33. Second Report from IM “Dölbl”: December 1, 1977

The next report on me, containing information from Anneliese Löffler, is nine pages long, single-spaced. There are two sections: 1) a three-page preamble labelled “Report” that appears to  have been written by her Stasi-handler, Captain Joachim Tischendorf, who specialized in cultural issues, and 2) a six-page report entitled “Prof. Zipser’s Project,” which appears to have been composed and typed by Löffler. A cover page bears the following heading:

Main Department XX/7 Berlin, 12/1/77

Collaborator/Source:  Captain Tischendorf / “Dölbl”

And there is a notation indicating that the source of the information has been checked (“überprüft”) and is reliable (“zuverlässig”). Below are the two documents:

In accordance with the assignment that was given, IM “Dölbl” had arranged a get-together on 11/28/1977 with USA citizen Dr. Richard ZIPSER, who is currently residing in the GDR. In the course of this meeting the unofficial collaborator was able to gather a considerable amount of information about the content, goal, and political aspects of ZIPSER’s book on GDR literature. The attached report, which the unofficial collaborator prepared, summarizes this information.

The unofficial collaborator pointed out the politically explosive effect that would result from the publication of ZIPSER’s book, which now comprises around 800 pages in manuscript form. This explosiveness stems from the fact that the answers of the 38 GDR writers ZIPSER interviewed, to each individual question the unofficial collaborator cited in the report, are reproduced one after another other without the name of the respondent being mentioned again. Hence, by way of example, the answers from KUNZE could appear beside those of Günter GÖRLICH or Hermann KANT. [Reiner Kunze was a dissident writer who at the time of the interview was not permitted to publish in the GDR. Günter Görlich and Hermann Kant were writers loyal to the SED Party.]

Even more dangerous, in the unofficial collaborator’s opinion, is the fact that—aside from a few exceptions—the answers give voice to a collection of alleged conflicts, unresolved problems and difficulties in the GDR, especially in the development of literature, which in their totality present a completely distorted picture of the Party and State cultural policy.

In addition, the unofficial collaborator pointed out difficulties in gaining access to ZIPSER’s manuscript on the basis of the exchange agreement, since there is in fact no provision requiring ZIPSER to allow perusal of the manuscript.

The basis for ZIPSER’s recurring stay in the GDR is an existing agreement between the GDR and the USA, within the scope of the UNESCO Organization IREX, regarding the exchange of scholars. [UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.] The Ministry of Higher Education is responsible for ZIPSER’s support and care and the regulation of all organizational aspects of his residence in the GDR. ZIPSER’s intention to write a book on GDR literature is set forth in the existing related contract with him.

The unofficial collaborator was able to find out from ZIPSER that

W a r d e t z k y, Jutta
Research Associate at the
Academy of Arts

who is known to have a connection to Sarah KIRSCH, is carrying out a portion of the organizational tasks for ZIPSER (clerical work, among other things) without any authorization to do so from the State. [I did not receive any assistance from Jutta Wardetzky and have no idea how Löffler arrived at this conclusion.]

The unofficial collaborator was instructed to communicate the established facts as regards ZIPSER’s project at the next executive board meeting of the Berlin Writers’ Union, making reference to the political consequences that would follow the publication of his book, in order to precipitate a discussion among the positive forces participating in ZIPSER’s project, the goal of which is to demand access to ZIPSER’s complete manuscript. The further participation of these authors in ZIPSER’s book project should be made contingent on that. Furthermore, measures to prevent the publication of this book with its present hostile bias should be initiated. [The GDR Writers’ Union had insisted that I include in my book some writers known to be party loyalists; these are the “positive forces” Tischendorf refers to above. If those writers had withdrawn from the project, my book would have lacked balance and presented a more negative and potentially damaging portrayal of the GDR state and its cultural policy. Only one writer—Siegfried Pitschmann—withdrew from the project after agreeing to participate, and I do not think the Writers’ Union officials encouraged him or any other authors to do so.]

In addition, the unofficial collaborator was instructed to review the existing contract IREX and the Ministry of Higher Education have with ZIPSER, to see if legal grounds for gaining access to the complete manuscript might be worked out.

Prof. Zipser’s Project

1. Zipser began his work in 1975. According to his own statements, the following induced him to undertake his current project:

a) the need, in the interest of his own professional reputation, to begin working on a new and extremely appealing project;

b) the intellectual stimulation resulting from a stay in the GDR that he carried out while residing in Austria;

c) the advice he received from Gerhard Wolf, who spent half of a semester in Oberlin (USA) with his wife Christa Wolf. Reportedly, the format of the planned book is for the most part his idea.

2. In 1975 he held preliminary discussions with Comrade Scheibner from the Writers’ Union. He gave him a list of writers’ names he had prepared with Gerhard Wolf, which Scheibner supplemented. Zipser is not prepared to say who was on the list prior to that and who was added later on. His response: “Oh, you know, that has changed so many times.” I know that the names of 38 authors are now on the list. I was able to identify the following: Jurek Becker, Uwe Berger, Volker Braun, Juri [sic] Brězan, Günter de Bruyn, Adolf Endler, Elke Erb, Karl-Heinz Jakobs, Fritz L. [sic] Fries, Franz Fühmann, Günter Görlich, Peter Hacks, Bernd Jentzsch, Benno Pludra, Rainer Kirsch, Sarah Kirsch, Rainer [sic] Kunze, Heiner Müller, Rolf Schneider, Paul Wiens, Irmtraud Morgner, Karl Mickel, Stefan Hermlin, Stefan Heym, Eberhard Panitz, Klaus Schlesinger, Martin Stade, Ulrich Plenzdorf, Günter Kunert, Hermann Kant, Christa Wolf, Gerhard Wolf, Uwe Kant. As Zipser said, he would also have placed importance on the opinions of Anna Seghers and Erwin Strittmatter, but both have been unwilling to provide him with information. When asked about the reason for this selection, he said that he had picked those authors who played a role in literary proceedings after 1970 (the first draft of his proposal stated: authors who attained prominence after 1960!). When I said to him that subsequently completely different names had come under discussion, he narrowed the focus to the period after 1970.

3. The format of his book looks like this:

a) introduction by Zipser on the development of literary activity in the GDR over the past 15 years, i.e., since the beginning of the 1960s;

b) biographical sketches of writers which for the most part are drawn from relevant reference works;

c) brief personal statements about writing, focusing on the questions: What goals have you set for your artistic work and do think you can achieve them?

d) the statements that were provided through the interviews and, to be specific, presented in this format: At the beginning of each set of questions the names of the authors who responded to that question appear and then comes a series of answers (without the names being cited again). It is not possible to discern who has given which answer to a particular question. Since the answers remain anonymous in each sequence, basically only someone who knows the authors can figure it out. [It seems that Löffler misunderstood what I had told her. In the volume containing the interviews, each author’s name always appears before his/her answer to a given question.]

e) a literary text of approximately 10 to 15 pages in length for each author appearing in the book;

f) Zipser’s commentary on these texts, the main purpose of which—according to him—is to clarify for the reader unfamiliar information and connections in the content of these works.

4. The questions for the authors are of a social nature. Just in case they are not known, I am listing them below. [A list of the interview questions follows].

5. Upon his arrival Zipser explained that he had completed the most important preliminary work, especially on the interviews, back in 1975 and 1976. His main concern now is to have the writers authorize the interviews. I asked if I could take a look at the manuscripts; at first he said he didn’t have them with him. When I pointed out that this could not be possible because ultimately one cannot secure permissions to publish without the manuscripts, he referred to the incomplete state of the project and the possibility of viewing it at a later point in time.

6. Zipser stated emphatically that he is focusing for the most part on texts written in 1975 [actually, between 1971 and 1976, the first five years of the Honecker era]. He claims that the authors presently have a completely different attitude toward the texts they wrote during the earlier 1970s, as a result of the events that occurred in November 1976. [This is a reference to the expatriation of dissident writer/singer Wolf Biermann that precipitated massive protests on the part of GDR writers and artists.] Prior to that a very optimistic mood still prevailed, Zipser says, but now he senses that just the opposite is the case. Many writers have expressed a desire to give him new written material for his book. He says he urged the writers to allow him to use the texts from the earlier 1970s, because their significance as part of a historical document would otherwise be lost. When asked which authors he had interviewed most recently, he replied: Christa Wolf, Volker Braun, Heiner Müller, and Peter Hacks. Moreover, all four agreed to give answers based on statements that reflect the perspective they had in 1975, so they would not stand out in contrast to the others. When asked why the authors were viewing everything differently today, he replied: after the 8th Party Congress [June 1971) a new cultural policy and a new freedom for the arts came into being; however, this freedom was curtailed at the 9th Party Congress [May 1976] and in the past year it was eliminated completely.

7. Issues Related to Zipser’s Stance:

a) His stance on GDR literature stems from his close friendship with Christa Wolf and Ulrich Plenzdorf, who both (Christa Wolf with her husband) spent a half year in Oberlin. Plenzdorf and Becker (who is going to Oberlin next year) have for the most part smoothed the way for him here. A woman who works in the Academy of Arts, a friend of Sarah Kirsch, has been carrying out organizational tasks for him.

b) Zipser emphasizes his friendly attitude toward GDR literature and his indifferent attitude toward the GDR in general. He says that a project like the one he is doing could not have originated in the FRG (West Germany) because there ideological reservations would come to the fore. With him, he asserts, everything is being organized without prejudice; as a result, his book will be genuine publicity for GDR literature. Besides, so he says, he can proceed in an uninfluenced manner because—although he has in fact been interested in GDR literature for a long time—he had not been fully cognizant of how many works and authors this literature has to offer.

c) Zipser pretends to be remarkably naïve and reticent; he gives the impression that with him it is all about a friendly scholar who comes to a foreign country without any preconceived notions and observes with wide-eyed amazement everything that is going on there. Here is what seems questionable to me:

his in-depth knowledge of GDR literature and the completion of a project that one individual cannot possibly complete without assistance;

the possibility of receiving free time and money, over and above what is legitimately due him, which actually guarantees that he can accomplish his work. He always downplays this question, i.e., the question about the value of his project for the government agencies in the USA or even for the general public. He says he cannot expect success in the public sphere or even public recognition, since no more than 1,500 copies of his book will be printed and these are certain to be purchased by libraries only. However, this information actually makes the extraordinary sponsorship even more questionable. Basically, what remains is merely the still unanswered question about the significance of his project for the GDR, which is becoming increasingly serious.

d) Zipser maintains that the length of his stay is barely sufficient for the completion of his work. Hence, he needs to concentrate entirely on his work with the writers and is unable to be involved with the university. He is indeed very interested in this activity (i.e., active involvement with the university), but he has to put every available minute into completing his project. In response to the objection that he is after all a guest of the university, he said the following: yes, but as stipulated in the agreement, for the purpose of completing a project the university knew about and the goals of which were presented ahead of time. This also conforms to the terms of the IREX agreement. University staff members would also not be able to help him because basically everything has already been set in motion and now only needs to be completed. What remains to be done is a question of organization and mutual understanding with the writers as regards the manuscripts. His own foreword has not yet been completed; he has not yet begun working on it, but plans to write it in January and then will gladly consult with me in May. His initial avowed desire to participate in seminars and possibly some lectures at the university also cannot be put into practice, since he was confronted with problems related to his divorce during the first weeks of his residence here. On October 26 he received two letters (from his wife) which suddenly put him in this situation and really threw him for a loop; as a result he was also unable to work. Things will be different next year, he says, since he will establish close contact with the university.

e) Informal meetings with students:

Zipser has had two informal meetings with students from the group of degree candidates in their fourth year of study. The participants were: Gregor Edelmann, his wife, Tatjana Rese, Doris Stauffenberg, Andre Baulgart, and some other students who were present only at the first gathering. According to the students’ statements, the conversations were concerned with the following topics:

His most recent problems with GDR writers which he generally just called “problems,” without making any distinctions. He expressed annoyance with the GDR writers a number of times, because of all the difficulties they were causing him due to their unreliability.

The bureaucracy of GDR agencies, especially the International Office at the Humboldt University and the Ministry of Higher Education.

Ways of life in the GDR, housing and living conditions, opportunities for higher education, types of jobs at the university level, etc.

The next section of the report focuses on a presentation I gave on November 28, 1977, at Löffler’s insistence, to a small group of German literature professors from her department at the Humboldt University. Since I had been avoiding Löffler during my two-month stay, and since I had not accepted any of her invitations to visit with her at her weekend cottage in the country, I felt I had to comply with this request. The problem I faced was how to give detailed information on my project, including an interesting sample of the interview material, without revealing too much.

My talk amounted to a report on the nature and goal of my book project combined with some information I had gathered through interviews with GDR writers to be represented in it. To give an example, I distributed a sheet to everyone present with sixteen answers to one of the questions I had asked GDR writers: “Which contemporary social problems are of the greatest concern to you as a writer?” I listed the authors who had responded in alphabetical order, without linking any one of them to a specific answer; the answers to the question were listed randomly. The Germanists in the room, all of whom were conversant with contemporary GDR literature, were invited to match the names of authors to answers, which of course no one would be able to do. Löffler was not amused by my impish game and, when we were alone following my presentation, she proceeded to scold me. I was delighted to read her lengthy report on this gathering of professors.

8. Meeting at the German Studies Department of the Humboldt University. Participants: Prof. Löffler, Prof. Eva Kaufmann, Dr. Hörnigk, Dr. Karin Kögel, Dr. Brigitte Stuhlmacher.

I had asked Mr. Zipser to present his project in as much detail as possible, and asked my colleagues to ask as many questions as possible about the project.

The Outcome:

a) Presentation by Zipser which did not divulge more than has been stated in sections 1 to 4 of this report.

b) The presentation and reading of answers to the question cited in section 4 b). [Which contemporary social problems are of the greatest concern to you as a writer?]
And here is where the problem with this book begins: only two of the answers went into social progress in the GDR, and they came across—whether as a result of editing or due to inadequate ability on the part of the respondents—as exceptionally banal and vacuous. All of the other answers delved into ‘hot’ problems and conflicts: questions of power—i.e., how does power manifest itself for the individual person, questions of democracy, the achievement principle, young people’s problems, problems in general education, the dubiousness of societal advancement, if at all. Aside from a few answers, I can easily imagine that to an individual author an individual answer might not seem very problematic—and probably in isolation it also is not. In the aggregate, however, the compendium must come across as a unique collection of concerns which right now, on top of that, are not voiced and discussed in the GDR. I asked him afterwards what the answers look like in the other sets of questions. He gave a vague answer, but I could definitely tell that it will for the most part be even more problematic; for example, in the section on trivial literature where—so he told me—the entire body of literature published by the Military Press is designated as trivial. Probably the authors had a false conception of trivial literature, he says, and he will make some changes there.
In any case: if this conglomeration of answers—even if presented in an anonymous format—were made public here in our country, this would have to have the effect of a major blow, objectively speaking, since people would immediately say: that is what our writers are saying about the realities of the GDR when they are allowed to express themselves ‘freely’, and that is what they said in 1975, so what would they have to say today?
Furthermore, the situation is such that we are certainly going to be surprised by the outcome in its entirety, since no one will see the manuscript as a whole prior to its publication. There is no way for us to compel him to hand it over. I have requested that he do so many times; each time he pointed to the incomplete state of the project and to the fact that every text will have been written and authorized by an author residing in the GDR, so therefore any misgivings are totally out of place, and he would show me his foreword in May of next year. Apart from that he says his book will definintely promote the cause of GDR literature; any excessively glowing presentation would only be in conflict with this goal.

c) The entire meeting did not proceed in the way it potentially might have gone. In order to clarify this disclosure, I would like to quote an opinion expressed by Dr. Hörnigk, who on the evening of the day our meeting took place (11/28/77) told me this: He and Eva Kaufmann had left the room on the pretext that they had an appointment with the department head, because they perceived themselves as incapable of questioning a man who was doing a project that actually we should be doing but would not be permitted to do.

The question-and-answer game proceeded in a corresponding manner. Zipser explained the nature and purpose of his undertaking, adding to the already mentioned reasons for it that GDR scholars were after all not always able to write what they want. Also approvingly received was his opinion that GDR literature, as a result of its strong social ties to the reality of the GDR, has decidedly provincial traits. When I asked him what his conception actually was of worldliness and world literature, he pointed to Christa Wolf and her novel Nachdenken über Christa T. (The Quest for Christa T., 1968), and Frank Hörnigk then commented that Heiner Müller was an author pursuing worldwide prominence, and right now also an author of international importance.

In addition, he was asked about how he was going to handle Bernd Jentzsch, Sarah Kirsch, and Reiner Kunze. [These three disaffected authors had recently resettled in the West. Earlier in 1977, Kirsch had been granted an exit visa and was living in West Berlin. The GDR regime had expatriated Kunze in April of that year, whereupon he moved to West Germany (Bavaria). Jentzsch, who had become involved in the furor surrounding the expatriation of dissident writer/singer Wolf Biermann in 1976, decided not to return from a trip to Switzerland so as to avoid imprisonment.] In response he said that he could not eliminate them; after all, vis-à-vis all the other authors who wanted to revise their texts under the shadow of the current situation, he would react by referring to the historical importance and authenticity of their texts from the year 1975 [and a few years earlier]. But that would also mean that he would have to treat all the authors who were living in this country at that time as GDR authors.

There was further discussion about the view that the 8th Party Congress ushered in a new cultural policy. Many authors were indeed of this opinion, Zipser said, but ultimately they were not right. As a result the insistent reference to continuity of cultural policy through the 9th Party Congress has been combined with a process of disillusionment for most of the authors. The emphasis was on the relationship of cultural policy and the development of the arts after 1961, together with all of the contradictions and conflicts.

Following this detailed recounting of the question-and-answer period, Löffler concludes her report. Her frustration and anger are evident:

Afterwards, in a private conversation between Zipser and me, I urged him strongly to take seriously the collaboration with the partner institution that under the terms of the contract is making his residence in the GDR possible. He asked once again for my understanding of his precarious situation, claiming that he was at his wit’s end as a result of his divorce and would barely be able to complete the most essential tasks during the time remaining to him. He likewise made reference to the difficulty of working with the authors, but seemed surprised when I asked him what difficulties he had apart from that.


%d bloggers like this: