71. Creating a Network of GDR Sympathizers at US Universities

In the mid-1970s, after joining the United Nations and gaining the international recognition it had long sought, the GDR began to systematically develop a network of sympathizers comprised of academicians from universities throughout the US. The object was to identify persons, professors and doctoral candidates working in the general area of German studies, who were interested in the GDR and sympathetic to its form of government. In the effort to create a fifth column, two groups were targeted: first, intellectuals from the far left who viewed the GDR with its communistic brand of socialism as a model society; and second, professors who could be cultivated in various ways and transformed into advocates for all that the GDR represented. The GDR Embassy in Washington, DC played an important role in this nationwide propaganda effort, by organizing lecture/reading tours for East German authors loyal to the SED Party and by disseminating pro-GDR materials in a remarkably effective way. The GDR needed to ensure that US universities and colleges would not just invite oppositional East German writers to visit their campuses, but also a significant number of writers who had a positive view of the GDR state, political system, and society—writers like Hermann Kant. These writers would be rewarded for their loyal support and, while visiting the US, they would be able to help expand the network of GDR sympathizers that had already been established at some institutions of higher learning. This eventually led to the formulation and implementation of what became known as the “Delegierungsprinzip” (delegation principle), which I will discuss later on.