69. IMB “Pedro Hagen” Reports on His Visit with Richard Zipser in California

Below is a three-page file report on Fries’s trip to the San Francisco Bay area and Stanford University, where he visited with me as he had hoped and planned to do. The report was prepared by his Stasi-handler Gerhard Hoffmann, based on information Fries communicated to him orally in their May 13 meeting. It is interesting to see how Fries was able to gain Hoffmann’s trust following his return from the US. Clearly, Fries enjoyed his first trip to America and understood what he needed to say and how he should behave in order to be granted further travel privileges and perhaps other privileges in the future. He had learned how to play the system and decided to use it to his advantage. Of course, Fries—like everyone else—did not foresee the day when the Berlin Wall and the GDR state would collapse, leading eventually to the discovery of his Stasi-file and his outing as a trusted informant.

Department XX/7Frankfurt (O), 5/15/1981
Source: IMB “Pedro Hagen”ho-hi
received: Capt. Hoffmann
on: 5/13/1981

Travel report USA II
Meeting with Dr. Richard Zipser in San Francisco

As instructed the IM contacted the Germanist Dr. Richard Zipser during his stay in the USA and reported on that orally, as follows:

During his stay in Washington the IM made an effort to make contact with Dr. Zipser. It turned out that he was not as well established as expected in circles of American Germanists: first of all, people did not know him and, secondly, he was not to be found initially. An attempt was made to locate him at Oberlin College in San Francisco [sic: in Ohio, not San Francisco]. After a prolonged effort the IM managed to find out that he was not in Oberlin, but engaged as a research fellow in Stanford, California. Eventually, he was located and a telephone conversation ensued. He immediately recalled the person with whom he was speaking, but declared that he was under a great deal of stress and did not have time for a get-together. Then two invitations materialized, one of which apparently was meant to be for a reading. Both invitations were suddenly cancelled, one because the date could not be held open, and the second time [remainder of sentence blacked out]. In the telephone conversations Dr. Zipser made it clear that it would make no sense to come to San Francisco, that would be a waste of time, etc. It became obvious that he had little interest in getting together. Finally, an agreement was reached. On 4/19/1981 the flight took place from Washington to San Francisco, where Dr. Zipser was waiting in the airport. After a less than effusive greeting the trip was made to Stanford, which is about a one-hour drive from San Francisco. Stanford University is prominent and one of the best in the USA. Five Nobel Prize Laureates, among others, have positions there.

The Hoover Institution is affiliated with Stanford University. It is for all intents and purposes the center of the university. It is financed by the Hoover Foundation (the brother of the donor was the FBI director, Hoover). [This is a case of mistaken identity. The reference should be to Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the US, not to J. Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the FBI. The Hoover Tower, one of three buildings that comprise the Hoover Institution, houses a library founded in 1919 by Herbert Hoover.] Scholars in the USA consider the Hoover Institution to be extremely conservative.

Dr. Zipser is currently working at this Hoover Institution, which has awarded him a research fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to enable Dr. Zipser to complete work on his book about GDR literature. He intends to return to Oberlin College in August 1981. Dr. Zipser’s project is therefore being finished with financial support from the Hoover Institution. He is working on the three volumes that comprise the book and has no other responsibilities. The publication of the three volumes is also being financed for the most part by the Hoover Institution. [Untrue. The Hoover Institution did not subsidize the publication of “DDR-Literatur im Tauwetter”.]

The title of the edition is “Wandel, Wunsch, Wirklichkeit – DDR-Literatur 1971 bis 1978” [“Desire, Change, Reality – GDR Literature 1971 to 1978”]. The interviews with GDR authors will be published in the first volume, the authors’ literary texts in the second volume, and the biographies in the third. Dr. Zipser is going to write a foreword. The book will be published in the English language by Nordland Publishing, USA.

Only prose writers of the GDR will be published here. [Incorrect: In addition to prose writers, there are poets, playwrights, essayists, etc.] Priorities are not being established; all GDR authors are to be represented. The book Dr. Zipser is preparing should be the most comprehensive work on GDR literature to date; there is nothing comparable up to now. This work is supposed to satisfy the needs of American Germanists primarily.

A certain Schoeps, who works as instructor of German studies at Oberlin College, is co-editor of the book. [Dr. Karl-Heinz Schoeps was Professor of German at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.]

At the Hoover Institution Dr. Zipser is regarded as the foremost expert in the area of GDR literature, since he has in-depth knowledge of GDR literature and its development, and in addition to that he knows a large number of GDR writers from personal experience.

Apparently, he is also very aware of his status. He made an affable and approachable impression.

In conversations he wanted to know what is going on in the GDR literary scene, what Schlesinger, Plenzdorf, Stade, Hermlin, and Hacks are doing. He knows Schlesinger, Stade and Plenzdorf as the initiators of the proposed Berlin-Anthology (former “self-publishing” project).

Dr. Zipser has published a volume of poetry by GDR lyric poets in the USA. The book appeared in two languages and supposedly contains a representative cross section.

The impression came into being that in the USA Dr. Zipser occupies a central position among the Germanists and would like to control those Germanists who are dealing with GDR literature. For example, he was very upset to learn that an American Germanist had given a talk on [Jurij] Brězan at a conference in Boca Raton, Florida (“2nd International Conference on the Fantastic in Literature and Film,” 3/18—3/21/1981, [Florida] Atlantic-University Boca Raton), because Brězan is not an important figure in GDR literature. On the other hand, this Germanist warned [IM “Pedro Hagen”] about the Hoover-people.

Dr. Zipser’s vanity was also wounded when he learned that his review of Stefan Heym’s book “Seven Days in June” [sic: the title is “Five Days in June”] had been reproduced in a mutilated form in the American publication “GDR-Revue”, a journal devoted to GDR literature. Exactly who publishes this journal is not known. [Fries is referring to the “GDR Bulletin”, which was published by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University, St. Louis, from 1975 to 1999. The review Fries mentions was of Heym’s novella, “The Queen Against Defoe”, not of his novel “Five Days in June”.]

In the near future he is planning to prepare and publish a book on contemporary German-speaking writers living in [self-imposed] exile. According to his statements, he will restrict himself to authors who are living in the FRG [West Germany]. He did not provide further details on that.

[The next paragraph, which has just three lines, is blacked out.]

All in all, the impression that emerged was that the visit was not particularly enjoyable for him. He did behave in a friendly, jovial manner, but was not as pleasant-natured and outgoing as during his visits in the GDR.

There was no mention of visiting the GDR in the foreseeable future. He did not rule out a residency in the FRG in connection with the preparation of the book on German-speaking writers living in exile, and of course also a possible stay in the GDR related to that.


The IM reported as per instructions; there is no reason to doubt the truthfulness of the information provided.

Measures to be taken

1   Excerpts of report to Director of Main Department XX

2   Evaluation strictly guaranteeing protection of [confidential]
source when reporting

3   Evaluation using operative process “Narr” [“Fool”]



%d bloggers like this: