about that particular interview partner. By proceeding in this manner Zipser automatically forces the person being interviewed to take a stand on problems in the development of the GDR in cultural, political, and ideological spheres.
By connecting the author’s personal views to general problems of development within GDR society Zipser manages, by the time the interview is finished, to present a fairly comprehensive picture of the author, the content of which is distinguished by the author’s point of view on our society, on the working class, on the SED Party, and on the overall development of society.
The personalized portrayals of GDR writers prepared by Zipser enable him to detect leverage points for individual authors, in order to take advantage of writers who are politically uncommitted and engage them in antisocialist activities. By holding out the prospect of various types of offerings such as guest lectureships at universities, reading tours, publications in the USA with the accompanying reviews, and the awarding of prizes to GDR writers, Zipser is bound to have a greater harmful political-ideological influence than before on GDR authors, in an effort to bring about confrontations with the Party.
Zipser aims to figure out the extent to which GDR authors exert influence on the development of society with their writings. He pays special attention to the investigation of motif complexes in written materials.
Zipser’s method of posing questions is aimed at swaying writers whose political views are not firmly formed to adopt a class-neutral stance when responding. This determination is especially obvious in the interview Zipser conducted with Martin Stade.
In response to Zipser’s question about the function of literature and art in socialist countries, Stade stated that he was of the opinion that “literature has no function whatever. The goal of writing in socialism is the same as in a capitalist social system. The writer zeros in on something and just writes about it. He writes because he is moved to do so.” In this connection Stade comments further that “he considers it his duty to criticize weaknesses in the socialist social system as sharply as possible. Socialist literature does not have a particular role to play.” (Stade is a member of the SED.)
During a conversation Zipser had with Comrade Scheibner, Secretary for International Relations in the Writers’ Union, about his activity in the GDR, Zipser remarked that “his interview activity in the GDR would serve to promote the spread of GDR literature in the USA to a much greater degree.” Zipser commented that he was in contact with eight universities in the USA regarding the publication of his project and also that he would be receiving financial support from highly regarded American publishers. [This last assertion is wholly inaccurate.]
Through his approach and demeanor, Zipser was able to give each of the interviews an individually personalized touch. This led some of his interview partners to confide in him very trustingly.
As Zipser commented to an unofficial source, the trusting relationship GDR writers had to him was strengthened by the fact that he had received official permission to do his work and been announced to the authors by the GDR Writers Union.
During his interviews, as well as in the personal conversations related to them, Zipser adhered painstakingly to the extensive review of the 15 well-known questions he has presented.
Noteworthy, it appears, is that during conversations with his interview partners Zipser often highlights the broadness of his contacts among the GDR writers, in order to bring about the most confidential rapport possible and to dispel any potential reservations.
Zipser also conducted interviews and had informatory conversations with writers Günter Görlich, Hermann Kant, and Erich Neutsch, among others, whose contributions were completely positive. [These are some of the SED Party loyalist authors the GDR Writers’ Union functionaries had added to my list, knowing that they would respond in an appropriate—i.e., politically correct manner.]
In this connection it has been determined unofficially that Zipser is especially interested in such authors as Sarah Kirsch, Ulrich Plenzdorf, Klaus Schlesinger, and Martin Stade, among others, persons who harbor wavering, negative, and to some extent hostile views with regard to the cultural policies of the GDR. Zipser made a proposal to the GDR Writers’Union, offering to invite GDR authors on a regular basis to give readings and lectures at universities in the USA, in order to contribute in that way to the promotion of GDR literature in the USA and to satisfy the interest of many USA citizens who want to become acquainted with GDR literature.
The purpose of the abovementioned is clarified by a statement Zipser made vis-à-vis an unofficial source, as an explanation: “The selection of the writers to undertake reading tours in the USA will of course be made by the appropriate institutions in the USA and not determined by the GDR Writers’ Union. Participation by the GDR Writers’ Union in the decision-making process is ruled out.” Zipser confided in the unofficial source, informing this person of his intention to include Wolf Biermann in his publications and asking the source to maintain strict silence about this.
Zipser has concealed this intention from all the GDR authors he has interviewed to date because he feared that a large number of writers would cancel their participation in his book project upon learning of his intention, especially those writers with close ties to the Party and government.
Furthermore, Zipser is aware that if his intention is made known the GDR Writers’ Union probably will not continue to permit him to do his work.
Since Zipser is worried that the quality of his book will suffer due to insufficient participation by internationally known writers, he plans to conduct an interview with Biermann during the very last part of his stay in the GDR. More precisely, he thinks it will be possible to conduct this interview when the other manuscript already has been completed. He tries to play down this undertaking by maintaining that “a publication on GDR literature will assuredly find a better market with Biermann.”
It was possible to expand the contact to Zipser by means of an unofficial source [Konrad Reich, obviously], to whom he will deliver the manuscript of his publication in due time.