34. Fifth Report from IMV “Kurt”: December 2, 1977

On December 2, IMV “Kurt” submitted another tape recorded report on my activities and contacts to his Stasi-handler. The transcript of the report, which was added to my file on December 3, appears below.

Main Department XX/Operative Group                       Berlin, 12/3/1977

Pa/Ha

Tape-recorded report

Source: IMV “Kurt” on 12/2/1977

Received: First Lieutenant Paulitz

ZIPSER, Dick, USA Citizen

ZIPSER has been staying in Berlin again, since around the middle of October. Within the context of official contacts between his college in Oberlin (USA, State of Ohio) and the Humboldt University in Berlin, Department of Literary Studies, ZIPSER is spending 3 months in the GDR’s capital city for academic purposes. ZIPSER is being taken care of directly by the department of the Humboldt University mentioned above. He has a female contact person (doctor, name unknown), who is said to be a member of the Department of Literary Studies.

During his stay he is living in a high-rise apartment building on Volkradstrasse, close to the Berlin-Friedrichsfelde Passageway. In this apartment house ZIPSER got to know a Chilean (first name Carlos), who is a doctoral candidate at the Advanced School of Economics “Bruno Leuschner.” As ZIPSER explained to me, while here he is receiving a high stipend in GDR currency [East German marks, see below] from the Humboldt University. He stressed that he had in his possession a considerable amount of our currency and therefore was being careful about spending his Western currency [West German marks and US dollars], which he could put to better use elsewhere. Also, he didn’t want to support the “Intershop business” [see below] in the GDR, since he disapproves of it.

[The East German mark (M) was officially valued by the East German government at parity with the West German mark (DM). However, because it was not readily convertible and because the GDR’s export market was restricted, it was practically worthless outside East Germany. On the black market the exchange rate was about 5 to 10 M for 1 DM. In the 1970s and 1980s, one could easily visit foreign currency exchange offices in West Berlin or Vienna and purchase East German banknotes at the rate of approximately 8 (East) for 1 (West). However, the GDR forbade the import or export of GDR currency into or out of the GDR. Penalties for violating this law ranged from confiscation of smuggled currency to imprisonment. The East German mark could not be spent in Intershops to acquire Western consumer goods; only “hard currencies” such as West German marks and US dollars were accepted. The only legal ways for East Germans to acquire hard currency were as gifts from relatives living in the West or from wages earned for work in Western countries.]

[Intershop was a chain of government-run retail stores in the GDR, in which only hard currencies could be used to purchase high-quality goods that had for the most part been imported from Western countries. The East German mark was not accepted as payment. Intershop was originally oriented toward visitors from Western countries; it later became an outlet where East Germans could purchase goods they could not otherwise obtain. The selection included food, alcohol, tobacco, brand-name clothing, toys, jewelry, cosmetics, watches, technical devices, musical recordings, appliances, and even Western-made automobiles, such as Volkswagen and Volvo. With the arrival of the first Interhotels, which were intended to house Western tourists, Intershops began appearing in these Western-oriented hotels, the most upscale of which also had fancy restaurants that accepted payment in hard currencies only. Many East Germans came to view the Intershops as a key driver of inequality in the GDR.]

His activity here is focused on the completion of his project on GDR literature, for which purpose he has already visited the GDR a number of times. He is polishing up the interviews with GDR writers as regards the content of their statements and is translating them. According to his own account, the Humboldt University Berlin has provided him with secretarial assistance to facilitate this.

He revealed additionally that he sees no value in being under direct supervision all the time, since he would prefer to do some things on his own now and then.

Among his closest contact persons are

Klaus SCHLESINGER

Ulrich PLENZDORF

in partMartin STADE (at present abroad)

Jurek BECKER

with whom he has been invited to dine several times, as well as the female persons who were already mentioned earlier

Christa (GDR television) and

Evelyn OPOCZYNSKI (maiden name, now married)

For the purposes of his stay in the capital city of the GDR, ZIPSER is using an automobile with a West Berlin license plate, which Mr. Hellfried KELLNER (further personal information known) purchased. The vehicle is registered to K.’s wife, Brigitte KELLNER. Once a week or so he drives this vehicle over to West Berlin, where he visits a female person (name unknown) and stays overnight as a rule with the KELLNERs.

Zipser declared that he actually no longer wants to continue working on his project, but having invested so much time in it, he now has to bring this difficult undertaking to completion. He hopes to publish his book in 1978.

[At this point in time, my enormous undertaking had truly begun to overwhelm me. I realized that I would need to find a colleague in the United States who would be willing to step in and help me finish the project. Löffler was right when she asserted that the project was too big for one person to carry out by himself.]

Concentrated work on the book is also limited as a consequence of a letter he received about 4 weeks ago from his wife, in which she informed him that she is getting a divorce.

In addition, I learned that GDR writer Jurek BECKER, in response to an invitation from Oberlin College, is planning a trip to the USA.

In the evening hours of 12/2/1977 there wil be a celebration in the Artclub “Möwe” (birthday party for Ingrid STRASSENBERGER—personal information known), to which the following persons have been invited:

STRASSENBERGER family
Ulrich PLENZDORF
Hellfried KELLNER, West Berlin
Brigitte KELLNER, West Berlin
ZIPSER, Dick and feminine person
Stefan SCHNITZLER and wife.

[How did IMV “Kurt” know who would be coming to Ingrid Strassenberger’s birthday celebration? Dirk Strassenberger, Ingrid’s husband, would surely have known who was on the guest list. Is it possible that he was IMV “Kurt” and she IMV “Julia?”]

signed: “Kurt”

F.d.R. Paulitz, First Lieutenant [with signature]