Main Department XX/Operative Group
Transcript of tape recording
Source: IMV “Julia”
Received: Captain Paulitz on 5/25/1978
ZIPSER, Richard (“Dick”), American Germanist
On 5/24/1978, at around 8:00 p.m., I made my way together with Ulrich and Helga Plenzdorf to ZIPSER in his apartment, Berlin, Mollstr. 4, Apt. 0304 (3rd floor, 4th apt.), after receiving an invitation over the telephone. First of all, we handed over the objects we had brought along for the decoration of his apartment.
Family PLENZDORF brought him these items on loan:
1 large Baroque mirror
1 large earthenware bowl
I gave him a bouquet of flowers in a Bürgel pottery jug. After ZIPSER had served us beverages (wine and sparkling wine), the conversation evolved and concentrated on the following topics:
1. ZIPSER asked me right away why I had rejected a short while ago his offer to visit me on 5/27-28/78 at our countryside premises near [blacked out]. After I had explained to him that I had arranged to have a party there with my former classmate friends from the [SED] County Party Academy, from which I had graduated recently, he showed greater interest in this topic.
He asked these questions, among others:
When was I enrolled at the party academy?
What did this sort of schooling entail (form of instruction)?
Which kinds of persons were studying there with me—viewed above all from the perspective of their functions?
Whether these types of instruction are only available in Berlin, etc.?
I justified my dismissive response by indicating that I did not want to bring these comrades and friends as well as myself into disrepute by having an American citizen show up there.
ZIPSER found all of this to be rather astonishing (as regards the ban on contact with persons from the West and obligation to report such contacts, which were discussed in this context) and wondered if the GDR considers every foreigner to be a spy. He said that was not the case in his country.
2. Referring to this problem, ZIPSER pointed out, with much conviction and confidence, that he did not have to report on his stays in the GDR to his sponsoring organization or any other agencies.
ZIPSER said he is surprised anyhow that up to now neither the CIA nor any of the GDR’s security agencies have approached him regarding a possible collaboration. [Actually, at some point in the conversation, Julia asked if I was required to report to any agencies in the United States on my activities in East Germany, and that was my response to her question.]
At that point Ulrich PLENZDORF said that he (ZIPSER) is a spy anyhow, even if he is not aware of it. Everything he has come to know about the GDR that he passes on in the form of reports or as part of his book or about the literary texts by GDR writers he has gathered as well, these pieces of information will be assembled at a central location so as to yield a picture of this country. ZIPSER vigorously resisted this kind of interpretation of his activity and asserted that he is not a spy.
3. Later in the conversation ZIPSER mentioned that he is going to pay special attention to the writers NEUTSCH, BRĔZAN, and SCHULZ during the Writers Congress. He plans to contact them then, but did not indicate how he would go about doing that. ZIPSER put a list in front of H. Plenzdorf for her perusal; listed on it were the names of all the writers whom he had previously contacted and those he still plans to contact. The list was divided into three columns and filled with crosses. One column presented descriptions of the literary texts submitted by these writers. Anna SEGHERS and Ulrich PLENZDORF are the only writers who have not yet submitted texts. In the case of A. SEGHERS he does not know what will be selected, since some persons, including PLENZDORF among others, are of the opinion that SEGHERS has not written anything worthwhile in the 1970s.
At Ulrich PLENZDORF’s initiative the conversation shifted to an article by Hermann KANT that appeared in Neues Deutschland [New Germany] on 5/24/1978. PLENZDORF went on to explain what the article is about. ZIPSER asked H. PLENZDORF to save this article for him, since he also wanted to read it. A short while later ZIPSER inadvertently revealed (so it seemed to me anyway) that he was actually already informed about the article. His remarks referred to the refusal of Christa WOLF and Stefan HEYM “to collaborate.” Presumably, this had to do with collaboration in the Writers’ Union. [The newspaper Neues Deutschland was the official organ of the Socialist Unity Party in the GDR. It endorsed all policy decisions of the government and sought to elevate the prestige of each member of the leadership. It had a circulation of ca. one million in the 1970s and was the country’s most important newspaper.]
4. ZIPSER mentioned additionally that he had appealed to the cultural attaché of the USA assigned to the GDR concerning the installation of a telephone in his apartment. On 5/24/1978 he received notification that the technicians would be coming to install the telephone on 5/25/1978. [The absence of a phone in my otherwise satisfactory studio apartment was surely not unintentional. It created a major problem for me during the first ten days of this one-month stay, since I had no other way to contact and set up meetings with writers. Fortunately, the Plenzdorfs’ apartment was not far away and I could make all the phone calls I wanted from there. However, if I had not gotten the embassy involved, I doubt that a telephone would have been installed before my departure.]
On 5/27/1978 ZIPSER intends to visit the PLENZDORF family in [blacked out]. On the same day the married couple from Westberlin
Hellfried and Brigitte KELLNER
(further personal information known)
is intending to drive here and will also visit with the PLENZDORFs.
It was agreed that my husband and I would be picked up at our premises (about 4 kilometers outside of [blacked out]) and participate in the gathering of the aforementioned persons.
I have the impression that Ulrich PLENZDORF is extremely well informed about ZIPSER’s initiatives. Among other things, he has precise knowledge about the circumstances related to the first apartment that was offered to ZIPSER, which ZIPSER said was unacceptable and rejected.
Also to be mentioned is that ZIPSER, during our conversation about contacts we have with persons from the West, asked if
is likewise not permitted to have Western contacts. The PLENZDORFs commented that they did not know about that, but they did know that SCHNITZLER has contact with many persons from the West.
Around 11:30 p.m. we left the apartment, separated from the Plenzdorfs, and he walked me home. As we said goodnight at the front door to my apartment, ZIPSER asserted that the two of us would have to meet again alone in the near future.
He suggested a date during the week after next. At the same time, he stated that he had a lot to do during the week of 5/29 to 6/4/1978 on account of the Writers Congress and no time for a get-together then.
He will get in touch with me in any event by telephone.
It was obvious that ZIPSER was eager to have closer (intimate) relations with me.
On close observation one could perceive that ZIPSER was guiding the conversations on this evening. For example, he picked up on topics that sometimes were only foreshadowed and carried them forward very smoothly, so that without realizing it the others were inclined to be responsive.
Sketch of the apartment, Mollstr. 4, Apt. 0304
[“Julia’s” report is a wonderful example of how a collaborator can misrepresent what was said or happened for self-serving reasons. I was not pursuing her or eager to have an intimate relationship with her, as she reports. In reality, “Julia” had been flirting with me for some time and toward the end of my 1977 stay in East Berlin had even expressed a desire to have an intimate relationship with me, asserting that her husband would not object. To pursue this objective, the purpose of which was obviously to gather information about me, my project, and my contacts in the GDR, she had her husband babysit and came to my apartment with the Plenzdorfs. When I walked her home that evening, she said she was tired of taking care of the children while her husband and I got together for beer and a bite to eat, and insisted that I take her out to dinner. I agreed, and soon thereafter we had dinner at the nearby Hotel Berolina. The fact that “Julia” had attended and recently graduated from the SED County Party Academy had made me wary and suspicious of her, since this was an institution dedicated to training communist party functionaries. For some time, I had been fairly certain that both she and her husband were collaborating with the Stasi. My association with them enabled me to channel misleading information to the Stasi, and I was not surprised when I discovered their reports in my file.]