41. Informational Report: January 7, 1978

The next document in my file is a 15-page informational report, compiled from various sources, which has three attachments. The first attachment is a list of GDR writers (30 of 45) to be represented in my book; the second is a list of the 15 interview questions; the third lists the titles of the literary texts some GDR authors had given me. The report, which appears in an abridged form below, begins with a profile of my person and demeanor, underscoring my effort to appear left-wing progressive.

Main Department XX                  Berlin, 1/7/1978

Informational Report

[. . .]

According to his own account, ZIPSER studied German language and literature in Wiesbaden/FRG and also earned a doctorate there. [I studied in Mainz, not Wiesbaden, and received my Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University.]

He speaks perfect German with only a slight accent, which does not automatically reveal him to be a foreigner. He is considered to be very intelligent, adaptable, and can adapt himself to the most diverse conversational partners. He always strives, while concealing his own intentions from his conversational partners, to learn as much as possible by asking well-directed questions.

Beyond that, various unofficial sources size Zipser up as follows:

He appears to be a relatively serious scholar with very good knowledge of German literature, especially that of the GDR and the FRG. He stresses that he is positively disposed toward GDR literature.

[. . .]

In all aspects of his behavior Zipser gives the impression of being a “progressive leftist.” This makes him a genial conversational partner and sets him apart from the stupid and predominantly ultraconservative US-American literary scholarship which, however, is completely irrelevant if measured by our political standards. He tries to represent his attitude toward the GDR as indifferent, since the form of real socialism established here does not correspond to his concept of a socialist state.
Zipser pretends to be naïve and reticent, creating the impression that he is nothing more than a friendly scholar who has come to a country foreign to him and observes with wide-eyed amazement everything that is going on there.
He appears modest, extremely polite, open-minded, without prejudices, not at all provocative or argumentative. He doesn’t smoke, drinks moderately (at least in public), and tries overall to come across as a sympathetic, tolerant partner—as a solid citizen.
Various sources of information indicate that he is interested in widening the circle of his female acquaintances.

[. . .]

ZIPSER first attracted attention operatively in 1975.

[. . .]

Through the mediation of [children’s book author] Uwe KANT’s wife, a teacher at the “Max Planck” High School in Berlin-Mitte [the center of Berlin], Auguststrasse, Zipser was able to appear before a group of pupils in the 11th grade on 11/26/1975. In order to give the pupils the opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues freely and informally (without teacher supervision), Zipser’s request that he be permitted to appear alone before the class was granted.

ZIPSER’s 1975 stay in the GDR coincided time-wise with the activities of SCHLESINGER, PLENZDORF and STADE related to the realization of their anthology project “Berliner Geschichten” [Berlin Stories], which was hostile to the SED Party.

[On November 10, 1975, the Stasi sent a report to SED Party officials at the highest level on a subversive initiative spearheaded by three oppositional writers: Ulrich Plenzdorf, Klaus Schlesinger, and Martin Stade. These writers were quietly and without authorization assembling an anthology of short stories to be published under the title “Berliner Geschichten.” Each of the stories was to focus on a societal, political, or other problem that its author was concerned with as a writer. The plan was to offer the anthology to an East German publishing house and to insist that it be published without revisions—i.e., in its original, uncensored form. Further, as I learned from informal conversations with and among the three editors, if the anthology were rejected for publication in the GDR they were prepared to offer it to a West German publisher. Using threats of various kinds, the Stasi and the GDR Writers’ Union were able to block this ‘dangerous, subversive’ initiative. Ironically, I was a beneficiary of their action, since several writers gave me the short stories they had written for the Berlin anthology to publish in my book, DDR-Literatur im Tauwetter (GDR Literature During the Thaw). Twenty years later, in 1995, Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt published “Berliner Geschichten”.]

Due primarily to his connection to PLENZDORF and SCHLESINGER, one can assume that ZIPSER has received detailed information on this undertaking. After it was certain that the anthology was not going to come into being, SCHLESINGER demonstratively handed over his contribution to ZIPSER.
According to unofficial reports, PLENZDORF, SCHLESINGER and STADE were arranging reading tours to Austria in January 1976; these had been brokered by ZIPSER.

During his stay, ZIPSER was living at the Hotel “Berolina.” However, he did not remain in the capital city continuously from October until November 1975, but rather travelled several times to West Berlin and primarily to Vienna.

[. . .]

In June 1976 ZIPSER returned to the capital city of the GDR, in order to carry out the second stage of his discussions and interviews with GDR writers.

[. . .]

After completing this second stage of his undertaking, ZIPSER did not re-enter the GDR until June 1977, according to previous accounts. At that point in time he had meetings with Gerhard WOLF, Jurek BECKER, PLENZDORF and Sarah KIRSCH. Information on the content of their conversations did not come to light.

From 10/15 – 12/15/1977 ZIPSER was again residing in the GDR. This time as a guest of the Ministry of Higher Education due to the establishment of an exchange agreement with the USA under the auspices of the UNESCO Organization IREX. His contract provided for participation in courses as well as discussions with students and faculty members at the Humboldt University of Berlin. For its part, the Humboldt University of Berlin furnished ZIPSER with an apartment for the duration of his stay at

1136 Berlin, Volkradstrasse 8

In addition, he was assigned a minder [Betreuer] who was supposed to support and assist him. But since ZIPSER was using this stay to carry out the remaining work on his book, he tried to avoid the contact person. He himself remarked that he was quite successful in doing this.

Over the course of his residence, the following observations were able to be made operatively:

ZIPSER met with Jurek BECKER a number of times. On those occasions organizational and substantive questions related to his residence at Oberlin College were clarified. Following ZIPSER’s suggestion, BECKER is supposed to give lectures there during the period of time from 2/25 to 5/10/1978. ZIPSER has arranged to have the official invitation from the College and the relevant contract delivered to BECKER.

He met on a number of occasions with the WOLFS, PLENZDORF, and SCHLESINGER, among others, and several times stayed for a while at [blacked out ].

ZIPSER still maintains close relations to Sarah KIRSCH, who in the meantime has relocated to West Berlin. In addition, he maintains close relations to

born on [blacked out] 1939 in Leipzig
residence: 104 Berlin, [blacked out]
Research Associate at the
Academy of Arts
friend of Sarah Kirsch


KÖHLER, Renate
residence: 102 Berlin, [blacked out]
good acquaintance of [blacked out], for whom she
she took care of many and various items of business
in the past. ([blacked out] also resided at [blacked out] before leaving the country).

ZIPSER obviously functioned as a transmitter of information between these three persons.

ZIPSER maintains a connection of an unknown nature to

113 Berlin, [blacked out]

HÜBSCHER, Gerhard and Edith
Berlin-Johannisthal, [blacked out]

Berlin-Prenzl. Berg, [blacked out]

SCHNITZLER, Stefan – physician

The stylistic revision of ZIPSER’s interview texts during his stay was undertaken by one

102 Berlin, [blacked out]

to whom he also had very close personal contact.

ZIPSER maintains a relationship of an unknown sort to an employee of GDR television whose first name is Christa.

ZIPSER uses the West Berlin residence of

KELLNER, Hellfried
born [blacked out] 1942 in Berlin
residence: 1 Berlin 45, [blacked out]

KELLNER, Brigitte
born [blacked out] 1949 in Neuwied
residence same as husband
[blacked out]

as a depository for materials related to his book project and as a mailing address.

PLENZDORF has maintained close contact to both persons for a long time. One cannot rule out the possibility that the ZIPSER – KELLNER association came about due to his facilitation.

ZIPSER’s intimate friend in West Berlin is one

[blacked out]
born on [blacked out] 1945
Hamburg 61, [blacked out]
residence: 1 Berlin 45, [blacked out]

whom he brought along on several occasions to the capital city, thereby enabling her to get to know a number of his contact persons [. . .] [This person, whose full name has already appeared in this book, was a friend of Brigitte Kellner. I met her while staying with the Kellners in West Berlin. The four of us would go out to brunch or dinner together, to the theater or a concert, etc. We were good acquaintances, nothing more. Since this woman was interested in meeting some East German writers and getting to know East Berlin, I invited her to come for a visit a few times and also to attend my farewell dinner party on December 13, 1977. IMV “Kurt” and the Stasi obviously concluded, wrongly, that she was an ‘intimate’ friend of mine. I want to set the record straight.]

ZIPSER also passed along the address of one

residence: 1 Berlin 30, [blacked out]
telephone [blacked out]

to his contact partners.
Whether connections exist between her and the LECHNER, Edith living in the capital city, due to the sameness of their surnames, is not known. [Ingrid and Edith Lechner are sisters.]

According to unofficial reports one cannot rule out the possibility that ZIPSER, on visits together with SCHLESINGER to Cafe “Burger” in the capital city, got to know [blacked out].

According to his own account, ZIPSER has embarked on a second book project. He has prepared a textbook edition of PLENZDORF’s “Die neuen Leiden des jungen W.” [The New Sufferings of Young W.], which is intended to help advanced students of the German language in the USA learn and understand colloquial speech, including slang expressions, among other things.
A USA publishing house [John Wiley & Sons] is committed to the execution of this project and has already procured the necessary publication license from the Hinstorff Publishing House in Rostock. The USA publisher is not going to make a profit on this book, but is seeking to enhance its image, just like ZIPSER who will earn very little from this publication. The main thing for him is to have his name become better known.

On 12/13/1977 there was a gathering in Hotel “Metropol” at ZIPSER’s invitation; the attendees, in addition to him, were:

Christa and Gerhard WOLF
Ulrich PLENZDORF and his wife
Martin STADE
Willi and Maria MOESE
Helga SCHRADER [blacked out].

At this gathering ZIPSER emphasized that before returning to the USA he wanted to get together again with those friends whom he owed the most and thank them for their support.
He said that the manuscript of his book is for the most part finished and might appear in print at the end of 1978.
Furthermore, ZIPSER mentioned that the head of the Suhrkamp Publishing Company (FRG), [Siegfried] UNSELD, also expressed interest in his manuscript.

ZIPSER stated that he plans to return and re-enter the capital city in May 1978 (the GDR Writers Congress will take place at this time), in order to complete the final tasks related to his book project—e.g., obtain authorization from the GDR writers to publish the interviews.
From the comments he has made up to now, it is not entirely clear who his publisher will be or in which country his book will actually appear in print; he has made contradictory statements about this.

In summary, here is an assessment based on unofficial reports:
From a political standpoint, ZIPSER’s manuscript appears to be extremely explosive. By his own account, the answers he received from the 38 writers in all he interviewed, when placed next to each other, make it possible for the answers of Hermann KANT or Günter GÖRLICH, for example, to appear alongside those of persons like SCHLESINGER or Gerhard WOLF. [Kant and Görlich were party loyalist writers, whereas Schlesinger and Wolf were at this point in time voices of opposition.]
In this way ZIPSER can construct a collection of alleged conflicts, unresolved problems and difficulties in the GDR, particularly in the development of its literature, which in their totality will present a completely distorted picture of the Party and State cultural policy.

At this juncture it should be noted that, at the annual conference of the MLA (Modern Language Asssociation, USA) in spring 1977 [actually, it was in late December 1976], ZIPSER presented a paper on “Contemporary GDR Writers and Their Society,” in which he already made use of his interviews and put into practice this method of citing answers next to each other without commentary.

Reference is being made to the difficulty in gaining access to ZIPSER’s manuscript because—on the basis of the existing agreements—there are in fact no real legal grounds for demanding to see it.
Consequently, it is not possible at present even to know precisely which 38 writers ZIPSER has included in his manuscript.

During his previous stays in the GDR, ZIPSER had the opportunity to scoop up and collect very diverse and comprehensive information about the cultural sphere in the GDR, and specifically, also after the events surrounding Biermann, which go far beyond the scope of his proposed book. Unofficial sources doubt anyway that he has coped with the work on the manuscript by himself, as he maintains.

ZIPSER’s multiple stays in the GDR mark a departure from the way USA universities have typically proceeded in similar cases. Therefore, in comparison to what normally is the case, ZIPSER has had about triple the amount of time at his disposal. ZIPSER himself has provided contradictory information about this.

Furthermore, it is not clear where the funding for his stays is coming from. Regarding this matter as well, he has provided contradictory statements (self-financed, support from his college, support from other universities that are interested in his book).

Since the Stasi had come to view my activities within the GDR as “subversive”and even begun to consider the possibility that I was a CIA operative, they recommended measures to be taken in the future. Had I not been an IREX scholar, I clearly would not have been able to obtain a visa for my next stay in East Berlin (May 15 – June 15, 1978). When I read the final section of this report, I was frankly astonished.

It is recommended, for the further monitoring of Zipser as well as the clarification of his contacts and intentions, especially in the light of possible espionage activity, that the following measures be taken under the auspices of Main Department XX/7:

  • Zipser is to be put under investigation. When he enters the GDR on short notice, ways should be devised to allow Main Department VIII to keep tabs on him.
  • His known contacts in the GDR up to now have to be examined thoroughly and screened with regard to their operative usefulness. With Main Department XX/5 as well as with Main Department VIII, one needs to consider possible ways to illuminate his contacts in Westberlin.
  • It needs to be established whether Zipser can be so compromised by operative measures that he can be denied entry into the GDR in the future.
  • One needs to ensure, through consultation with Main Department XX/2 and Department XV of the regional headquarters of the Ministry for State Security in Magdeburg, that the unofficial resources of this administrative unit will be utilized in a coordinated supervision of Zipser.
  • By way of Main Department XX/3 one needs to ensure that Zipser, whenever he re-enters the GDR under the auspices of the UNESCO Organization IREX’s scholar exchange through a predetermined program, will be so burdened by attending lectures at the Humboldt University, among other things, that it will no longer be possible for him to expand and maintain the connection to his GDR contacts, to a large extent unchecked until now. One needs to make certain that he is assigned a reliable minder, an unofficial collaborator with professional as well as political-operative qualifications.
  • Through the assignment of appropriate living quarters it will be guaranteed that operative-technical measures can be carried out.
  • One has to make certain that Zipser does not, by virtue of using his contacts, gain access to the Writers Congress that will take place in May 1978.
  • It needs to be established whether Zipser’s reputation can be so tarnished, by unofficial collaborators and within the Writers’ Union through fitting well-directed remarks, that the negative forces [i.e., voices of opposition] will also avoid having further contact with him.


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