IMV “Julia’s” next assignment was to arrange a private meeting with me, in order to gather information on my activities in connection with the 8th GDR Writers Congress (May 28-31, 1978) and my views on certain East German writers. The transcription of her tape-recorded report appears in its entirety below.
Main Department XX/Operative Group
Berlin, June 7, 1978
Source: IMV “Julia”
Received: Captain Paulitz
Richard ZIPSER, American Germanist
In accordance with the assignment, the unofficial collaborator met with Zipser in the hotel-restaurant of Hotel “Berolina” on 6/5/1978 from 8:00 p.m. until 12:00 midnight. The unofficial collaborator had the following to report about how their encounter proceeded:
Zipser and I agreed over the telephone to meet at the hotel just mentioned and have dinner together. The rationale for that was the invitation he had previously issued along with his expressed desire to get together with me alone on some occasion (see report dated 5/25/1978). [As I pointed out earlier, it was actually the other way around. Julia had been pressuring me to invite her to dinner so she could have an evening out and away from her children, but of course she had another motive.]
Regarding the subject matter of our conversation, the following can be said: Zipser was very evasive when we talked about his activities during the Writers Congress.
When I asked him if Stefan Hermlin’s address was actually presented in the form that was printed in ND [“Neues Deutschland”, the national daily newspaper in the GDR and official party newspaper of the SED Party], he simply answered yes.
When I indicated abruptly that portions of Hermlin’s contribution to the discussion, possibly taken out of context, had been reproduced in ND, Zipser reconsidered and stated that he was not too certain about that either. As yet, he said, he had been able to exchange only a few words with Plenzdorf on that subject. It was quite obvious that Zipser did not want to dive deeper into this problematic topic of conversation (Writers Congress), so I refrained from pursuing it intensively at that time. [Stefan Hermlin, poet and prose writer, was an influential member of the GDR’s literary establishment. He was a friend of the country’s leader, Erich Honecker, and also a friend of the ideologue President of the Writers’ Union, Hermann Kant.]
In a different context, we talked about the quality of the GDR writers’ works, also about how he had been received by these persons here in the GDR.
Zipser asserted upfront that all writers are very egotistical and to some extent egocentric, but said he had grown accustomed to that. He made very derogatory remarks about
His writings are, in Zipser’s opinion, mundane. He says that Brězan regularly makes use of our national minority issues in a distasteful way to promote himself. From a telephone conversation I had with Zipser on 6/5/1978, it was apparent that he must have spent this day with Brězan, since he mentioned that he had just returned from Lusatia. [Lusatia (German: Lausitz) is a region that is located between the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg. The region is the home of the ethnic population of Lusatian Sorbs, which was an officially recognized and protected minority group in the GDR. Brězan was a Sorbian writer whose works were available in two languages, German and Upper Sorbian. He lived in Lusatia and was a loyal member of the SED Party.]
He considers Hermann Kant and Peter Hacks to be genuine writers, and to a lesser extent Erwin Strittmatter and Anna Seghers. In his opinion the best German-language women writers are Christa Wolf and Sarah Kirsch.
I have noticed that he raves about Christa Wolf in particular, just as he did earlier about Sarah Kirsch.
Zipser plans to get me a book by Christa Wolf which I am supposed to read quickly and then return it. He did not mention the title but said this book is outstanding.
Later in the conversation we talked about his personal connections to
Stefan und Dagmar Schnitzler
Zipser gets along well with Stade and Plenzdorf. When it comes to Plenzdorf, what Zipser admires most of all are his generosity and modesty as well as his ability to communicate with children. Zipser said that Plenzdorf does not just take, but also gives a lot of himself on the personal level. By that he meant his (Plenzdorf’s) feelings, his private thoughts and desires that he shares with Zipser.
That is not the case with the Schnitzler family, he said. To a certain extent he has the impression that there is a wall separating them. Up to now, the Schnitzlers have never discussed any personal matters with him. Above all, it bothers him that they have never inquired about his work or asked for his impressions of anything. He thinks that this, especially, is abnormal behavior and has no explanation for it.
In connection with the non-admittance of Plenzdorf’s son, Morten Plenzdorf, to a program combining vocational training with a high-school diploma, Zipser remarked that considering the current circumstances [in the GDR] the selection principles we have are good, however these principles are too often violated. He says he has gotten to know a group of German studies students, who come almost exclusively from families of Party functionaries. In particular, he talked about a married couple with one child (he: a fourth-year student, she: a second-year student) residing in Berlin-Weissensee, 3 bedroom apartment, very nicely furnished—with whom he apparently has become well acquainted. Some of these students asked him for an invitation to visit Oberlin. Due to their connections, they claimed, they would be able to organize a trip there.
Zipser thought this was very strange and made some inquiries; he discovered that all the students enrolled in this seminar had parents or other relatives who are working for the government in a ministry.
I was unable to find out how he acquired this information.
[“Julia’s” frustration over her inability to gather more valuable information that evening, as well as on other occasions, surfaces in this report.]
During our time spent together, I noticed particularly that Zipser not only remains silent about things he does not want to discuss but generates intense defensive reactions that may at times take on aggressive forms.
Let me mention, for example, a telephone conversation he had in my presence on 6/5/1978 with a certain Klaus (presumably the person in question was Klaus Sterry from Westberlin, whom I also know). Zipser stated several times in a stern tone that he could not discuss a specific problem at this point in time, without mentioning that he had a visitor.
Since I first got to know Zipser about two years ago I have had the impression, and that has proven true increasingly up to the present day, that it is not easy to carry on a casual conversation with Zipser. One really has to make an effort, otherwise the conversation and the get-together will remain quite formal. I also have observed this demeanor on Zipser’s part in his conversations with other persons.
In connection with my account of my relationship with the family of
close contact partner of Zipser
(personal information known)
he expressed regret that we are experiencing relatively strained relations at the present time.
He explained that, for the most part, he is very tolerant and open-minded vis-à-vis the shortcomings and deficiencies of the people he interacts with here. He also accepted my view that this is very easy for him to do, since he is only staying here as a visitor and can combine his profession and work with the private sphere. [This passage is particularly interesting, inasmuch as it reveals more about “Julia’s” conflicted perception of life in the GDR than it does about me.]
Zipser did not offer to take any steps, in an effort to improve my relations with the Kellner family again.
Regarding his private problems, Zipser commented that he had put his divorce well behind him, that he did not want to remarry right away but also was not planning to remain single forever.
At present, he would consider a steady relationship to be a constraint on his personal freedoms.
Furthermore, he wants to enjoy this freedom fully in the near future.
Main Department XX/7 has been informed. [This handwritten note concludes the report.]